Graham Miller in this interview shares his thoughts on tourism and sustainability. He tells us how a life-changing trip to Malaysia made him focus his career on sustainable tourism, and the key insights he has gained through his impressive career, including his current positions of Executive Dean at the University of Surrey and Co-editor of the Journal of Sustainable Tourism. He also tells us about this year’s Tourism for Tomorrow awards by the World Travel and Tourism Council, of which he is the lead judge.
- Why Graham Miller decided to dedicate his career to tourism and sustainability;
- How his view of sustainable tourism has changed over the years;
- The main challenges of implementing sustainability at destinations;
- How to effectively measure the sustainability performance of destinations;
- His thoughts on the 2017 WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow awards;
- His favorite sustainable tourism success story.
Graham, when did you discover your passion for tourism and sustainability? Do you remember what triggered your interest?
I lived for nearly four years in Japan when the yen was really strong against most of the currencies of the world. I was paid in yen and so it was cheaper for me to travel outside of Japan than it was just to stay in Japan and live a normal life. So, I travelled lots throughout south-east Asia and started thinking about tourism as an industry and what the effect of it was on the places I visited.
The key moment for me was in visiting Langkawi in Malaysia. I travelled and travelled using planes, trains, boats and motorbikes to get to this place that seemed like it was the most remote place in the world. In the early 90s there was really very little development in Langkawi, but as I was leaving there was a sign being put up saying that the European Union was building road infrastructure and a major new resort was ‘coming soon’.
I left Langkawi thinking about what impact this would have on the wonderfully relaxed and undeveloped experience I had just enjoyed. By the end of my four years in Japan there were daily flights direct from Narita to Langkawi. What had seemed like an incredibly remote and special place had been connected to one of the world’s busiest airports.
As a result, nobody will ever again be able to have the experience of discovery, adventure and privilege that I had in Langkawi. There are huge implications in all of the above and with no right answer, and this is why I have remained fascinated intellectually, and challenged morally, with the development and sustainability of tourism.