Roundtable Discussion - World Tourism Day
Hello everybody. Welcome to the University of Sunderland's latest round table discussion. We're here from the Faculty of Business Law and Tourism and we're going to discuss sustainable tourism, sustainability more widely, and it's on the occasion of World Tourism Day, which takes place on the 27th of September every year. So I'd like my colleagues to introduce themselves. We'll start with Clare.
Hi, my name's Clare, and I'm a lecturer in Tourism Events, Aviation and Hospitality and also a Personal Academic Tutor in the department. Hi, I am Laura Nelson and I am lecturer in Tourism and Events. Hi, I am Stephanie Preston. I am the Programme Leader for the Tourism Aviation course and also Senior Lecturer in Tourism Events. And my name is Ian Morton, and I'm a Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Events. So the first question that we're going to cover with Claire, is well, what is World Tourism Day? So World Tourism Day is a day that is celebrated on the 27th of every year, and it was created by the United Nations Tourism Organisation, to celebrate global tourism.
That way we can visit different countries, we can learn about different cultures, and see things for our own eyes, which generates the economy in turn. So by discussing World Tourism Day, I think it's a good way for students and fellow academics, to have an idea about what it is and what we cover within our department. The next question we're going to go into, just to sort of start things off, is why each of us became interested in tourism in the first place. So if we start with Stephanie. So I studied travel and tourism at college and then I went to work for a tour operator. So I became interested in that as part of my job.
It was advising people about different destinations in the world. And then I continued to work in the industry, so that sort of brought me to where I am today. And Laura. Yeah, it's the million dollar question, isn't it? -Yeah. -Why do I like tourism? Why am I interested in tourism? So I think my interest stems from what you mentioned Claire, actually, about the United Nations and the fact that I love travelling. I love travelling, okay, and I want to share that enthusiasm with other people and other students, but how can we share that enthusiasm in a sustainable way? And that's where the education side of it comes in for me.
So in terms of teaching tourism, events, hospitality, aviation, I think that's why I'm in this game for the long run. So for me, to be honest, it wasn't the direction that I wanted to take. When I was 17, I started travelling and when travelling all around the world with different companies, doing whatever I could to basically raising enough money for the next airline ticket I'm really interested in other cultures, and I like to experience different food, different cuisines and basically just see how other people live with my own eyes. And I think with the vast knowledge that we all have within the industry by visiting all these different countries we are able to share that, and tell stories, and make students aware of things that are happening at the moment. So things like the floods and the bush fires, that are going on in Greece and looking at how countries internationally, compared to perhaps the UK, how they've managed things like the pandemic and COVID-19, things like that.
When you see things with your own eyes and you've got an interest in different countries I think that passion comes through and that's what really makes this grabs their attention. And I think all of us are just really passionate about the subject because of the combination of experience and study and work. The first issue really I think is, what about the wider concept of sustainability and sustainable development? The difficulty with pinning things down sometimes, with sustainability I think the word sustainability gets thrown around a lot, doesn't it? And I feel like it's lost its significance sometimes. And in terms of what the United Nations focus on and what they've done, in terms of, do I want to say quantifying it, with the 17 sustainability goals? I mean, yes, that's been a positive change.
Whether it's achievable by 2030, I don't know. We've come a long way but there's still a lot of work to do. So for those of you who may not be familiar with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, they were born in the Sustainable conference in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, but it actually took the United Nations countries up until 2015, to actually quantify 17 different sustainability development goals. And we teach a lot of our modules in line with the sustainable development goals, 'cause that links with our industry and personal travel experiences in the real world, and how we can frame that academically and then teach our students it as well? Would you agree? Yeah, by looking at good practise. So for example, when you're teaching events you mentioned things like, we look at different festivals, we look at the most sustainable practises within festivals and then look at the social aspect of that, the economic aspect of that, and the cultural aspect of that, by giving real life examples.
And obviously, tourism policies which are held in different countries and using examples, so students can analyse and compare and do a little bit of research and think well actually, this holiday that we go to maybe twice a year or once a year, maybe (indistinct), something that the students are interested in, for example. And then look at the sustainability goals and see what's being reached there and look at the outcomes. So by using examples in each module, and I think it's not written, but I think it's something that just has formulated that way. Yeah, I think it's just exposure and awareness of these different development goals or just how to travel more sustainably in general. I mean, when I personally go go on holiday or go travelling et cetera, maybe with my family I'm always kind of looking for ways in which I can travel a little bit more sustainable. And I really hope that students kind of do that a little bit as well.
