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JPI PeaceTalk
Subject JPI PeaceTalk with Randy Durband, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council
Author JPI  (admin)
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  Randy Durband.JPG  (93KByte)
2019-08-09 오후 5:06:20


 

 


As CEO for the Global Sustainable Tourism Council with decades of experience in the private sector, Randy Durband has worked to make baseline standards for sustainability in global tourism and then to apply them as training tools and raising awareness about sustainability needs. He says that sustainability in tourism includes not only environmental issues but also social, cultural, and management issues. So-called “over-tourism” includes two factors: crowding in iconic cities has become more dramatic in recent years and technological advances including discount air travel. He says this problem is not new, but that it came into the forefront because a few prominent protest movements. Something not often considered is that international inbound tourism is an export economy because the international visitor comes with their currency and spends it in your country. A key piece, Mr. Durband says, is that cities need to manage better. He argues that governments rotate people out of the ministries of tourism every two years so most governments are not able to develop internal expertise. Additionally, cities need to develop more destinations. We need to disperse the visitor in two ways: we need to give them more places to go to and then promote them effectively, because visitors tend to just want to go to the iconic places.


 

 


Q1. You are the CEO at the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Would you tell us a little bit about GSTC?


GSTC was created in the year 2007 and the founding organizations were UN agencies and global leaders in conservation (the WWF, Rainforest Alliance). We were created to make baseline standards for sustainability in global tourism and then to apply them as training tools and raising awareness about sustainability needs. We issued in 2008 sustainable standards for hotels and tour operators, and later we added destination criteria, which are for policymakers. A key piece of our work is that it’s based on four pillars: sustainability includes not only environmental issues but also social, cultural, and management issues.


 


Q2. ‘Sustainability’ is one of the most frequently referred terms in most fields especially since UN adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the General Assembly in 2015. What do you think a successful case of sustainable tourism should look like? Do you know any outstanding case study we can study on?


I think of the private sector and the public sector we work in both realms. In both cases the success stories are in isolated places. I cannot point to a very broad set of activities that are very sustainable, unfortunately. In terms of destination management, most case studies tend to be smaller units. I wouldn’t point to one country some are doing better others. Some are not how you manage tourism, but how you manage it for your residents. Here in Korea, you do a great job with recycling and waste management. In the developing world, waste management is critical to tourism because it’s critical for the residents. You can’t separate sustainability in tourism from life of the residents. One business might do a few things well but they’re not doing everything well.


 


Q3. What is unfortunate is that it is not unheard of to see tourist-phobia or anti-tourism in some European counties such as Barcelona in Spain, Rome and Parma in Italy. Tourist-phobia or anti-tourism is generally derived from nuisance and destruction inflicted on the local community by tourists. How do you think we can make a balance between people’s right to travel and right to living in peace?


That really comes down to local management of the tourist experience. We’ve seen a tremendous growth—what is often referred to as “over-tourism.” There are two things that are happening. One is that over-tourism and crowding in iconic cities has become more dramatic in recent years. Key factors are the growth of the Chinese outbound market but also the general growth of classes in Asia and in the world in general. Then there are technological advances: everyone’s a travel agent with their smart phone. The sharing economy brings things like Airbnb so there is more capacity in terms of accommodations. And then discount airfare allows more people to travel.


The problem is not new: in the early 1990s, when I was working in the private sector as a tour operator, we tried to figure out how to give our client a good experience in Venice because it’s so crowded. What’s changing is that it’s reached a critical point that we’ve seen some citizen protest movements and mainstream media pick up on this story that the travel industry has dealt with for a long time. Suddenly it came into the forefront because a few prominent protest movements. A key piece is that cities need to manage better. I would make a strong argument because society doesn’t understand how complex tourism is, and therefore government doesn’t either. Governments rotate people out of the ministries of tourism every two years—I’ve been working in this field for 25 years. We see this in governments around the world. It takes 18 months to learn anything—that’s the most critical problem. In many cases, governments aren’t managing at all. They have to develop internal expertise. We’re working closely with the Ministry of Tourism in Indonesia—there’s a man there who understands tourism very well, and that’s all too rare.


Also, citizens’ attitudes that tourists are bothersome reaches a tipping point. In many cities around the world there may be an annoyance. I lived in New York in many years, and Times Square went over to the tourists thirty years ago, but there are other things in our city so we didn’t complain. What’s really happening is, are you managing it? Are you dispersing the visitor experience? There are many techniques locked away in academia because cities don’t have people working in tourism long enough to know the issue. You need internal expertise to develop a long-term plan and then see it through.


 


Q4. Jeju is the biggest and most popular tourist attraction in Korea. As much as it is booming and growing in tourism industry, it is struggling with the poorly-planned development and overpopulation. Building new infrastructure is a hard nut to crack as well. How do you think we can find a right balance between encouraging the expansion of tourism and safeguarding the environment?


