Destination wetlands: great experiences!
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“ITB Berlin” is among the world’s leading tourism and travel fairs, hosted by Messe Berlin at the edge of Germany’s capital. This year, the conference programme of the trade fair celebrated its 10th anniversary. And among the numerous conference sessions spread over four days, the number of those focusing on sustainability and responsibility in tourism is steadily growing. From 6-9 March 2013, the latter topics already covered about a fourth of all conference events during the fair. Within the tourism and travel sector, and particularly in the host country Germany, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a growing focus of attraction and concern (see www.itb-berlin.com/csr).
The trade exhibitors for adventure and responsible tourism occupied an entire hall on new “trends” during this year’s fair. And the ITB pow-wow (gathering) for tourism professionals focused on the “Earth’s Wetlands & Geoparks – celebrating earth heritage, sustaining local communities”. Mariana McGill of ITB is in charge of developing the CSR events programme. She invited the Ramsar Convention to deliver a keynote address on this year’s theme, and to present a master class to tourism professionals, explaining them the issues addressed in the Ramsar-UNWTO publication on “Destination wetlands – supporting sustainable tourism” (download the publication here).
This was indeed an ideal opportunity to follow up on Ramsar’s COP11 theme “Wetlands – home and destinations” and to spread our message among the tourism sector. The European Geoparks Network exhibited to the tourism professionals coordinated ways of promoting the tourism potential of geological parks. And Ramsar Sites represent a huge potential to promote wetland attractions for sustainable tourism, individually, or even better in a coordinated way by region, country or continent. The demand for such quality tourism destinations will inevitably grow. The time is right to think about the development of a Ramsar quality label. Already, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Uruguay, present at the ITB Berlin, showed its interest to be associated with its rural and nature tourism programme (www.uruguaynatural.com) with the forthcoming COP12 of Ramsar in 2015. Sustainable wetland tourism will definitively remain a theme of general interest.
Report and photo by Tobias Salathé, Senior Regional Advisor for Europe