Tourism for Sustainable Development: Networking Event for Tourism and Development Leaders?


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July 17, 2013

Professional Training for Good: Development Leaders Roundtable

Tourism for Sustainable Development

Sustainable development – what does that mean? For some, it’s an overly complicated concept that is too academic and theoretical to incite any interest. For some it may be an overused cliché that represents a broken promise, an unfulfilled dream. And for others this is a goal – a dream – for which they get up and go to work every morning.

If development of tourism is to be really sustainable - meaning that it can be sustained without negatively impacting the ability of future generation to also partake in and sustain the activities needed to continue sustaining the desired levels of sustained development and growth - are our current approaches helping this goal?

"Tourism is a major activity with characteristics that make it particularly valuable as an agent for development... With such a significant potential for development, the need for a sustainable approach to tourism in developing countries to promote growth in the long term while maintaining a balanced use of resources is imperative." (United Nations World Tourism Organization, "Sustainable Tourism for Development")

What does it mean to work towards the goal of sustainable development? Achieving sustainable development requires diverse solutions that include all segments of society (which, of course, is easier said than done), and working towards achieving sustainable development means everyone doing their part.

Who Are Working on Sustainable Tourism Development?

Raising awareness about sustainable tourism and engaging stakeholders in sustainability practices remain to be a significant challenge for the industry. It seems, however, that it's not for lack of effort that the sustainable development of tourism (and tourism for sustainable development) remains a challenge: there are numerous organizations involving in supporting and promoting sustainable tourism.

As a case in point, here are just a few professional resources, programs and initiatives that are advocating for and assisting tourism destinations to develop sustainable tourism:

Similarly, in the field of international aid and development, a large number of organizations - large and small, public and private - are engaged in addressing the pressing challenges of sustainable development, perhaps with sometimes overlapping aims and duplicated efforts.

In Europe alone, for example, there are an estimated 70,000 plus organizations (civil society, government and private sector) engaged in the international development field (Source: Directory of development organizations).

On the one hand, this is great news; so many organizations around the world are investing in social good and are working in what could be broadly defined as the field of "trying to make the world a better place". On the other hand, though, this raises a question about quality vs. quantity, efficiency vs. efficacy.

Roundtable + Symposium + Networking Meetup

As we are venturing into the world of professional training in the development field and seeking opportunities to play a role in contributing to global development goals, we ask ourselves: can we also play a role in helping those working in this vast field of development connect with each other better?

Although we specialize in online training, as we’ve discussed before, we are firm believers of the importance of in-person networking and face-to-face communications, whether it’s about effective learning, business strategies, or marketing. Getting together with like-minded people who come from a range of different backgrounds is one of the best ways to inspire innovative thinking, encourage exchange of ideas, and come up with solutions and new ideas that can lead to significant change.

With this in mind, we would like to saw a seed of what may one day become a regular event bringing together tourism professionals, sustainable development leaders, innovative thinkers, learning technology experts, and training practitioners from around the world.

Everything starts from the first step, however small it may be, and in this case, this humble proposal is our way of taking the tiny first step in creating a platform for networking, discussions, sharing ideas and coming up with ideas that can positively influence the world of international development, to help the development community better utilize tourism as a tool for sustainable development.

We like the concept of roundtable where “each person is given equal right to participate“, and we also feel that the Greek origin of the term symposium (“to drink together“) sounds like a great idea to encourage lively discussions and creative thinking. There should definitely also be a component of this gathering that focuses on facilitating networking. Getting to know each other, we believe, is the key that opens so many different doors to productive, effective, impactful projects and initiatives.

So, our fellow tourism, training and sustainable development professionals, what do YOU think? Would you be interested in being part of a gathering that focuses on networking and sharing ideas? What do you think would be the most important takeaways from such a meeting and what do you think should the program include?

TrainingAid is an international tourism e-learning company offering online training courses and skills development opportunities for tourism professionals.