For this interview with Guillaume Cromer we take you to France, world’s most visited country and a region with tremendous potential for sustainable and responsible tourism. As a multi-cultural nation with a long colonial history, France faces many challenges. As a destination, its future is in the hands of entrepreneurial leaders who appreciate change as an opportunity to do better rather than a threat to let go: Guillaume Cromer, Managing Director of ID Tourism consultancy, is one of those.
- What brought Guillaume Cromer to sustainable tourism;
- How his view of the field has changed over time;
- The secret(s) to sustainability success in tourism;
- The key challenges which need to be addressed;
- The key to the future success of sustainable tourism;
- Three books recommended by Guillaume.
Guillaume, when and where did your sustainable tourism journey begin – when did you discover your passion for sustainability?
Ten years ago I went to Nepal for a 6-months internship, working for a local travel agency, trying to help them with marketing and product development. Back then I didn’t understand why so many tourists were visiting Nepal, paying a lot of money (especially mountaineers) and, on the other hand, you could find street children taking drugs, sniffing glue. So I decided to find a solution for linking tourism development with international aid.
Nepal was a big step in my life, both personally & professionally.
What was your view of sustainable and responsible tourism when you first started your professional career?
When I started (at the end of my studies around 2006/2007), I realized that responsible tourism in France was focused on small tour operators offering trekking tours & community-based tourism in Southern countries. In my view, sustainability in tourism has to be wider, encompass all the different stakeholders in tourism, like the government, the big players (Accor, Club Med, Thomas Cook, TUI, etc.) and not only these small NGOs or tour operators.
Has your view of sustainable tourism changed since then?
Not really. I still don’t think that “Small is Beautiful” applies to the sustainable tourism context. To make a real impact, sustainability must be embraced by all the players in the tourism industry.
Tourism needs entrepreneurs and real game changers of the kind of Elon Musk (Tesla, Space X, Hyperloop,..) or Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia), to demonstrate that sustainable tourism is possible and that tourism can benefit all stakeholders.
Your main insights as a leader in the tourism field in France?
In France, there are still some stereotypes on sustainable tourism on both sides (customers & professionals). Many people still think that sustainable tourism is a specific market niche, that it is more expensive, that you have to change your vision of holidays. But this is not true!
Sustainable tourism isn’t a niche product but a strategy for managing businesses and destinations successfully.
In France, big tourism companies like Accor hotels, Club Med, Transat or Pierre & Vacances Center Parcs have understood that sustainability and sustainable development belong to their company’s strategy department, and are not about communication (greenwashing) or isolated philanthropic actions.
Also, more and more regions in France – like Brittany, Paris Île-de-France, Alsace, Rhône-Alpes – and natural parks (Mercantour, Vosges, IPAMAC in Massif Central, Cévennes,..) have developed sustainable tourism strategies linked to the European Charter for Responsible Tourism in Protected Areas, which is great.
Slow tourism is another trend in France, thanks to the growth of cycle tourism along famous routes like Loire à vélo (Eurovelo 6). More and more tourists are eager to discover France by bicycle, which means lower carbon emissions!
Which achievements as managing director of ID-Tourism are you most proud of?
ID-Tourism is a consulting company specialized in sustainable tourism marketing, strategy & forecasting. We support tour operators, hotels and destinations in building their sustainable tourism or ecotourism strategy, or CSR policy.
In terms of main achievements, a landmark moment was when the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs – which is in charge of tourism promotion – asked me to recommend ways to make France as destination a reference for slow travel in the world, including bicycle tours, riverboat tourism, horse-riding, and trekking routes. This was a great opportunity to encourage them to integrate and address sustainability issues in the tourism strategy for France, and not only linked to this specific market.
I am also proud about having been able to facilitate the partnership between Travelife for Tour Operators (which I represent in France) and ATR (Agir pour un Tourisme Responsable), the historic certification scheme for tour operators in France.
What are the main challenges ID-Tourism faces today?
ID-Tourism aims to become a consulting company focused on sustainable tourism not only in France but also abroad. We will launch a new website in early 2016 in 3 languages (French, English, and Spanish) to convince tour operators, international institutions, hotel owners and destinations to work with us.
Like other consulting companies, the Internet poses new challenges and opportunities for our business. We need to be online, open source, innovative, offer information & advice, connect with our community, with decision-makers, etc. The digital environment offers entirely new perspectives for consultants.
You are also the new president of the French organization “Acteurs du Tourisme Durable (ATD)”, Can you tell us more about the organization, and your role?
Yes! ATD (Acteurs du Tourisme Durable) is the main multi-stakeholder federation in France dedicated to sustainable tourism. We are gathering the main players committed to sustainable tourism in France in the different fields (tour-operating, hotels & lodging, destination, media, service providers to professionals, etc.).
The role of ATD is to push all the professionals in the tourism industry to integrate sustainability issues. To achieve this, we are using different tools, such as the Sustainable Tourism Summer School and other events to make them more sensitive about the subject and to build together the solutions. We run B2C campaigns or events like Sustainable Tourism Awards to communicate the sustainable tourism concept and to increase tourist demand. We also collect and share best practices in sustainable tourism.
3 books linked to sustainability and tourism which you highly recommend?
The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World by John Elkington, Pamela Hartigan, Klaus Schwab
Vers un Nouveau Capitalisme by Muhammad Yunus
Those books aren’t directly linked to tourism but I believe we need to read books in other fields, such as social entrepreneurship, marketing, finance and fair trade to find solutions for changing the mass tourism industry.
Which initiatives or trends in tourism do you find the most interesting at the moment?
I’m very interested in sustainable mobility for tourists and also in the smart destinations concept: how to collect and to use data in destinations to enhance tourist experiences in real-time, and to monitor and improve social and environmental issues. I am sure the future of sustainable tourism is in collecting and making use of the right data!
Thank you Guillaume.
Connect with Guillaume Cromer on LinkedIn.
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