March 29, 2014

WRTD 2011: Tourism can help reduce poverty

Harriet Lamb during the WRTD 2011 opening ceremony at the WTM.
© Marcela Torres

By Marcela Torres

 We have the means and the responsibility to help the local communities of the places that we visit and empower them to overcome poverty,” said Fiona Jeffrey, Chairman of the WTM. She also dedicated some words to the many and often unknown industry champions, highlighting that there’s a growing number of people who are working day to day to protect our culture, defend our destinations, conserving biological diversity and contributing to secure the sustainability of our home, Earth.

The official opening speech for this fifth version of the WRTD was presented by Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation. Lamb remembered that “twenty years ago, when I started talking about paying fair prices to small farmers for their coffee many people laughed at me saying nobody would be willing to pay more to help people sustain their livelihoods. Well, they’re not laughing now!”

Actually the fair-trade movement has expanded throughout the world and more and more consumers are demanding products with a fair-trade certification. And it’s not just about coffee farmers. The concept applies to all kinds of products and trade areas. Lamb said that 50% of consumers in the United Kingdom, for example, are willing to pay more for a product that is certified as fair-trade.

“And the good thing is that it also makes sense for the businesses,” Lamb said. “Think about it. A large supermarket chain that sold some excellent chocolate actually made the connection while talking to us and they realized that if they did not pay their cocoa farmers well enough, those people would run out of business and they wouldn’t have farmers to supply them cocoa beans to produce their chocolate bars. No beans, no bars. It’s that simple!”

That commercial advantage has also been understood by several tourism companies who are not only paying fairly to their suppliers but also –in many cases- have gone a step further and set up foundations to support education, conservation and even tap water community projects throughout the world.

There is much to be achieved still, however, and Fiona Jeffrey made a call to the entire tourism industry to hop on to the responsible tourism wagon: “This is not just a cultish craze or the latest in-vogue trend to be replaced with something else in a year or two. Increasing numbers of consumers are recognizing that the world –or the industry for that matter- cannot go on in the way it has since mass tourism first came into being.” With more than 300 delegates from all over the world, the World Responsible Tourism Day 2011 was celebrated yesterday at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London, stressing the unique opportunity the tourism industry has in helping reduce poverty throughout the planet.

This entry was originally posted by the author on November 10, 2011.

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