According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals increased by 4.4% in 2015 to reach a total of 1,184 million. An increase that is expected to continue until 2030 to 1.8 billion international tourists. And these figures are multiplied by five if we consider domestic tourism.
We are witnessing an unprecedented growth in tourism that leaves behind the 25 million international tourists that were counted in 1950. This growth not only affects consolidated tourist destinations, but also refers to the huge number of emerging destinations that arise on the planet and expresses the irruption of new motivations and ways of traveling. Tourist destinations and particularly the coastal destinations are a prominent area, as they are currently mobilizing a substantial part of the demand. For example, sun and beach destinations have grown by 39% between 2007 and 2014, representing 29% of the current preferences (WTM).
Today, tourism is undoubtedly one of the driving forces behind world economic growth and currently provides around 1 in 11 jobs worldwide (284 million direct jobs in 2015), with all that this entails in social terms. Its overall impact, particularly on destinations, is notably significant, contributing to 9.8% of the world’s GDP.
Under these conditions, as highlighted by the World Charter for Sustainable Tourism +20, approved in Vitoria-Gasteiz in 2015, tourism is a phenomenon of global scope that directly affects, and sometimes decisively, local development, the quality of life, the maintenance of cultural and natural heritage and the environment in general, in the destinations themselves and throughout the world geography. Thus, it is advocated the urgent need for a model change in the management and development of tourism that allows the transition to more sustainable, responsible, innovative and fair destinations. A model based on international cooperation to achieve this goal under the premise of sharing to compete.
The framework for this model change must be precisely the one formulated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an action plan for people, the planet and prosperity, which also intends to strengthen universal peace and justice. The Agenda sets out 17 Goals with 169 integrated and indivisible objectives covering the economic, social and environmental spheres. If we analyze each of the Goals in detail, we can verify that the future sustainable development of tourism in each destination could become one of the fundamental engines and priority field of application of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Today, destinations have the responsibility to promote formulas that enable sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and contribute to full and productive employment and decent work for all (Goal 8). Particular emphasis is now placed on access to decent work opportunities in the tourism sector, especially for young people and women, who can benefit from tourism through improved training and professional development. This also involves taking the necessary measures to maximize the economic benefits of tourism for the host community and to create strong links with the local economy of destination and other economic activities in the environment.
Commitment of destinations to sustainability must ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns (Goal 12). Tourism destinations may be able to consolidate sustainable consumption and production practices across the entire service and activity chain, playing a significant role in accelerating global transformation towards sustainability. In each destination, tourism today has more than ever, the opportunity to generate and provide innovative solutions to be more efficient in the management of resources in the context of a circular economy, avoiding the generation of waste, increasing efficiency and reducing consumption and pollution.
Destination planning nowadays has the challenge of promoting the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, halting and reversing land degradation and stopping the loss of biological diversity, as well as sustainably conserving and using seas and marine and coastal resources for sustainable development (Goal 14 and 15). In this will concentrate the ability of the destinations to survive or lose competitiveness in the face of degradation of basic environmental resources. It should also be considered that many areas of natural interest are areas of reference incorporated into the image of many destinations. It is enough to remember that a total of 20.6 million square kilometers, that is to say, 15.4% of the earth's surface corresponds to protected natural areas (UNEP-IUCN), and another 12 million km2 are marine protected areas which occupy 3.4 of the surface of the seas and oceans. Altogether, a substantial part of the more than two hundred thousand spaces declared on the planet, according to the United Nations List, registers tourist activity, many of them are tourist destinations or constitute significant attractions associated with the offer of their own destinations. Of course, these same considerations extend to the cultural heritage associated with destinations.
Although not explicitly bundled in the SDG, the role of sustainable tourism and the goals set in many destinations designated as sustainable, is related in its diversity to the totality of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Once again, as with the Rio Conference, the enormous influence and potential of tourism with this new global commitment, as well as the extreme diversity of situations and areas across the globe, are not adequately recognized. Hence the crucial importance of this meeting as a crucible to make operational proposals for sustainable destinations that implement the goals outlined in the SDG and the recommendations of the World Charter for Sustainable Tourism +20.
