Responsible Tourism

FiturNext and the Future of Travel

Written by Carlos Topete, co-founder and Executive Director of Fundación En Vía. This year, Carlos went to Madrid to represent En Vía in the International Tourism Trade Fair, (FITUR/IFema).

This year The International Tourism Trade Fair (Fitur/Ifema), which takes place every year in Madrid, Spain, launched The FiturNext Observatory. This is a platform to gather unique tourism projects and initiatives around the world that share the common goal of having a positive impact on visitors, residents, destinations and on the planet.

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Carlos (far left) with other attendees of the International Tourism Trade Fair

During FiturNext’s first edition, Peter Romel Hansen, a board member of FiturNext initiated the conversation about the drivers that are going to influence consumer behavior and the future of tourism.

In his presentation, Peter presented the Airbus Global Market Forecast, in which the number of international arrivals will double by 2038, reaching close to 1.8 billion international travelers; hence the importance of having not only more efficient but also more sustainable airports. Balancing efficiency and sustainability will be the biggest challenge in the coming years for tourism.

As of today, Mexico City International Airport, built in the early 1950s, is Latin America’s busiest airport after an expansion in 2006. Mexico City International Airport has reached its capacity. In my opinion, we don’t need another extension, rather Mexico City needs a new and bigger airport, just like Istanbul’s new airport, which is about to open. What a great opportunity to raise the bar on having the most efficient and sustainable hub in the Americas.

 

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Carlos giving a talk about Fundación En Vía

Another key driver in the way people travel is technology. Just think about ten years ago, there was no Airbnb nor Uber and tourists tended to explore places with a printed map. Now all they need is WiFi and Google Maps to guide them around. In the next few years, AI (Artificial Intelligence) will be part of the traveler’s journey, and who knows up to what extent AI is going to change the travel experience for both visitors and tourism providers.

According to the World Bank, the tourism industry is vital to the growth of the majority of developing economies, and digital technologies have the potential to give small businesses direct access to a global market of consumers. However, tourism has a more profound effect on the environment. Although in some ways beneficial – raising awareness of environmental protection, climate change and conservation for example –  tourism predominantly has a negative effect on the environment. It contributes to pollution, global warming, and overuse of resources.

Earth’s average land temperature has increased 1ºC in the past 50 years because of human activity according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and there is a high risk of catastrophic consequences if climate change is not limited to 1.5ºC. Others believe that the planet is at a crucial moment and that we have just 12 years in which to prevent a climate change catastrophe. It requires a radical change in the way we think, live, do business and of course the way we travel.

How can responsible tourism contribute to reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

 

More importantly, what do visitors want? How will they travel in the future? Technology has already changed the way we travel, and it will continue to do so. Today, with information available at the palm of our hands, it is easier to find places to see, things to do, and even rate our experiences and advise future visitors. Travelers are becoming more conscious, wanting more personalized experiences and wanting to go off the beaten track. So how can we balance traditional priorities such as cost reduction and profitability with ethical behavior, environmental impact and sustainability?

FiturNext opens a global conversation where all of us can actively contribute to improving the quality of tourism.

During this First Edition FiturNext presented five initiatives,

  • The Plastic Whale, which set out on a mission to fish plastic from the canals of Amsterdam a few years ago, creating economic value from plastic waste and involving visitors and residents.
  • Authenticitys, which connects visitors with local experiences that also have a positive impact on the cities they visit.
  • Refill My Bottle, created an online map with refill stations in 9 countries in Asia so that you can refill your bottle wherever you go.
  • Unique Adventures, a responsible tourism organization that blends local communities, environment, and tourism, to discover Costa Rica.
  • Fundación En Vía uses funds generated through responsible tourism to provide free-interest rate microloans, and educational programs to empower women to better support themselves and their families.

Let’s leave a digital footprint of those cool initiatives that can make the world a better place to travel, and if you know any trendy responsible tourism initiatives or models that should be addressed by Fiturnext, share it here.

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