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Weeva at ITB Berlin

Highlights, heroes and sustainability inspiration and innovation at ITB

by Juliet Kinsman
Published 13 March 2023

Tourism employs 1 in 10 people — and with 5,500 exhibitors from 161 countries, ITB Berlin is the world’s biggest gathering of the global travel industry. Juliet Kinsman hit the trade-show floor, where the consensus was that 2023 could be a record year — which to our ears means there are all the more people on the move and so all the more important to manage this growth sustainably. A total of 24,000 attendees took in the talks, panels, and discussions — and these were the headlines.

The UNWTO presents its study of measurement tools available — mentioning Weeva

A stand-out session was the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s presentation of a study of the tools for measuring greenhouse gas emissions given by Dirk Gläser, UNWTO sustainability expert — and not just because there was a mention of Weeva and the Long Run in this overview. Our sector is responsible for around eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and with more than 1,000 representatives of travel destinations, companies and organisations from 131 countries as respondents, it’s worth sitting up and taking notice of. ‘Measurement is seen as a barrier rather than an enabler’ was one finding as it’s perceived as time-consuming, and complex, it reduces the time for implementing decarbonization projects,  and easier-to-use tools are costly. But as we know with Weeva —this is not the case with this sustainability management system! They also recognised that a new generation of tools is emerging — with the seamless production of clear reports, and simplification of data sources.


Hotel sustainability basics label launched by WTTC and SHA

‘Greenhouse gas emissions from using smartphones were the same as air travel worldwide’, said Julia Simpson of the World Travel & Tourism Council, about an industry whose carbon emissions are at just under 10 percent. Along with the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, they launched their joint Hotel Sustainability Basics label — a globally recognised and coordinated set of sustainability indicators that all hotels should implement as a minimum.


The Sustainable Markets Initiative Hospitality and Tourism Task Force announces 14 new corporate members

The Sustainable Markets Initiative’s Hospitality and Tourism Task Force announced its founding members and new partnerships, including three leading sustainability and inter-governmental development organisations, including:

  1. Glenn Mandziuk, CEO of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and Co-chair of the Sustainable Markets Initiative Hospitality and Tourism Task Force
  2. Xenia zu Hohenlohe, Co-founding Partner of the Considerate Group and Co-chair of Sustainable Markets Initiative Hospitality and Tourism.
  3. Keith Barr, CEO of IHG Hotels & Resorts
  4. Sebastien Bazin, CEO of Accor
  5. Jorg Bockler, CEO of Dorint Hotels & Resorts
  6. Anthony Capuano, President and CEO of Marriott International, Inc.
  7. Katerina Giannouka, CEO of Jumeirah Group
  8. Federico J. González, CEO of Radisson Hotel Group
  9. Marloes Knippenberg, CEO of Kerten Hospitality
  10. Chris Nassetta, President and CEO of Hilton
  11. Karl-Heinz Pawlizki, CEO of Arabella Hospitality
  12. Tim Rumney, CEO of BWH Hotel Group GB
  13. Sonu Shivdasani, Founder, CEO and Joint Creative Director of Soneva
  14. Gloria Fluxà Thienemann, Vice-Chairman & Chief Sustainability Officer at Iberostar Group


Diversity and inclusivity — great talks, little visibility of it in action

Tackling the topic of gender equality: Tourism as a door opener for female empowerment and the role of gender equality in addressing the climate crisis was Rika Jean-Francois, ITB’s head of Corporate Social Responsibility, with a powerful panel. Shruti Shibulal of Tamara Leisure Experiences made the important point that while 50% of hotel school graduates are women when it gets to leadership they’ve disappeared — better retention is needed. Danielle D’Silva, Head of Sustainability at, underscored the fact that we need to get more women in leadership – and we need the men helping them get there. Barbara Glanz, Intrepid Travel highlighted the importance of educating women in remote rural areas, celebrating the charity Education for All in Morocco.