Moving towards the development of sustainable destinations is also a process of shared responsibility, whether in urban, rural, coastal or mountain destinations. Actors in sustainable destinations share the responsibility of maintaining the destination as a vibrant and prosperous place to live and visit. It is therefore essential to ensure that tourism destination governance includes all stakeholders, especially at local level, and that the role and responsibilities of each are clearly defined.
Sustainable destinations are also by definition spaces of innovation for sustainability and for the implementation of intelligent solutions that increase the attractiveness of the destination, the satisfaction of the tourists and of the local population, in all its multiple fields of action. A wide spectrum that ranges from the incorporation of new technologies such as those related to information and communication or water management, to the search for solutions in hotel management or the design of creative and responsible tourism products.
We are also faced with the emergence of new challenges, such as the need to promote inclusive tourism that is accessible to all in each destination and to improve accessibility at every link in the value chain of tourism, including physical environments, transport, information and communication channels and the complete range of facilities in lodging, services and tourism sectors.
Tourist destinations in general, and in particular the major tourist destinations, are privileged scenarios of the current battle against Climate Change, where destinations that focus on sustainability can play a role in the real-scale achievement of the Paris Agreement. This invites us to rethink the options and modalities of transportatiotopin or energy alternatives. It should be remembered in this regard that coastal and island destinations will be the main victims of climate change, but also, they could become advanced models for their mitigation.
2. General Objectives
The goal of the International Conference on Sustainability and Competitiveness in Tourist Destinations is to involve tourist destinations in the strategic role that Sustainability will play in consolidating a sustainable and stable competitive positioning in the future world tourism market, as well as to provide an international model of sustainability applied to tourist destinations that facilitates its rapid integration in their operational management.
To this end, from the indispensable framework established by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) included in the United Nations Agenda 2030 and the guidelines emanating from the World Charter on Sustainable Tourism and the indications of the Paris Agreement (COP21), the conference aims to identify the key factors of Sustainable Development in the Tourist Destinations of the future, encouraging, on the one hand, its maximum diffusion to achieve its application and, on the other, to help entities with competencies in tourism policies and strategies to achieve substantial improvements of their competitiveness based on Sustainability as a competitive advantage.
3. Thematic Areas of the Conference
3.1. SUSTAINABILITY AS A FACTOR OF POSITIONING AND COMPETITIVENESS IN VACATIONAL DESTINATIONS
In this first area, the theoretical and conceptual framework of the Conference must be set, establishing, on the one hand, the conceptual elements on which the debate should be built upon - concepts, denominations, contents, scope...; And on the other hand, setting the limits of what is wanted to be discussed and analyzed during the conference. The Conference starts from the axiom that Competitiveness requires Sustainability, reason why on the same one must be elaborated the rest of the elements object of analysis during the Conference, being therefore the session that centers it.
3.2. THE CHALLENGES OF SUSTAINABILITY IN DESTINATIONS
In this second session, the aim is to transfer, in an applied and more specific way, what are the elements that identify Sustainability in the installed capacity of tourist destinations. It is therefore a question of identifying and weighing what are the necessary elements and in what amount or combination must be given to guarantee an output with a high degree of Sustainability.
3.3. PROMOTION AND MARKETING OF SUSTAINABILITY: ADVANTAGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
This session aims to establish the strategic positioning of Sustainability in the current and future tourism market, analyzing the two elements that determine it: on the one hand, what is the demand and its characteristics with respect to Sustainability in order to establish its profile and its evolution in the coming years; And, on the other hand, the value chain that, especially in tourist destinations, must know how to combine the different elements that interact in the territory where it operates.
3.4. GOVERNANCE IN SUSTAINABLE TOURISM DESTINATIONS
The goal of this session is to try to identify which are and how to use the possible sources of organizational innovation - not technological - in tourist destinations and how these can effectively help in obtaining a better competitive position of the same.
3.5. THE COMMITMENT OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND THE PARTICIPATION
Within this session, it is necessary to raise the debate about the repercussions and impacts that the local community can have on the choice of a particular tourism industry development model and, consequently, what should be the ideal model to achieve a higher degree of Sustainability.
3.6. THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABILITY MANAGEMENT IN BUSINESS AND DESTINATIONS
In this last session, and as a closing element that frames the entire debate of the Conference, the management model of Biosphere Sustainability will be evaluated as an instrument that allows the balance and weighting of all factors and elements that have to be accommodated in a Sustainable tourism industry.