Tomás Azcárate, President of the Responsible Tourism Institute and one of the pioneers of sustainable tourism in Spain, in this interview reflects on his long career dedicated to sustainable development of tourism. He also shares his vision of how the responsible tourism agenda has evolved in recent years, and why the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) is so important.
- The professional journey of Tomás Azcárate, and his key insights;
- How political interests influence tourist destinations;
- The flaws of early sustainable development practices;
- The “Responsible Tourism System” and the BIOSPHERE certification;
- His main achievements during his time at UNESCO;
- How the sustainable tourism agenda wil evolve in the next years;
- The best way to measure the success of initiatives that promote sustainable tourism.
Tomás, before becoming President of the Responsible Tourism Institute, you worked as President of the Doñana National Park (1982-1991). What is your fondest memory of that time?
In relation to the Doñana National Park, I would say that I was in three management and participation bodies: the Doñana Biological Station, where I did my doctorate; the Doñana National Park as regional biologist at the National Institute for Nature Conservation (ICONA); and the coordination and participation body of the Board of the National Park. Even though those were tough years, I have fond memories of that time, and the Biological Station became a national reference point for the defense of nature and the environment.
In the second instance, the entrance of the first biologists in the body responsible for nature conservation in Spain, ICONA, caused a shock and a complete change in the management culture of the organization (don’t forget that then, the protected species were pests).
In the case of the Board, being one of the first to be represented at a national level and in a National Park completely politicized due to the importance that it had at an international level caused a very important clash amongst the personnel. This was due mostly to the existing conflict between the different interests around the Park – some legitimate, others less so – but the majority, in my opinion, without a thorough analysis of the viability of the projects.
This convinced me even more of the need for the new model of balanced development, which was even then called sustainable, that we wanted to implement in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
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