The session on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Tourism Marketing underlined the importance of including marginalised groups, such as women, PoC, LGBTQ+, and people with health conditions or impairments — not as an act of charity but as a means of benefiting financially through opening up to uncovered source markets. This session was fantastic at highlighting the need to fight structural racism, discrimination and inequalities — but it stood out on a programme that was distinctly undiverse.  Keshav Suri stole our hearts for calling himself a nepo-baby: the Executive Director of The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group said: It’s what you do with the privilege! He declared that being LGBTQI+ aware shows you’re a company putting your money where your mouth is. ‘If you’re not going to people who look like us, speak like us, then you’re doing a disservice’ he said,

Carol Hay is one of the most respected speakers on D&I: ‘The number-one thing is to understand the culture and the people – really appreciate the culture, the heritage, the soul of a destination – then you can go and tell their story. But to tell the story you have to experience it and show the people.’ We were cheering her on when Carol referenced how when a story is being told about Africa or the Caribbean, we don’t need to show people in squalor – yes, there’s poverty, but it can be achieved in a more respectful way. It’s time for a new narrative!

Neha Arora, Founder and Managing Director of Planet Abled emphasised another topic close to our hearts in advancing inclusion: ‘You shouldn’t have separate companies for disabled people in the first place!’ it should be factored into all travel businesses.


Celebrating her awards from the International Institute for Peace

Announced on International Women’s Day these IIPT Celebrating Her Awards honoured the long-standing commitment of:

  1. Carol Hay for Tourism Resilience — from London, has headed her own tourism development agency McKenzie Gayle Limited which advises the Caribbean Tourism Organisation Chapter UK and Europe. She had wanted to be a lawyer, but when she was 18 took a flight from London to Jamaica – where her family came from. It was there she discovered a passion for tourism and for a long time, she worked for this region from the Caribbean before becoming head of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Chapter UK & Europe in London.
  2. Rupinder Brar for Tourism Leadership — from India, as Additional Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India lent her weight to improving security at tourism destinations and during the Covid pandemic successfully set up a campaign supporting domestic tourism. She has also launched virtual training programmes for travel guides.
  3. Iaia Pedemonte for Pedemonte for Responsible Tourism — from Italy, a freelance journalist, and the founder of the Gender Responsible Tourism Association (GRT), said in her research she had often been inspired by women who had had to respond to crises, by having to clean the streets and repair houses after flooding or earthquakes for example. ‘Women are also the first to build bridges for peace, sometimes with very unusual tools.’

Weeva’s observation on IWD — a public holiday in Berlin — we did lament a programme that was very white and very male — we counted 75% of names listed on the talks, and panels were men. And noted a very limited representation of people of colour — when a quarter of the world’s countries are in the continent of Africa it would have been nice to have seen and heard from more black African voices.


Peace and tourism: the role of geopolitics in tourism

Can we, in good conscience, travel to authoritarian destinations or sell these destinations hoping that tourism will help open doors to a more liberal society? Peace is indeed assumed to be a pre-condition for tourism — but this thought-provoking panel discussion reminded us it should all be about putting people first, in tourism.


The importance of Indigenous Peoples and community-based tourism (CBT)

Giving a much-needed voice to lesser-heard ethnic groups celebrating how CBT can help preserve identity and how a shift to fair, self-determined and sustainable eye-level participation is necessary. Showcasing authentic best practices from Sweden, Ecuador, Madhya Pradesh and Uzbekistan, moderator Elisa Spampinato expertly invited Red Rocks Initiative founder Greg Bagunzi to tell his story of how his organisation brought community and conservation together for sustainable development and how. Rwanda inspired Uganda and Congo to follow the same formula.

Vinita Rashinkar of BlueBrick PR highlighted that in their rural tourism project where 30% of the population is indigenous, their work with 100 villages now sees 60 as self-sustainable thanks to CBT initiatives: ‘When tourism develops in a place, the economic development and expansion in every respect makes the destinations safer for women.’ Thanks to their projects, 40,000 women are trained in self-defence, too.

Nerali Nerbekov from Rural Homestays Uzbekistan explained that by creating jobs in tourism we motivate local people to preserve their culture.

Nils Torbjörn Nutti, Sámi Eco Adventures underscored their connection with nature, emphasizing that through managing tourism in a responsible way with social and holistic thinking, you can keep nature pure as it is – easy to say, but we need all the minorities and nature-based people looked after too – if we damage nature there will be nothing to come and look at.


The Zanzibar Sustainable Tourism Declaration

We were delighted to meet with Chumbe Island of the Long Run, an ecotourism pioneer in Zanzibar, who heralded this Greener Zanzibar campaign, launching the collaborative call for action for tourism actors to come together to jointly work on a more sustainable tourism industry in Zanzibar. The Declaration sets out five areas: Sustainable food from land and sea; sustainable waste management; space for nature and restoring ecosystems; supporting local Zanzibar culture, knowledge and expertise; and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our operations.


