In this interview, Fran Hughes, Director of the International Tourism Partnership (ITP), shares her insights on the challenges and changes taking place in the tourism industry regarding sustainability. She explains to us ITP’s mission, how they work to achieve it, and what it takes to be a sustainability leader.
- Why patience is key in enacting meaningful change in the travel industry;
- The International Tourism Partnership’s mission and how it works to achieve it;
- How ITP’s strength comes from its focus on collaboration and wide reach;
- What it takes to successfully develop programs that truly benefit and empower local communities;
- The two crucial elements of a sustainability leader.
Fran, when and where did your sustainable tourism journey begin – when did you discover your passion for sustainability?
I think a lot of it can be traced back to my childhood. I was raised in a family which was very much about ‘make it and mend it’. My parents grew up during World War 2, when this philosophy was vital. It never left them, and the belief that we should use resources sustainably and not waste certainly rubbed off on me. Our family holidays always involved a lot of walking, cycling and enjoying nature, and we were always taught to see the good in people and places. And though we didn’t have so much at home, we were always taught to share and support those who had less. These factors taught me to be curious and considerate about the world and people around me.
What was your view of sustainable and responsible tourism when you first started your professional career?
My first job was as an adventure tour leader for Explore; a job I loved and did for over 6 years. I don’t think I thought of tourism in terms of ‘sustainable’ and ‘responsible’ then; the terms hadn’t really been invented back in the mid-90s. But, we were highly conscious of the need to tread lightly on the planet, leave only footprints, respect and learn about local people and culture and put money into the local economy, so all the attributes of sustainable tourism were there. We just did it without putting a label on it.
When I came to work in the office at Explore (I was Area Manager for the Middle East), the company was taking a more systematic approach to ensuring sustainability was embedded in the product and culture. I was interested, so I would put myself forward to lead on many of the initiatives. In the end, it became my full-time job!