Biosphere and tourism as an element of development

Patricio Azcárate

General Manager Biosphere Tourism

In 2015 the UN approved the SDG's and their objectives (17) and goals (169), which has meant a global update on the concept of sustainable development in the 2030 agenda. And to achieve these goals, sustainable tourism development is not only important, but essential.

The tourism industry represents today, and even more so in the future, an important engine of change through which to induce and promote the implementation of sustainable models at different scales, through the multiple services that make up the current global tourism offer.  Tourism, developed in a sustainable way, can be a great ally in the 5 main areas: the fight against climate change, the protection of nature, the maintenance and improvement of the social structure, it represents a support to the economic growth of a destination, and it protects and gives value to the local culture. For example, through job creation, tourism can contribute to aspects such as poverty reduction or social inclusion. Due to the constant flow of people it generates, tourism, approached from a sustainable perspective, promotes principles such as the protection of identity and cultural diversity, breaks down barriers, offers opportunities for intercultural encounters and revitalizes traditional activities and customs.

And to achieve the implementation of sustainability, it is necessary to work at all levels of the tourism industry, ensuring the active participation of all actors involved in the sector, both public and private.

And this is the model that promotes the implementation of the methodology of the Biosphere Circle of the Institute of Responsible Tourism, which works in coordination with all actors involved: the public administration that manages the destination, the companies that offer experiences in it, the ambassadors as communicators and the tourist himself who through the enjoyment and assessment of the sustainability of the tourism experience closes the circle.

In an industry where administrations, companies and tourists themselves play such a decisive role, it is essential to care for and unify the language and communications that are transmitted regarding sustainability, so that the public can understand the importance of applying sustainability measures in the different possible areas of tourism.  For this reason, we must work on the construction of a global message that brings sustainability closer to citizens, tourists, administrations and businesses, and acts as a call for the participation of all, at all levels, for the common good.

The spearhead of this work is the "Biosphere Commitment for Sustainable Tourism", a work prepared jointly by Barcelona Provincial Council, Barcelona City Council, Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and the ITR itself, which customizes the particularities by which companies begin the path of sustainability to achieve certification, although this final step always requires continuous improvement. Under this methodology, companies create a community aligned with the destination's tourism strategy, under the participation of civil society, to create a more sustainable tourism market that ultimately permeates all of society and the industry, whatever the type. This methodology is easily assimilable and adaptable to other territories, relying on new technologies and new forms of communication and management.

In this way, when a tourist enjoys and values a sustainable tourism experience, which has been communicated by the Ambassador, he or she participates in the improvement and internal management of a company in the destination, which is also conditioned by the public policies implemented by the administration, which are all conditioned by the Biosphere actions associated with the 17ODS and are related to the 169 goals of the United Nations. That is to say, by living a sustainable experience the tourist is participating in the achievement of these goals.

Thus, Biosphere is an integral system of management and positioning of a destination, company or tourist product, by means of an accompaniment and advice in a continuous improvement towards "Horizon 2030" according to the criteria of sustainability of the United Nations and its valuation on the part of the citizens and tourists.

In this way, the Biosphere methodology is the translation into standards of tourism measurement of the fulfilment of these goals. And this methodology is developed through the 4 Memorandums adopted at the 2017 Summits (World Year of Sustainable Tourism) sponsored by the United Nations through UNESO and UNWTO. In this way, the measurement of the fulfilment of the goals in the tourism sector is developed through the Biosphere methodology for the different tourist realities and with the final assessment of sustainability by the tourist. 

And all this without forgetting that it is a flexible system for the reality of each destination in the analysis and accompaniment of its public policies, with a simple and intuitive online platform that allows access to sustainability and its promotion to 90% of the world's tourist companies that are small and medium, forgetting the classic concept of "certification" that can only be paid for by large chains and corporations, also giving voice to the tourist himself in the valuation of the experience.

Returning to the 17 SDG's, in order to be able to monitor and compare countries, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) is created, which has been operating since 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary General. The SDSN mobilizes global scientific and technological knowledge to promote practical solutions for sustainable development, including the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Paris Climate Agreement. The work that SDSN develops for indicators can be generic (territorial) or by themes (e.g. agriculture), as a result of which RTI collaborates with SDSN for this work in tourism. The RTI, through work with the scientific council, translates these objectives into concrete actions (requirements) for different tourism realities, so that actions to achieve these objectives are translated into qualitative or quantitative indicators for monitoring at the tourism level.

And under this holistic and integral vision of tourism, the role of the regions and their networks of collaboration is key, since it combines in one prism the work of the public administration, the relationship with the companies and the impact it has on the rest of the activities of the region itself.

We invite all regions to work in a coordinated manner for sustainable tourism, and thus achieve among all the fulfillment of the 169 goals of the 17 SDGs.





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