Within the framework of the initiative Towards a Statistical Framework for Measuring the Sustainability of Tourism (MST) launched by UNWTO in 2017 and with the support of United Nations Statistics Division, the second meeting of the working group of experts on measuring the sustainability of tourism took place at UNWTO Headquarters (Madrid) on 24 and 25 October 2018.
Dr. Nagore Espinosa, in her double role as CEO of in2destination and INRouTe network expert and coordinator, is part of this group of experts whose aim is to develop an international statistical framework for measuring tourism’s role in sustainable development, including economic, environmental and social dimensions. In fact, measuring sustainable tourism naturally cuts across a range of disciplines and agencies. In advancing the MST statistical framework, an open Working Group of experts was established in order to lead the technical development and support engagement among these key stakeholders.
In this second meeting, numerous issues were addressed, such as employment, including the concept of Green Jobs and the implementation of its measurement, the linking of ecosystem accounting and the economic-environmental accounting system to measure the sustainability of tourism, measurement of social sustainability from the perspective of the residents, and of course the challenge of the different scales when measuring the sustainability of tourism: national, regional, local. The topics were treated based on experiences of regions or countries that are implementing it and share their knowledge as the Philippines, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Canada, Austria, France, Germany, Portugal, Italy and Argentina, among others.
After this meeting in which many topics were touched, now it’s time to review the advanced documentation again and make contributions from our respective areas of knowledge. From in2destination, it is particularly important to advance at the spatial scales, as well as in the social, territorial and governance measurement of sustainability. In our experience, if the governance dimension is weakened, the rest of the sustainability dimensions are affected. Achieving a common measurement framework for the sustainability of tourism is critical for tourism destinations and businesses in all parts of the world, to measure constantly and have early warning indicators of issues that are brewing and take preventive measures or redirect issues before they worsen.
There is still room for progress, but we are happy to be part of this group of experts, to continue to investigate and contribute.
Here you can expand information on the documentation that was used in the meeting.
Let’s keep measuring and making decisions based on data!!!
Within the framework of the Cooperation for International Development ERICA programme (Spain and its regions exchange knowledge with Antioquia) transfer pilot project on sustainable tourist destinations is being executed in Jericó (Antioquia, Colombia) and in2destination has been the chosen Spanish counterpart as tourism experts. Between July 9 and 13th our CEO Nagore Espinosa has had a mission to Colombia, in particular to Medellín and to Jericó, this latter municipality has been the object of the pilot project.
In this mission the team formed by professionals from the University of Antioquia, EAFIT University and in2destination have deepened in the international standards in measurement of tourism to approach the strengthening of Jericó, so that both the public administration and the private sector of Jericó will continue to work toward sustainability. Currently, the municipality and numerous service providers are certified as sustainable under the rules of the Ministry of Tourism of Colombia and this project strengthens this commitment and opens the way to deepen in the measurement of sustainable tourism development at the local level and the creation of sustainable tourism products.
It is an enriching project for all parties involved, as we all contribute and learn, because of the multidisciplinary of the team: tourism, biology, anthropology, economists, and because the people involved from the territory show a great initiative, commitment, they are eager to learn, to contribute and more importantly to implement the lessons learnt.
Part of the project implies measuring, a task that could seem of low interest. However, from the beginning it has been understood as a critical action for the good of the destination, tourism businesses and the host community. Thus, for in2destination team it is a cooperation for development work in which we are very much invested and we feel fortunate to have been chosen.
in2destination was an integral part of the first round table, in which we discussed the concept of “Socially Responsible Tourism“, together with Aurora Pedro, PhD in Economics from the University of Valencia and professor of “tourism policy” at the university and with Joaquín Nieto, director of the International Labor Organization (ILO) of the United Nations for Spain.
We had the opportunity to discuss the relevance or not of the definitions of sustainability and how these definitions should also be transferred to the field of measurement. In addition, we insist on highlighting the current challenges that exist regarding the measurement of tourism, especially from a sustainable and environmental approach. We also stressed that our vision is that Big Data is not the end, but the means to answer the questionsthat the sector poses as key issues, and not all are susceptible to be answered with Big Data, some need official statistics, records, interviews and other methodologies.
In the second round table, focused on the challenges and opportunities of tourism in Mallorca (and, by extension, in the rest of the islands), it was debated whether it is a destination that suffers intensity or saturation. The answers were in the way that this intensity is perceived and, therefore, it has to be managed, but that there was no deep saturation. Even so, it was clear that a debate is needed on how to face the growth of tourism in the destination, if it is appropriate to put a stop to it and if the Palma airport has reached its maximum capacity.
The conclusions reached by those present were in line with the importance of the role of governance in the decision-making process of consensus, the importance of measurement, the subsequent intelligent use of the data obtained and the need to respect the residents.
Fundación Alternativas highlighted the work they carried out for Gipuzkoa (work in which in2destination was also part of) with the objective of deepening the challenges in which to work. Thus, it was reported how the Government of Gipuzkoa has already begun to work with a greater development in depth of the Tourist Observatory of Gipuzkoa and with specific actions with subsidies and aid aimed at strengthening the sector.
The final message in2destination wants to underline is that real actions can be launched after an in-depth study of each case.
We are grateful, once again, for being able to participate in this enriching debate and we also thank the audience, as it was very participative with reflections and questions to which the panelists try to respond.
Recently, a business trip has offered me the chance to experience a bit of the wonders Kazakhstan has to offer and one of them is clearly Almaty city and region. Thanks to that, I had the opportunity of interviewing Assel Nurkebayeva, CEO of Visit Almaty an organization that has been recently created to promote tourism in this region. Before starting the interview let me share with you the amazing video that Ms. Nurkebayeva kindly sent us.