A guide through the label jungle

When 7 out of 10 travellers seek sustainable options according to WTTC, labels could provide an orientation — but there are hundreds worldwide. What distinguishes them? One-third of hotel accommodation is sustainable according to but less than 1% hold a certificate. How to determine quality and credibility?

Tourism Label Guide is an important German-language guidebook for travellers including 24 selected labels. They consider all dimensions of independent certification, describing the most important and reliable certificates for sustainable tourism. The label guide was published in 2012 and 2016 and the new edition is in German.

Herbert Hammele of Ecotrans (European Network for Sustainable Tourism Development) explained that when he looked at the long list of certifications it was more than 200 contenders, but if you look closer and at the standards, you can reduce it to 100. ‘And then if you look at the criteria in detail there are 50—70 that widely cover sustainability and operate on an international level, two-thirds are in Europe. Antje Monshausen of Tourism Watch commented that many of the certificates are process-oriented and that if we’re looking at climate neutral levels which are counting CO2 emissions and offsetting but not connected to any reduction goals it is, in essence, legitimizing the status quo rather than developing new strategies.

Ralf Hieke of FairWeg commented that the hotels themselves are often there but we need to connect with their individual information. His observation with is there’s no control and no sanction because it’s self-expressed – there needs to be transparency and control.

Tourism Watch wants a critical mass of certified sustainable companies, and they’re seeking co-branding opportunities with highly transparently eco businesses to push more customers to ask for it. They outlined two ideologies…

  1. Make it more visible, then step by step get better.
  2. The second school of thought is that everyone stays just at the baseline and is not motivated to do better.

They also alerted us to the Travel Green Planet 2030 Initiative.


Connecting the dots on ESG — the future of corporate success in hospitality

‘What you don’t measure doesn’t get done’ we heard this expressed in various ways. One golden rule for the entire sustainability agenda is buy-in from the C suite, because everyone in the company needs to know greenwashing is not an option.

As we know, a company’s overall success and resilience are increasingly linked to its environmental, social and governance performance – connecting the dots on ESG is about understanding the inter-dependencies between people, the planet, progress and corporate performance. What are the ‘missing skills and tools’ in operations and leadership to address the challenges?

Professor Dr. Willy Legrand, International University of Applied Sciences Germany gave kudos to the Butterfly Effect. He also observed that the students see a disconnect between what they hear and what they see on property.

Glenn Mandziuk, CEO of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance acknowledged it’s one thing to be net positive – you have to explain what that means and how you get there. ’Everywhere in the world has a different culture and different regulations – how do you consider all these elements to drive change? There are a lot of frameworks being imposed on the industry and we need to breakdown the mystification of that into a coordinated and concerted effort.’ He also commented ‘If we waste too much time on reporting and not enough time doing that defeats the point.’

Gloria Fluxà Thienemann CEO of Iberostar Group said ‘We realised ESG had to be at the core of our business model and so we created a sustainability office — we like science and we like data,’ and they have a team of 30 engineers, biologists and mangrove specialists all helping them on the road to become waste free by 2025. ‘All our energy decisions are run by the executive community. She emphasized communication and training are vital to have it land at a hotel level – from a headquarter you can have a vision for what you want it to do. ’And it’s all about collaboration.’

Jörg Thomas Böckeler CEO at Dorint Hospitality & Innovation remarked, ‘What’s driving us is giving young people opportunities and nurturing the younger generation.’ And Xenia zu Hohenlohe of Considerate Group underscored that to bridge the gaps we need to collaborate.


Delivering on climate and biodiversity

Thank you, Graeme Jackson of The Travel Foundation, for showcasing the importance of their recent report. 

In summary: this report imagines the future of travel, how we might to change our travelling patterns in the future to adapt to changes in climate…

‘Let’s imagine a world where…

  • CO2 is measured across every link in each trip’s supply chain (demystify direct and indirect emissions)
  • Frequent flyers are taxed instead of incentivised and airport capacity capped
  • Decarbonisation innovations are on the up: eg SAFs explained: why we have to not grow the amount of fossil fuels that are needed and implore industry to adopt this new e-fuel power-to-liquid SAF
  • Less short hops, more longer, slower holidays and vacations. (We have a lot more flexible working practices so we can go slower and go away for longer.)
  • Closer-to-home trips are more appealing. (Challenging the current perception that further-flung trips are of greater value.)

