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December 2009 - January 2010


Travel

Responsible Travel and WTM

by Aline Dobbie


WTM 2009 was the 30th anniversary of this great trade travel show to which more than 50,000 come annually. It is considered one of the top three travel shows in the world and most serious travel industry people would not miss it. As a member of the Press for me it is always a pleasure to go and meet up with my India connections in the India pavilion and also of course meet new people with whom to forge a working relationship. I do look at other countries but concentrate my energies on India for which I have a knowledge and considerable experience through having been born there and with my annual return journeys in the company of my husband Graham Dobbie which give us immense pleasure and valuable experiences in the various regions, towns, cities, countryside and resorts and hotels about which I then write both here in India Link and now as the India expert for www.iknowagreatplace.com.

On Tuesday 10th November I attended the press conference of the Minister for Tourism for the Indian Government – the honourable Kumari Selja. It was a crowded press conference and there was considerable emphasis on the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010. The Minister took some questions and her various colleagues also gave short presentations. The Commonwealth Games will focus the world’s attention on India and I sincerely hope that the confidence expressed about the preparation for those games is indeed well founded; India will be showcasing herself to the world. I certainly as a child of India do sincerely wish her well for a most successful Commonwealth Games.

On 11th November I attended the Responsible Travel.com Annual Responsible Travel Awards which are sponsored by Virgin Holidays; The Daily Telegraph, World Travel Market and Geographical Magazine are partners. In fact this was the sixth year celebrating the most innovative and effective initiatives in responsible tourism; now it is recognised that this is the most prestigious and competitive award scheme of its kind in the world. The actual show is sponsored by BBC World News and hosted by Stephen Sackur who also has a well known programme called Hard Talk.

The speakers were Fiona Jeffery, Chairman of World Travel Market and a pioneer of responsible travel over 16 years. Stephen Sackur of the BBC, Taleb Rifai Secretary General of the United Nations World Travel organisation and Andrew Mitchell – world authority on rainforest, Founder and Director of Global Canopy and advisor to HRH Prince of Wales’ Rainforest Project.

Each of these caring distinguished people spoke with real passion but I was particularly struck by Andrew Mitchell and the evocative short film that we saw about the rainforests and the danger to them; I have had the pleasure of experiencing the rainforest in Borneo and seen orang-utans in the wild, and I have been to Venezuela nearly 25 years ago and experienced the South American rainforest in that amazing country too.

The message from everyone who has a knowledge and expertise of conservation and sustainable living and tourism is we have to act now. However the optimism about the forthcoming conference in Copenhagen in December was minimal.

Today I read in The Times that a key element of the international plan to address climate change is in jeopardy after several of the most powerful nations failed to confirm a previous commitment to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. At the APEC forum which included US, China, Japan and Russia it was decided to delete the commitment from the final version of the official communiqué. This is a retrograde step and the resolve of world leaders to take firm action on climate change appears to be weakening with President Obama confirming that there would be no legally binding deal at the UN summit in Copenhagen next month. How disappointing that the US President appears to have been high on rhetoric last year and low on delivery now that he is in the decision making chair in The White House.

Most climate scientists believe that a 50 per cent reduction in global emissions by 2050 is the minimum needed to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic change.

However, to a cheerful topic; it was with great pride that I heard on Wednesday at the Award Ceremony that Village Ways were awarded the prize in the category for Best tour operator for cultural engagement.

The Judges said:

“These community-owned and managed projects in the Indian Himalaya offer unique and authentic cultural experiences by facilitating mutual cultural engagement at every level. This has brought previously vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals from the Dalit community into focus as porters and committee members, while enabling tourists to experience rural landscapes in non-intrusive and rewarding ways and make a significant contribution to local economic development in the villages through which they walk.”

Justin Francis, the managing director of responsibletravel.com who launched the Awards in 2004 says he continues to be excited by the incredibly diverse and truly ground-breaking ideas of our winning and highly commended organisations……it is not just that our winners have had some great ideas in harsh times; it is that they have managed to combine an expert knowledge of the issues affecting their communities and the environment with an approach to creating memorable experiences for travellers……responsible tourism delivers this in abundance as well as making the world a better place.

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