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Tourism Impact Monitoring Climbs the International Agenda

Last week in Washington, DC, the World Bank’s Sustainable Tourism Global Solutions Group organized a high-level meeting on “Measuring for Impact: Convening Thought Leaders in Tourism,” with support from Sustainable Travel International.

Besides the World Bank and us, participants included the United Nations Environmental Programme, the World Economic Forum, the UN World Tourism Organization, the World Travel and Tourism Council, industry leaders such as Wyndham Resorts and PwC, the world’s largest professional services firm, as well as the World Wildlife Fund and Harvard, Cornell and George Washington Universities.

It was a highly specialized group of more than 100 technicians and experts from around the world, half of them participating via webex interface, coming together to share their experiences, learn from each other and discuss the way forward. The prestige of the organizations they represented reflects how prominent an issue measuring tourism’s impacts on people and places is becoming globally.

The questions they discussed are the same ones that Sustainable Travel International’s CEO Dr. Louise Twining-Ward has been asking and seeking to answer throughout her career. How can we more effectively monitor and report the impacts of an industry as massive and diverse as tourism on a global scale? What information do we need to make better decisions about tourism projects, infrastructure and development? How do we realize and maximize the vast potential of tourism positive to generate positive social and environmental outcomes?

“For me, these questions are like personal quests,” says Twining-Ward. “Ever since I developed one of the early sustainable tourism monitoring systems in Samoa in 1998, I’ve witnessed first hand how better information really can change behavior and outcomes. But I’ve also seen that it only happens when there is a champion in place, when the information is reliable, relevant and resonant, and communicated in a compelling way. Meeting all those requirements together isn’t easy, especially on a large scale. That’s why collective impact approaches are so effective.”

Meeting participants discussed tools under development for monitoring impacts at the enterprise, destination and global levels like PwC’s Total Impact Management Model (TIMM), Harvard’s International Sustainable Tourism Initiative, and Sustainable Travel International’s impact monitoring system, part of our 10 Million Better campaign.

John Perrottet, Global Leader-Tourism at the World Bank Group and the host of the event, noted that this meeting is just the start of the Bank’s multi-stakeholder engagement process around tourism impact monitoring. It’s an issue whose time has come, and it’s now visibly climbing the international agenda.

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