Greenlines Institute for Sustainable Development
  • publication: 24 October 2016

AIHR - Research group sustainability in hospitality and tourism

Greenlines Institute for Sustainable Development - Tourism 2016 International Conference on Global Tourism and Sustainability, 12-14 October 2016, Lagos (Portugal)

The Tourism 2016 conference aimed at discussing the role of tourism with reference to the adoption of the post-2015 Development Agenda and including the new set of Sustainable Development Goals approved by UNESCO in 2016. The UN World Tourism Organization emphasizes the role of tourism in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in general and in particular Goal 8 on inclusive and sustainable economic growth; Goal 12 on sustainable production and consumption and Goal 14 on the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources. Accordingly, during the opening we were all reminded that 2017 has been declared the year of Sustainable Tourism. The conference's theme is therefore timely and relevant. Hereby some highlights from the three days conference.

Conference attendees came from all over the world, with a particular strong representation from South East Asia and Australia. Interestingly, many presenters were architects or policy makers. This brought a refreshing view on sustainable tourism with attention to the development of rural areas through tourism on one side and revitalization of cities on the other.

It struck me that name tags were printed double sided. This efficiently addresses an annoying issue at conferences: name tags tend to swirl and often names are concealed from people's view.

Our first speaker,  Azevedo Rodrigues showed how geology integrates with tourism by explaining how he engages Portuguese and international tourists in walking along dinosaurs tracks, looking at tidal sea life and discovering the role of geology in understanding cities' heritage. Such experiences change the way people look at their surroundings. Humans and their planet meet during these excursions.

Improving the accommodation services provided by locals is one of the aims of the Association Rota Vicentina, as president Marta Cabral told us. This association designed a hiking route in the South West of  Portugal. As hikers are looking for basic accommodations, locals can provide these with only a bit of help. Offering accommodations to hikers provides new opportunities to build a livelihood for many people in the Algarve area and is less seasonally bound than other tourist activities in the region, such as surfing and snorkeling.

An Italian colleague from the University of Cagliari pointed to successful and less successful revitalization of historic city centers. One of his examples was the Liberty Hotel in Boston, a luxury hotel developed in a former jail. An idea for Leeuwarden for extra accommodations during 2018?

Marko Kukasch and Tony o'Rourke reflected on heritage and  developments in cultural tourism and the difficulty to transfer successful models to other destinations. This paper had a policy based focus more than an academic one, and gave some interesting insights in engaging small and medium enterprises in sustainable tourism development in Slovenia and Ireland. The main insight is that without the permanent engagement of the community success cannot be achieved and sustained. A well-defined and unique product is also essential to compete on the national and international markets. Consequently, the marketing effort should also be tailor-made which might conflict with regional and national marketing efforts.

PhD student Ivana Stevi? presented her PhD research proposal where she applies design thinking to the understanding of sustainable tourism development. She noticed that design thinking is underrepresented as a method in tourism research. She decided to focus on 'azulejos', the beautiful tiles that cover many houses in Porto but that present several issues of preservation also because tourists - unknowingly may be of their function - steal or damage them. Through design thinking linked to action research, Ivana devised a project that she called 'Tile your visit' where tourists will be asked to mark their visit by leaving a tile behind.

Jens Currie from the Pacific Whale Foundation introduced us to collaborative forms of cetacean monitoring research with the help of tourists. Involving tourists helped reduce the costs of monitoring while increasing the amount of hours watching and the number of encounters with animals. Heaven for researchers!

Ray Green focused on the impact of increased tourism developments on the local character of towns on the South West cost of Australia. To Ray residents are the real experts on what 'local character' is and not urban planners of tourists. Therefore he developed a series of studies centered on residents' perceptions for which he developed a new methodology combining innovative techniques such as photo inventory to document landscapes, photo rating (on a seven Likert scale asking residents how compatible that photographed feature was with the local character)  and projective mapping. In different places outcomes were very similar: people found natural places and (heritage) old buildings fitting, and new accommodation developments (mostly squared buildings and detached houses not screened by green) as unfitting to the local character.

Fernando from Sri Lanka focussed on satisfaction and loyalty of domestic and foreign visitors of hotel service quality. A well designed study, based on a wide range of existing sources and scales, brings to the rather unsurprising conclusion that the main satisfactions are food and beverage (appreciated most by domestic guests) and catering to their personal needs (foreign, mostly European guests).

The last presentation I wish to refer to was from a group of researchers from the Azores, who looked into tourists' acceptance of green practices in hotels. The presenter, Jean Louis Cogumbreiro, is a hotel manager concerned with the amount of waste and resources consumed to meet the tourists' demand for high quality services on the Azores. In fact he is the GM of Açores Atlântico and Marina Atlântico Hotels, at Ponta Delgada. Findings are in line with research showing that hotel chains, larger hotels and hotels located in cities are more prone to engage with environmental certification and that there are 'shadows' of green in tourists. Seemingly Italian women tourists were the less environmentally concerned. May be then I am overcompensating!