Travel and tourism professionals from around the world are headed to Madrid for the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Annual Summit next week. An event not just for sales and networking but also to celebrate the winners of the leading accolade in responsible and sustainable tourism – the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.
In this interview, Fiona Jeffery, award chair, shares her tourism and sustainability story – how it all started, and why she has recently moved from head of WTM to leading the water charity Just a Drop.
- Where Fiona Jeffery sees the priorities for sustainability in business;
- How being a mother has influenced her view on sustainable tourism;
- Why she launched the World Responsible Tourism Day back in 2007;
- Why she founded water aid charity Just a Drop, and how the charity helps communities around the world;
- Fiona’s advice for newcomers to sustainable tourism;
- How the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Award rewards proactive businesses.
Fiona, as a business person, what was your view on the importance of sustainability in travel and tourism when you started your professional career?
When I started in the industry, it wasn’t really on my radar, but when I took over World Travel Market in 1994 I simply felt that unless as an industry we protected the very product we were seeking to promote, we’d eventually destroy our own business model. So I created Environmental Awareness Day in 1996, which attracted about 30 people and was a side-show in a room.
Now called World Responsible Tourism Day, it has become a core pillar of the World Travel Market, and attracts the largest gathering of responsible tourism professionals in the world, with over 3,000 attending its 4 day educational programme.
From your experience as tourism business and marketing executive, where do you see the priorities in terms of sustainability?
There are many but community wellbeing, wildlife protection, environmental protection and climate change, and its impact on water resources all feature. More education is needed for things to change.
Sustainability has to be something that should be built into tourism businesses’ training programmes. It should be seen as that important.
In the same way as you receive sales or marketing training on the job, you should understand what is meant by sustainable tourism practises, what this involves, and have updates on new strategies and developments to improve your personal and business impact.