Nagore Espinosa: Ms. Nurkebayeva, first of all, thank you for accepting this interview. This first question is obvious: I know Visit Almaty as an organization has been recently created; please tell us, tourism professionals, how is it creating a DMO from scratch?
Assel Nurkebayeva: Thank you for visiting us and for giving this opportunity for the interview. It is always hard to create something from scratch, and especially if the country does not have any experience in working with DMO’s. Two years ago governmental authorities and businesses came to the understanding that we need a proper management and strategy for further developing inbound tourism. Now we are making our first steps. Our National DMO Kazakh Tourism was opened around two months ago. We opened our office around four months ago, but I think we have accomplished a large number of things during this short period.
Everything that was created before: programs, concepts, they were created without an adequate scientifically based approach and discussion with stakeholders. Now we are conducting a study, and it will provide a real methodology, an understanding of what needs to be done to develop tourism, in Almaty in particular. Our conclusions and proposals will be automatically extrapolated to the whole country: our work can be taken as a basis for the development of tourism in all regions. We are attracting experts from UNWTO, such as yourself, and professors from leading universities in the world. It will help us getting some recommendations and maybe partly solve the problem of not having well prepared human capital in tourism by training some candidates.
We plan to create the Almaty City Pass application. It will be “heavy”. I looked over the applications that are used in other countries, analyzed them and found that there is something missing in each of them. I decided to create the application so that it had everything in it – where to go, what to eat, what to see, etc. Plus, there will be a quality assessment system. The tourist makes an assessment. I can see it in my computer whether he liked it or not, for example, in a restaurant. If he didn’t like it, I call to the owner and talk about it. In this way we will improve the quality. Visit Almaty will take part in this directly.
Nagore Espinosa: After these months, could you tell me if the tourism business sector is responding well to the initiatives you and your team are pushing forward?
Assel Nurkebayeva: I myself have been working in the tourism sector since 1999. Despite my current role within a public DMO, most of my career has been in the private tourism sector, so I understand all the needs and challenges tourism businesses face. That is why we try to cooperate with businesses and other stakeholders, it is impossible to develop tourism without collaborating. I am also the president of the Association of Kazakhstan Tourism Agencies, where I have set the first stone in connecting all tourism agencies in Kazakhstan. Tourism businesses respond very well because they see me as their colleague and it breaks the tension that usually appears when businesses start to see governmental authorities. What we want to do is to connect all the businesses with each other and show them that team-work is more beneficial for everyone.
We are creating our web site www.visitalmaty.kz. It is still under revision. One of the reasons is that we faced a huge problem. It is impossible to get information. We send inquiries to museums, for example, and they ask: why do you need this information? They are afraid. They do not understand that we will advertise them for free on the site, their site will be visited by more tourists if they are linked to ours, they will be able to gain more revenue.
Even tour operators do not understand why we want to get some information from them. We asked, for example, how many tourists they had brought in groups from January till now. The answer is the same: what do you need it for? I need to understand what kind of help the companies need. I will report this information to the city administration. Perhaps, through the subsidy program, tour companies will be helped with working capital. After hard work with the stakeholders, the connection is getting better.
Nagore Espinosa: In fact, it is really a shocking situation. On the other hand, currently there is more outbound tourism that inbound tourism to Kazakhstan, which means that many of us are missing everything that Kazakhstan has to offer, maybe because we associate your country to oil, metals and grain exports. In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions us foreigners usually have regarding Kazakhstan?
Assel Nurkebayeva: Most of the foreigners perceive Kazakhstan as one of the “Stans” like Pakistan or Afghanistan. Our country is very developed, safe and unique in its own way. I think you could feel it during your visit. We are very friendly and we have our nomadic culture. We have extraordinary cuisine with the horse meat on the top list. Kazakhstan is a secular, multi-religious and multi-ethnic society where Christianity and Judaism flourish alongside the Muslim faith. It celebrates freedom of religion for all. One of the strongest tourism assets that we have is untouched nature which is protected by national parks and other authorities. “Borat” has nothing to do with our country, but it created a black PR for Kazakhstan.
[Abay Opera House – Almaty]
Nagore Espinosa: Please tell us the key four or five experiences we shouldn’t miss if we decide to visit Almaty.
Assel Nurkebayeva: The interesting thing about Almaty is that five experiences are not enough. If we consider only eco tourism, you can visit canyon, desert, forest, waterfall, trees inside the lake and any kind of mountains in couple of days, just commuting from Almaty. It’s also about cuisine, modern culture inside the city, which is partly mixed with the culture that you can see at the ethno-villages. Luxury lifestyle and cult of cafeterias. You can have coffee, sit outside and enjoy the view of mountains. The climate is very soft and warm, so you can connect with nature 100%.
Nagore Espinosa: During the time I spent in your country, I found you very warm and caring, outgoing and friendly, more so than I had expected. Moreover, I would say that I loved how proud you are about your nomad past, your gastronomy and customs. How do you think this attitude and inherent character can help develop tourism in Almaty? What would you say about you as host community?
Assel Nurkebayeva: Kazakhs are very hospitable and we are really proud of our nomadic past. Our ancestors were moving from one place to another during the year, that is why we do not have many historical constructions as in Europe. However, we played one of the key roles between two huge empires of Russia and China, and we were the home of silk road where the trade started to develop. Kazakhstan is still the bridge between Asia and Europe. Historically, Kazakh people were very hospitable and always welcomed the travelers, even if they were strangers. This is a uniqueness of our nomadic culture. We have to connect this link between historical hospitality and modern tourism and create perfect host community. May be it will require a different approach and change in mentality, but we have all the assets and hope for the bright future of tourism.