And on the whole mainstream sustainability now that big organisations talk about, it's lost its its radical edge, because it's reconciled with economic growth. Yeah, yeah, it's been 50 plus years since the 1970s. -Don't say that. -(panel chuckles) -Yeah, yeah. -Doesn't seem
that long ago, the 1970s. But I think students enjoy seeing that it had a radical start and that for some countries it still does. You have countries like Bhutan, where they are controlling numbers of tourists. They're controlling essentially the size of their industry, because they realise that their industry is based on a really pristine natural environment, people enjoy going to. People pay large amounts of money to go there. Whereas most of the rest of us, are now talking about sustainability simply as balance.
That you're continuing to grow your economy, despite the fact that we've got finite resources. But people are sort of pinning their hopes on technology efficiencies as ways of reducing waste. What do you think, Stephanie? Well I think that sustainability can be quite challenging as well as we head towards the future. Not everyone thinks the same in relation to the topic.
Also the affordability, also thinking about it from the industry point of view is the product innovation there? So are things there, to actually support people travelling sustainably? Do you think people are willing to change their behaviours? I think personally, we've got all these different apps these days, which target a younger generation, which you can offset your carbon footprint by planting some trees or the money goes towards some kind of natural relief fund. So there are ways to do it, but of course with the cost of living crisis. If you look at Europe for example, we're always promoting travel and talking about tourism. But yes, looking at the issues on a deeper level, can people afford to travel sustainably? If you look at a price for a train, for example. In the UK, if you want to go down to London, even from Manchester to London, it's about 365 pound. Oh yeah.
Really if we look at government initiatives or we compare to Europe, train travel in Europe, where you can travel all over it's much cheaper and it's much more sustainable. So you've got to think also as well what are these governments doing to bring in initiatives to to keep the cost down, but also to help the planet. Well if we're not all going to be like Bhutan, and actually control the size of your economy. We're wed to the neoliberal idea of constant growth. I think technology, particularly around energy use, is really critical, isn't it? Joe Biden in the US has been more visionary.
There's an opportunity to create jobs and grow the economy. Britain could be doing that. I know you were interested in the fact that actually the news is quite depressing on that front isn't it? Just in the last week or two about the British government I am. Ways people can sort of adapt the behaviours and travel more sustainably. Things like holidaying at home.
Are we going to see a rise in that, in terms of domestic tourism? Obviously, like you mentioned Claire, carbon offsetting. How many people are willing to do that though? If you consider the price of air travel, obviously if you're carbon offset, you pay more on top of that price. Making use of sustainable hotels, so there are some out there, but have we got enough? Is it going to be something, where we maybe need to develop that more? Are they affordable? Yeah, and also making it affordable.
Obviously, supporting sustainable practises where to we score and leaving no trace if you are going camping, et cetera. I think we've got a long way to come on that front, haven't we (chuckles), in some places? What about the technologies in aviation? 'cause it's a big contributor and it's heavily wed to tourism. What about the kind of new technologies that are coming on with aviation, as opposed to sort of (cross talk)?. A lot of companies are trying to use alternate fuels, and they're trialling that at the minute, but again, if you think about that area, can aviation be totally eradicated? I don't think people could.
People have the desire to travel. It's one of the quickest ways to travel. And what about alternatives to aviation? There's talk of doing more on trains, for example. Probably you're never going to have an alternative to flying across the Atlantic, but to go between the UK -and Southern France. -Europe. Northern Spain, it's a possibility.
First of all, it comes back to balance as what you mentioned at the beginning, Ian, in terms of awareness of how people can potentially change and their education of that. And I suppose that's where we come in, with our jobs, in academia. And then yes, if you're aware of it, great.
What's the steps, in order to actually travel more sustainably? But are you able to? Is it affordable? Are there options there? That's where the balance is off for me. We've still got quite a bit of a jump to go on, a bit of work to be done in order to get to that level, where everyone's kind of on the same page a little bit. Would you agree? What you've got to remember as well, is that most of the carbon emissions that are produced is by the elite, five percent. Five percent, it's the richest people taking private jets everywhere.
And then when you look at kind of the COP 28 you've got all these world leaders travelling there on a private jet, talking about sustainability. It's crazy. So it's just, you've got these sustainable practises and resorts and hotels which are completely green, but in order to get there you'd have to get a flight. So you can't travel a hundred percent sustainably, unless air travel was completely out of the picture.
But even then, leaving no trace, offsetting your carbon emissions, it has been done. We do introduce a lot of bloggers and influencers who are doing this kind of stuff, to make students aware that it is possible, but then you've got a lot of greenwashing with companies. That is a big issue actually.