Important stat for the kind of forecast we want to change: current projections suggest emissions from longest-haul flights will quadruple by 2050, which means they would account for 41% of tourism’s total emissions, yet only 4% of trips.

  • Improvement in flight-free itineraries and upping of electric modes of transport
  • Genuinely Net Zero accommodation will increase in availability
  • A destinations league table develops according to which are ‘better’ for or more deserving of tourism than others


A mid-term assessment of the SDGs

Antje Monshausen put it that we’re due at mid-term assessment between the 2015 birth of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 deadline for these Global Goals — and reminded us we’re nowhere near achieving them.

In summary: it’s clear we need to convert from high-carbon low-benefit vulnerable tourism to low-carbon high-benefit resilient tourism.


Acknowledging the link between child trafficking and tourism

‘We know that many are signing up to The Code but not following child protection and abusers using tourism for their exploitation’ – a form of greenwash! said Antje Monshausen.

This is an uncomfortable and much-neglected topic in travel and we were comforted to see it get a billing at ITB.


Measuring tourism sustainability: data, reporting, action

Navigating certification is always a challenge! Moderated by Professor Dr. Willy Legrand and Xenia zu Hohenlohe with helpful commentary from Randy Durband of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council: ‘We’re bringing measurement tools into the sustainability process,’ said the head of the GSTC). ‘We’ve based all our guidance on ISO standards which have been absent from the tourism space. ‘I hear all sorts of nonsense about certifications which are just self-assessments. In Europe more than everywhere we need to clean this up. I would put out an appeal to stop using the word ‘certification’. Unless there’s a proper audit system and there’s impartiality, it’s not a certification.’

‘Certification is used very loosely,’ agreed Willy Legrand.

It was unanimous that the need is to get the best data possible. Most people are lost in the complexity and what’s right and wrong and so nothing gets done — and we need to move beyond the baseline.

Xenia, made the point well, saying we need to get to the point where all data tells the truth.


Maldives calls global warming a global warning

Dr Abdulla Mausoom, Minister of Tourism, Maldives gave a keynote talking about the dangers of the climate emergency for all island nations due to rising sea levels — and how important luxury tourism revenue is in funding communities made vulnerable by global sea levels rising as a result of human-caused global warming. He also highlighted the importance of immediate action as the sea will otherwise swallow up all islands and island nations as well as towns and cities built along global shores. There was a strong emphasis that we all must cooperate to find solutions – or else, all luxury tourism retreats close to the ocean will soon belong to the past and islanders and coast dwellers will have to leave their homes to become climate refugees. ..And we need to act now — tourism can have a regenerative impact and can also support the restoration of ocean ecosystems around the world as they are vital for a thriving planet. If we can save our oceans and islands, we can save our world.


Co-creating climate resilience and climate responsibility in destinations

A lesson in excellent moderation — something so many panels at trade shows lack — Audrey Scott of Uncornered Market guided an incredibly important conversation.

Gopinath Parayil, Founder of The Blue Yonder — partners for Green Destinations Awards at ITB Berlin — pioneering responsible tourism travel company based in India and Chekutty, a beacon of resilience co-created during the 2018 floods in Kerala, India reminded us what the world needs is not charity — but purpose-led businesses with impact intentions — especially when there’s a natural disaster.

‘It’s not charity or philanthropy it’s about our own survival if a community is not in a position to overcome a crisis – and without a destination, you don’t have tourism.’ – Dr. Sreeja K.G, a climate scientist at Equinoct.

‘Climate change is very real — the climate crisis is here.  I’m a climate scientist who conducts impact analysis on communities. Climate change is not one single homogenous thing. What we are trying to address here — climate responsible and resilient destinations are where the communities acknowledge there is a responsibility that they hold, and we need adaptation to the impacts of climate change. The challenge is to bring all of this together and all these frameworks and models together onto a common platform – to form a larger picture. It is a shared responsibility.’

You [the travel sector] sell dreams – it’s not necessarily a place you want to hear about crises and anxieties, but our voices are being heard here and listened to.

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