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Driving Sustainable Tourism: TOPOSOPHY and UNWTO's Collaborative Journey
Length
min read
Publication
Jun 08 ― 2023
Over the years, the partnership between TOPOSOPHY and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has been instrumental in driving positive change in the realm of sustainable tourism. As we’ve recently joined UNWTO as an Affiliate Member, it’s the best time to reflect on everything we’ve worked on thus far. This blog post takes you on a journey through the milestones and initiatives that TOPOSOPHY and UNWTO have collaborated on to shape the future of tourism at local, national, and international levels, promote sustainability, and empower communities around the world.
Setting the Stage in Greece: Our Early Initiatives

Investigating the Impact of the Olympics on Tourism: The Case of Athens


As part of our early engagement with UNWTO, our CEO, Manolis Psarros, undertook a crucial study examining the impact of the Olympic Games on tourism, with Athens in focus. This research, unveiled at the UNWTO Destination Management Conference in Bordeaux, France (2008), shed light on the profound implications that a global event like the Olympics can impart on a city's tourism sector.

While the report affirmed the event's potential to boost international attention, stimulate economic growth, and improve infrastructure, it also critiqued Athens for not fully capitalizing on the Olympic legacy. The study suggested that Athens could have better leveraged the post-Olympic momentum to foster a sustainable and robust tourism industry.

Our recommendations highlighted the need for Athens to develop a comprehensive long-term strategy for maintaining and utilizing Olympic infrastructures, promoting the city as an Olympic host in its branding and marketing efforts, and ensuring that the event's legacy aligns with the city's overall tourism and development goals. These insights were intended to serve as valuable guidelines for tourism authorities and policymakers around the world, thereby strengthening our ties with UNWTO over the years.

Implementing Excellence in Destinations: The Cases of Crete and Samos (2010)

In a significant move towards promoting destination excellence, we partnered with the World Centre of Excellence for Destinations (CED) in 2010. This collaboration resulted in the implementation of the innovative System of Measures for Excellence in Destinations (SMED) not only on Crete, Greece's largest island, but also on the islands of Samos & Ikaria. This UNWTO-endorsed system was designed to guide destinations worldwide towards achieving their short‐term and long‐term sustainable tourism goals.

With the successful implementation of SMED on Crete and Samos, our primary objective was to create robust and comprehensive tourism profiles for these islands. Our efforts were directed towards enhancing their competitiveness on an international scale while concurrently addressing their sustainable development goals.

Steering Towards a Sustainable and Responsible “Sharing Economy”

In 2015, TOPOSOPHY joined forces with HOTREC to create a policy paper offering ten steps towards a sustainable and responsible “sharing economy” in tourism accommodation. This initiative, endorsed by the UNWTO Secretary-General, Mr. Taleb Rifai, addressed pressing issues, including safety, security, and fiscal obligations, with the aim to ensure a level playing field for all businesses in the tourism sector.

Promoting gastronomy tourism

Two years later, In 2017, TOPOSOPHY’s strategists collaborated on the development of the Second Global Report on Gastronomy Tourism. This report highlights the cultural and economic potential of gastronomy tourism, showcasing the unique culinary heritage of different regions. Explaining  "How Destinations Can Help Travelers Eat Like a Local," we recognized that the local food scene is a gateway to understanding a destination's culture. We also provided actionable recommendations to destination management organizations (DMOs) to ensure that travelers have access to the right gastronomic experiences while benefitting local supply chains and communities as fully as possible

A youth-led recovery of global tourism 

One of the most recent, notable projects undertaken by TOPOSOPHY and UNWTO are the reports that we produced during 2021 and 2022 on the impact of Covid-19 on young people globally, with recommendations on what tourism authorities worldwide could best do to support them.

The first of these reports was The Impact of COVID-19 on Global Youth: Focus on Asia and Italy (explained here). The second of these was "A Youth-led Recovery of Global Tourism – Priorities and Recommendations." This comprehensive study explores the impact of COVID-19 on young people worldwide and provides insights into their perceptions of sustainability, the significance of tourism, and their aspirations for the future.  This endeavour aimed to understand the perspectives of young people aged 10 to 26 and their role in the recovery and future of global tourism. Through an exploratory online survey distributed by UNWTO, more than 2,000 responses were received from young people around the world. The survey sought to capture the broad spectrum of young people's perspectives By gathering insights from young individuals worldwide, the research aimed to uncover their perceptions of the impact of COVID-19 on their daily lives, their attitudes toward sustainability and tourism, and their aspirations for future travel. We also presented this in a keynote presentation to tourism ministers from around the world at the UNWTO’s Global Youth Tourism Summit (GYTS) in Sorrento, Italy.

Becoming an Affiliate Member of UNWTO marks a significant milestone in our collaborative efforts to shape the future of sustainable tourism. Together, we have accomplished remarkable projects, fostered meaningful partnerships, and advocated for responsible travel practices. Our journey has been guided by a shared vision of a more sustainable and inclusive tourism industry, where communities thrive, cultures are celebrated, and natural resources are protected. As we move forward as Affiliate Members, we are committed to amplifying our impact, engaging stakeholders, and driving positive change that benefits destinations, travelers, and the planet.

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