What do you think about that? We use examples of that all the time in class. It's not just the tourism industry, is it? [Clare] A lot of companies of that. I feel like we've taken a bit of a negative turn here. It's not all negative, is it? -There are things. -It's a lot. That can be done and are being doing. Do you think that Covid gave people more of an appetite for domestic tourism? Because obviously from a purely transport perspective if we're still using fossil fuel based technologies, that's advantageous from an environmental sustainability point of view, to holiday at home, the closer the better, essentially.
So what have you seen post-Covid in terms of that? Are people carrying on with that? Or are they getting out the country as soon as they possibly can? I think a bit of both. Do I dare bring in supply and demand here because it is expensive to have a staycation, if you like, or book a nice cottage somewhere down south in the UK for example. Sometimes it's more expensive to stay in the UK, than what it is to go on a two week holiday abroad. And that's where the balance is off for me.
So for people, they've got to consider, do I want sun and the sea or do I want to be safe in my own country and not have the hassle of maybe an outbreak of another strain of Covid, and then testing, all of the hassle of getting through an airport and security, and stay in the UK and have a little bit of rain and maybe not so much sunny weather. So it's just balancing up the two. We've spoken quite a bit about the origins of sustainability. We've spoken about what it is, we've spoken about specifically the case of tourism, sustainable tourism. What do you think, in terms of the tourism industry what do you think their kind of main ways of approaching this are? I think some of the ways going forward, are advancing technology, lifestyle choices from people, obviously fitting in with what we've talked about, in terms of behaviour and also policy.
So government initiatives, et cetera, government support, in terms of the issue. And I think that's the sort of key areas for going forward On a global scale. Hence World Tourism Day, right? That's what it's all about.
Yeah, I would agree. Well, I think for me, when I'm in a lecture theatre or in a classroom, I try and tell a story. I think that's the best way to get engagement. I try and tell a story, but I also use real life pictures and examples. For example, we were talking about an issue of over-tourism.
So by using real life examples. For example, when we went to Venice recently at Easter, went on a family holiday to Venice and it was absolutely horrendous -the amount of tourists. -Oh, it's crazy. That were there.
And what we were saying about countries, limiting the amount of tourists. We look at the strategies, tourism strategies and ask the students to come up with their ideas, you know, and then look to see what practises have been put into place. That's just one example. We do talk about sustainability in practically all of the modules to be honest, 'cause it's a massive thing, you can't ignore it.
Yeah, I would say that I actually teach a very similar way to you. We've never had this discussion before, have we? Yeah, in a very similar way. And I think that way of teaching we can implement that into multiple, if not all modules. I don't know if you guys do the same, but then we do also have some modules, which are my favourites that are structured around sustainability and the United Nations sustainability goals and agenda. So for example, one of the modules that I lead and primarily teach on, it's a master's module actually, Current Practises in the Visitor Economy. And each week is based on, or we look at a different SDG.
Sometimes we look at just one, sometimes we look at two or three combined in that same week. So it breaks it down for students. And even for those who are very familiar with SDGs some of them might have never heard of it before, it's just getting that awareness out there.
And then I hope that the students will go home and speak to their family and say, "Oh I discussed this with Laura today, and how about we think about taking our children here this year and maybe doing it this way for example. [Clare] Doing it differently. So that's one of the modules as an example that focuses specifically on that. We actually have a brand new master's course. -We do -Don't we? Yeah we've just finished the first year of a new master's course on sustainable tourism. And it's really exciting because it compliments the rest of the suite of master's degrees.
And it's just basically, from the point of view of sustainability and tourism as a real opportunity. It's a fantastic career opportunity because despite the challenges, there are so many opportunities with sustainability, and so many things that just can't be avoided for much longer. I think a lot of students recognise that it's a good career opportunity becoming a specialist in greater balance, sustainability, and new and innovative ways of doing things in the tourism industry. So we're excited about that. -It's focused -For these people.
When it comes to teaching generally, I think I agree with both of you in that examples work very well. We've got a very international student body, so we use both home and international examples. You've got to have those practical examples, as well as theoretical, otherwise it's just not going to make sense. And how do we apply theory to practical examples of the real world? It's an optimistic way of doing things as well.
Because often with case studies, you can look at successful implementation of things. Because one of the things that's difficult about the sustainable development goals, the SDGs, is that they often seem quite abstract because they have an international remit, by nature they have to be. What do you think about the teaching? Well, I cover it in the first year of study. So we look at the area of sustainability, very introductory, and look at things like, what can be done in two destinations.
And what I tend to do with the students is get them to think about some of the activities that they might engage in and how that may impact on the environment. So we do that in interactive ways, in seminars. There's actually a game that I use to actually do that. So different methods are used. (indistinct) start thinking about it and not think about it in the future. So thanks for joining us.
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