On Friday 16 September, Equality in Tourism Director, Dr. Stroma Cole, joined an impressive line-up of research experts, trail blazing developers and innovative architects to speak at the RESET: Tourism, Hospitality and Travel Summit, hosted by TLC Harmony in London.

In the opening address Nicki Page, summit organiser and Co-Founder of TLC Harmony, reminded attendees that the only limit to sustainable tourism is our willingness to act. Nicki declared “you’re either planet positive, or you’re not”. Nicki introduced the Harmony Golden Ratio initiative, a new approach to identifying the financial costs of the impacts a destination or organisation has upon the environment, location, and community.

First to present, was Dr Omar Al Attas, Red Sea Development Company. When asked how the tourism industry can ensure it maintains a sustainable approach across new developments, Dr Omar Al Attas explained the importance of developers committing to having a dedicated department to monitor compliance, using clear targets and regulatory systems tailored to the specific environment, working with the support of national legislators.

Left: Dr Stroma Cole, Director of Equality in Tourism, Right: Nicki Page, Co-Founder of TLC Harmony.

Opening the second session, TLC Harmony Co-Founder, Leo Downer, called for “bold and imaginative business action” as he introduced TLC Harmony’s GABI and Planet TIP which offers free impact analysis tools to all tourism and hospitality businesses.

Speaking about the growing consumer interest toward sustainable travel options, Evelina Hederer, Expedia Group USA, explained that 70% of customers would choose to avoid destinations that aren’t convincingly sustainable. Equally, nearly 70% are prepared to sacrifice convenience for increased sustainability. So it seems authenticity, accountability, and policy visibility are key aspects to consumer buy in. These statistics reflected sentiments shared by a variety of speakers.

Architect and academic, Somayeh Rokhgireh introduced an elevated definition of sustainability which did not exclusively relate to physical environmental impact but also encompassed an assessment of social impact. Somayeh explained that all businesses are depended on their stakeholders: their investors, consumers, employers and suppliers. Therefore, sustainable travel, tourism, and hospitality must adopt a holistic systems approach across business strategy, operation planning, and building design.

In the panel session chaired by Adam Maclennan of PKF Hospitality, it was concluded that the key to sustainability is investing in data led improvements, education, and collaboration. The panel emphasised that data should examine the targets and indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals as heavily as it does financial indicators.

Dr. Stroma Cole, Director at Equality in Tourism, demonstrated the need to incorporate a gender perspective on all data collection and targets, explaining that gender equality is quintessential to sustainability. “If you neglect to evaluate the experience of 50% of the population, you’ll never reach the Sustainable Development Goals”. Stroma introduced the Equality in Tourism pledge, and urged all stakeholders to develop and implement gender policies across every sector. Stroma concluded the session by introducing the exciting new Equality in Tourism award, which celebrates sustainable practices which are inclusive of women. Keep your eyes on the Equality in Tourism website for upcoming information about this award.