In a gathering of tourism experts from international organizations, United Nations agencies and players from the public and private sector, green innovations in tourism industry have been said to drive sustainable development by reducing costs, boosting revenue, creating jobs and improving resource efficiency.
The Rio+20 event “Green Innovation in Tourism”, co-hosted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), with the support of the Brazilian Ministry of Tourism and the UNWTO Affiliate Member CNC-SESC-SENAC gathered 300 international tourism experts.
According to Brazil’s Minister of Tourism Gastão Dias Vieira, the definition of competitiveness in tourism is closely linked with three objectives: development, inclusion and conservation. “There can be no economic growth in tourism without sustainability, without conservation of natural resources and without incentives to citizenship,” he said.
The gathering highlighted the need to increase focus on sustainability, as it can lead to more jobs and reduce environmental impacts, as well as cut costs and increasing competitive advantages for companies and destinations while enhancing the visitor experience. Noted obstacles to green innovations include lack of awareness among tourists, business information gaps on the perceived investment costs, limited access to finance by micro and medium sized enterprises, and lack of policy integration across key sectors.
Alain Dupeyras, head of the tourism unit of OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development, said that a “more strategic approach to fostering green innovation in tourism will require greater horizontal and vertical policy co-ordination, for example, to improve access to finance that supports the green innovation efforts of small and medium enterprises”.
The innovations presented during the gathering were said to be “concrete examples of how, with the appropriate investment, tourism can become even more profitable, labor-intensive and environmentally-friendly,” said Márcio Favilla, UNWTO executive director for competitiveness, external relations and partnerships. “With one billion international tourists expected to travel in 2012, it is more important than ever that we support green innovation as a catalyst of tourism’s sustainable growth.”