VisitEngland chief executive James Berresford speaks with Blue & Green Tomorrow ahead of the eighth international Responsible Tourism in Destinations (RTD8) conference.
Taking place at Manchester Metropolitan University on April 3-5, the event coincides with both English Tourism Week – which is co-ordinated by VisitEngland – and Responsible Business Week.
Berresford describes the Manchester conference as “the showcase for responsible tourism”.
What does sustainable tourism mean to you?
Tourism should be sustainable across 360 degrees – social, economic and environmental. The right balance needs to be found and tourism must be interlinked with sustainability. In simple terms, sustainable tourism is ‘good’ or ‘better’ tourism.
What are the benefits of making the English tourism industry sustainable?
We will secure a successful future for our tourism sector – the businesses within it, the communities it serves and the visitors who enjoy it. In order to protect and celebrate tourism’s contribution to local economies, communities and businesses, we also need to recognise and minimise its impacts on the environment.
What role do you see sustainable tourism play in impacting the future of our destinations?
Sustainable tourism should be woven into destination management plans. Destination planning for local areas needs to be embedded to protect and celebrate local visitor economies. Good destination management is all about sustainable tourism.
You are delivering a keynote speech at RTD8 on the future of destination management. Can you explain some issues that you are going to address and say why they are significant?
The future of destination management is critical for anyone involved in tourism in local areas. It is the process by which visitor experiences in destinations are delivered for the benefit of the local economy, in favour of the local community and without the expense of the environment. Often there is a focus on promotional activity and the difficult economic climate can make people think this is the most important aspect of destination management, but done well it is much more than this.
Taking a more holistic approach to ensure great experiences is more challenging but it is in the best interests of stakeholders in destinations and for visitors. Those in local areas, in different sectors as well as tourism, will increasingly need to work together to create responsible destinations.
How do you ensure destinations are managed responsibly across England? What assessment criteria do you have in place to monitor this?
We work in partnership with destinations across England. Whilst we provide leadership, insight and strategic direction, local areas are responsible for the development of their own visitor economies. Local people and businesses in destinations should shape what tourism looks like locally – good destination management organisations provide the local leadership and drive collaboration that can help responsible approaches to tourism development.
We lead by example and help to build capacity in local areas to develop good destination management. We support a holistic approach to destination management and encourage those in destinations to develop and sign up to a destination management plan. Guidance and good practice for destinations is provided on our website and also through our destination management forum. We want to support and celebrate the importance and value that destination management brings to making the local visitor economy as good as it can be.
How can RTD8 influence policy and stakeholder engagement for tourism destination development?
We are delighted to be partnering and co-hosting this conference in England. The stature and prestige of this event will have positive ramifications. It is a showcase for responsible tourism that will challenge people’s perceptions and encourage even greater change for the good.
What can VisitEngland do to boost responsible forms of tourism in and around destinations?
England’s strategic framework for tourism is a template which can encourage responsible tourism. Responsible Tourism (or Wise Growth as it’s referred to in these documents) is woven through the action plans. For destination planning and management we have to understand issues associated with society and the environment, and take the visitor seriously.
How can tourism help sustain areas of natural beauty and the countryside for years to come?
It is a long-term consideration, to manage the product and manage the visitor properly. Remote communities are sustained by visitor income, therefore recognising the economic opportunities and a careful and considered approach to this needs to be undertaken.
How can RTD8 and English Tourism Week help create better places for people to visit through tourism?
English Tourism Week is a celebration of tourism in England and focuses on the importance of the visitor economy to local economic development, local people and for businesses across the country. The conference is an element of this and a wonderful showcase for responsible tourism.
What is VisitEngland doing to influence people in England to take more sustainable holidays and how difficult is it to get this message across?
It’s not really a defined product; it is multi-faceted and holidays need to be conducive to responsible tourism – at the seaside, in rural or urban areas, on holiday or whilst away for business. It’s about promoting a product that supports the local economy, environment and society.
If you look at our website – visitengland.com – you will find lots of inspirational holiday ideas where quintessential England is celebrated, where local people, local food and local culture and heritage can be enjoyed.
For the full agenda at RTD8 and more information on how to attend this essential event, see here. Spaces are limited so book now to avoid disappointment.