In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent confinement measures and travel restrictions, it is with a heavy heart that the World Association for Tourism and Hospitality Education and Training (AMFORHT) has decided to postpone its 24th World Forum to 2021.
This first Asian edition will take place as initially planned in Seoul, South Korea.
Stay safe and tuned!
By Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL
Last month, I undertook a "bleisure" (business + leisure) trip to Vietnam on my own, at the beginning of what was about to become a worldwide crisis, the COVID-19 outbreak. An interesting journey that inspired me several thoughts about responsibility.
“Please confirm you are a human”
I don't consider myself a control-freak but I really don’t like when people make decisions for me. Being able to choose makes me feel empowered and I often enjoy being offered multiple options. At the same time, I sometimes feel relieved when I don’t need to choose or even when I believe I have no choice. Let me confirm it, I am a human.
To be responsible is to be in charge. This means at least two things: to have the capacity / authority to make decisions and to be accountable for the consequences of these decisions. Responsible decision-making is not easy, especially when losses are involved and choices are many, but in the end, this may be the best expression of human nature.
Does the travel industry fear responsibility?
Fear and anxiety are arguably the worst enemies of travel. Over the past weeks, many travel and hospitality businesses have seen their activities frozen due to increasing concerns over the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. In particular, the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) sector has been seriously affected by serial cancellations of events. Early March, and for the first time in its 54-year history, the top world travel fair ITB Berlin was cancelled by its organizers, based on the recommendations of the Federal Ministries of Health and Economics. Although made with a heavy heart, and for obvious health and safety reasons, this last-minute decision has received mixed reactions from the travel industry. For some professionals, the cancellation of the not-to-be-missed trade show actually sent a wrong message to the world: if even travel professionals are discouraged to travel, what can we expect from the general public? The fact that many people, especially from Asia, were already in Germany at the time of the decision may explain this stance.
On the other hand, this 2020 edition could have been the last in the history of ITB Berlin if it had been maintained. But who knows? Someone took the responsibility to upset dozens of thousands of people who had themselves taken the decision not to cancel their participation, after evaluating the risk of being contaminated or contaminating their peers. Nobody should be blamed but everybody should feel responsible. According to the oxygen mask rule, we are advised to ensure our safety first before providing assistance to others and especially children. This could be called an adult decision and this is probably not what people would immediately choose to do but there is a rationale behind this seemingly selfish recommendation. If you are out of the game, how can you possibly help others? I guess this also applies to travel professionals.
In this world of unpredictability and uncertainty, decisions are not easy to make and sometimes, we have no choice but to trust our gut (well, you'd rather not if you are a Head of State). In any case, we should be ready to assume the results of our choices, especially when they affect other sentient beings.
Inaction as a pain (and gain) killer
For some, doing nothing may be the safest option even if the consequences of inaction can also be painful and far-reaching. In the case of the COVID-19 crisis, the decisions to cancel or postpone public gatherings are devastating economically, socially, culturally, and psychologically. They not only confirm our fears but also nurture and even intensify our anxiety. They may be seen as a defeat against adversity and at the same time, a safe escape from conundrum and choices.
Doing nothing can also be interpreted as carrying business as usual as if in denial, instead of acknowledging the reality of an unpredicted situation. Like those airlines that are running empty “ghost” flights during the coronavirus outbreak because of European rules (Airlines are burning thousands of gallons of fuel flying empty 'ghost' planes so they can keep their flight slots during the coronavirus outbreak).
But then again, too many scenarios can be overwhelming, particularly when they are disaster scenarios. In today’s society, media are constantly feeding us with alarming news and scary stories of risks, dangers and losses. Climate change communication has generated a great amount of eco-anxiety and depression among Millennials and Gen-Z kids, but not only. As a result, our more or less rational fears are paralyzing us, and rather than making our own choices, we have become increasingly dependent on algorithms, decision-making tools, influencers and advisers that are choosing for us, not necessarily to our best interests. As a result, we have become irresponsibly passive. Or we may just panic and let our reptilian brains take control over our decisions and make us buy toilet paper in bulk. In this context, being nudged towards responsible choices and behaviors may be useful and even indispensable.
A microadventure in Vietnam
A few months ago, we all wanted to believe that 2020 would be a fantastic year. At least, it could not be worse than 2019. As for me, my new-year resolution was simply to travel to Vietnam, where half of my roots are grounded. Although I was born and raised in France, it happens that my four Vietnamese Tonkinese great-grand mothers have married or dated French settlers at the time of the French Indochina. As a member of the third generation of Eurasians in my family, I’ve never really paid great attention to my Asian heritage until quite recently.
At the very beginning of what was about to become a worldwide sanitary crisis, and more precisely on January 25, 2020, I resolved to undertake a journey to Vietnam. I had actually made that decision the previous month during a family gathering in France. I then confirmed this plan on the first day of the Lunar New Year, called Têt in Vietnam and 설날 (pronounced "seollal") in Korea. I have celebrated Têt every year for as long as I can remember but I only understood the meaning and significance of this special occasion after I moved to Seoul in 2005. This year, I wanted to properly pay respect to my ancestors and unmask myself.
I visited Vietnam for the first time in 2004. For about four weeks, I have traveled throughout the country from North to South, together with my soon-to-be husband. The only thing I found familiar and rather comforting was the local food, which I had enjoyed during my whole life thanks to the culinary talents of my grand-mothers and my mother. Again, I had never really shared my family's love for Asian food, until I live in Korea. The second time I went to Vietnam was in October 2018, when I attended the International Conference on "New Tourism - Local to Global Initiatives" in Ninh Binh, Northern Vietnam. The third and last time was a couple of weeks ago.