It’s a difficult question. I’ve gotten to know the Jeju situation because I’ve been coming here or several years. I don’t have a strong opinion on whether you should have another airport in the southeast there are environmental concerns and quality of life concerns. I applaud the Jeju Carbon-Free Island plan I use it as a global case study for the use of electric vehicles. I visited Udo which is also a wonderful case study where the province uses the smaller island as a test case and electric buses and two-person carts are going around the island—this is world-class. I also know the creation of the targets in 2015 for 2030 are moving more slowly than people would like. It shows the difficulty and the opportunity. Jeju can be a leader and support the brand.


I think Jeju has a bit of a brand-identity issue as well I’m aware that it’s the only place in the world that has the trifecta of three UNESCO destinations: world heritage, biosphere, and geopark. But for the international visitor who wants to come here for the volcano, and hiking trails, you arrive at an airport that is overcrowded and the city is overcrowded. I think you need to do everything you can do manage visitor flows to soften the arrivals. The airport is overcrowded. Then you also have the Korean tradition of honeymoons here. You really have to make decisions: Who are we? Who are the core target markets? You can’t be all things to all travelers. If you want to fight overcrowding, who are the visitors who are most important to us economically and psychologically? Let’s develop for them. Are you going to build luxury brand stores for Chinese tourists? Are you going to develop for nature-lovers? Are you going to develop for Korean honeymooners? Or 20-year-olds? You can welcome everybody, but in terms of development you have to set some priorities.


 


Q5. You are an expert on Korean tourism on one hand and also a tourist to Korea on the other. From a perspective of a non-Korean expert on Korea, what do you think Korea can do to attract more visitors?


I think Jeju suffers in a sense—just like all of South Korea—where the world doesn’t know that it’s 64% tree-covered. Internationally, Korea is known for population density, Samsung, K-Pop—urban-ness. Korea has a remarkable, unique situation where in any city you can a public bus and go hiking. That’s very rare and very special. If you got the word out that Korea has a varied visitor offering, I don’t think the world knows that you can get a balance of urban and nature. I think Koreans take it for granted.


You’ve done very well in MICE—Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions. The convention centers in Korea are world class. Korea and Australia go back and forth for the first and second spots in terms of volume. So, you have tremendous success for trade shows and conventions, but you haven’t done much for the leisure traveler. There’s a lot of opportunity there. With the aging population you may have to settle small coastal towns without a lot of economic activity. Most of the world is urban now, and we’re looking for quality experience in the countryside and nature.


 


Q6. After the long years of stalemate, the history of Korean Peninsula is about to move onto the next level. Some say tourism can serve as a breakthrough in South-North relation leading to the reconciliation. In fact, two Koreas have a history of building amicable relations of social, cultural and economic exchanges by introducing Mt. Kumkang tour program 1998-2008. In the current situation, what is your opinion about the prospect of tourism between South-North Korea?


It’s a complex issue. You’ve had some successes and some failures with DMZ tourism. I think it has tremendous potential for the North welcoming the South, and tremendous economic development from that. Moving beyond the occasional family connection to the casual South Korean visitor. It also has the potential to jobs. Something we don’t often think about is that international inbound tourism is an export economy because the international visitor comes with their currency and spends it in your country. Just think of all the South Korean won that would come into North Korea and that would be a boon to their economy. I also think that the world doesn’t know how interesting South Korea is. You could benefit from international inbound tourism where people could come and visit North and South on the same trip—it would be a huge benefit to both, and it would really get free publicity from around the world if packages were available. Everyone would be curious to see North Korea, but you could see both and both countries would develop. Tourism is complex—people underrate that. You need to develop infrastructure and hospital skills. It would be best to start from Korea-to-Korea, and then expand from there.


 


Q7. What do you think the tourism of the future looks like? How do you think it can or should change?


We’ve got to figure out ways to disperse travelers. We have 7.5 billion people on the planet, and many capital cities are overcrowded with visitors and annoying citizens. We’ve got that issue already and the world population isn’t finished growing. Whatever problems we face today need immediate solutions. A key piece is that we need to develop more destinations. We need to disperse the visitor in two ways: we need to give them more places to go to and then promote them effectively, because visitors tend to just want to go to the iconic places they’ve heard of. All the discount air carriers just go to the places they already know. So there’s a capacity issue and a promotional issue. We can’t just keep sending people to the same sights in the same cities. Another way is to disperse in terms of time of day and time of year. You can argue that China’s Golden Week is an unsustainable activity by having millions and millions of Chinese travelers all travel the same week—now that’s a cultural and political issue, but it creates an unsustainable issue. Europeans have the tradition of taking the month of August off, so tourist infrastructure is overloaded every year in August. We can’t keep choking airports and hotels and features. We’re reaching critical points in many places.