This time, I had planned to go to Hanoi on my own for many reasons which reason knows nothing of. Actually, I badly needed this journey to reconcile with my Asian half, which I had neglected or even rejected. This is probably one of the reasons why it did not come to my mind that I should cancel my trip over health concerns. Indeed, Vietnam was calling me in a more and more pressing way, and nothing would stop me from executing my project.
Initially, my plan was to get in touch with a few persons and institutions in Vietnam in relation to the upcoming 24th Annual Forum of the World Association for Hospitality & Tourism Training and Education (Association mondiale pour la formation hôtelière et touristique - AMFORHT), which was and is still expected to take place in Seoul, South Korea on May 19 to 22. On February 11, the same day of my departure to Hanoi, I had introduced the AMFORHT Forum at the monthly meeting of Skal International Seoul. At that time, all my Skaleagues were confident that the COVID-19 situation was under control and would be over with the warming of the temperatures. I shared the same confidence, or let’s say that I chose to stay positive.
Although Vietnam is not that far from Korea, I did not want to travel there for just a few days, partly because I did not think it was a responsible way of travelling. Moreover, I keep telling people that overseas stays should be extended as much as possible and I felt I should be consistent with what I preach. I therefore decided to include visits and meetings in relation with sustainable, community-based tourism in Vietnam. In particular, I wanted to have a chance to introduce the consulting and training services offered by Millennium Destinations for tourism and hospitality marketing and sustainable development. In recent years, international tourist arrivals have increased significantly in Vietnam, to reach 18 million in 2019 (from about 2.1 million in 2000), hence the need to educate and train local human resources, and build their capacities. Moreover, smart, sustainable tourism development as well as Community-Based Tourism (CBT) have become a priority for the country.
Finally, I also wanted to identify potential partners and hosts for Herost, a social impact platform that I co-founded with three other partners, aimed at promoting responsible, eco-friendly travel experiences that are primarily centered on the local communities and their environments.
With the precious support of friends and colleagues, such as Randy DUBAND, CEO of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, and Theo NOH, CEO of NEO Marketing Plus, I had the chance to connect with extraordinary, courageous (considering I was coming from Korea) people such as Mr. David NAUDIN, Director of International Cooperation & Partnerships of CitySmart Hotel Management, Dr. Thu Hoang, Dean of Faculty of Management and Tourism, Hanoi University, Ms. Natalie DO, Director of Sales of Heritage Cruise, Ms. NGUYEN Thi Huyen, National Project Coordinator at the International Labor Organization (ILO), Mr. Bobby NGUYEN and Ms. LUU Quynh Va, respectively General Director and Deputy General Director of Crystal Holidays, Ms. PHAM Huong, Program Officer at UNESCO Vietnam, Dr. Hoang, Dean of Hospitality and Tourism School at National Economics University, and Ms. Phuong Tran, Head of Community Development at Evergreen Labs.
I also took the opportunity of this journey to evaluate a variety of accommodations implementing remarkable green, sustainable practices such as Mai Chau Ecolodge, Sunrise Premium Resort and Spa Hoi An, and Novotel Danang Premier Han River. I was particularly impressed by the bold decisions taken by the General Manager of Sunrise Premium Resort and Spa Hoi An, Mr. Sven SAEBEL, such as installing water refill stations to replace individual plastic bottles. I consider it a responsible decision, especially because it is fully assumed. I also enjoyed sharing stories with Mr. DU Quang Huy, Director of Mai Chau Ecolodge which employs 90% of local community members, including Ms. THAO Phuong Ha, from the Tay community who became Sales Director of Mai Chau Ecolodge.
Although I remained unmasked during my whole trip to Vietnam, involving stays in Hanoi, Mai Chau, Hoi An and Danang, I tried to follow basic recommendations to avoid catching the coronavirus and contaminating others. I was lucky to be able to enjoy Hoi An as it was ten years ago, but I quickly became a little concerned at the view of all those (relatively) emptied tourist areas. Whereas overtourism has become a hot issue for many destinations, we are now facing a worrying undertourism situation.
Responsible tourism: a booster shot
The concept of responsible tourism has become increasingly popular over the past decade, often as a replacement for sustainable tourism. In fact, many people do not feel comfortable with sustainable tourism, often viewed either as an oxymoron or an absurdity, if not a lost cause. For some of them, sustainable travel involves nit travelling at all. Very often, sustainable tourism is considered a niche market or a product whereas its advocates will insist that it is a journey, a strategy, a paradigm, an approach, a model etc. embracing any form of tourism and any kind of destination. As a result, people tend to give preference to responsible tourism or travel, which seems more achievable and accessible.
Developed through a participatory approach and adopted in 2002 on the occasion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” As an integrated multi-stakeholder approach, responsible tourism:
For me, responsible tourism is the spitting image of sustainable tourism (although we should refrain from spitting, and particularly these days). But let’s not play with words and let’s try to focus on what matters most: achieving net positive impacts on people and places, a purpose supported by the power to make the right decisions and to fully bear for the consequences of the choices we make, whether we are hosts or guests.
I personally believe the tourism and hospitality industry should assert and demonstrate its determination, courage and sense of responsibility. Our main mission is to make people happy and we need to be positive, creative and audacious to fulfill it.
And as people say, including President John F. Kennedy in 1959, the Chinese word for "crisis" is a combination of two characters, one for "danger" and one for "opportunity". This may not be correct but why don't we pretend it is? Together, let's co-create these opportunities and let's support each other to demonstrate, once again, the resilience and responsibility of our sector.
To be continued...
By Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL
As a proud new member of Skal International, I had the privilege to introduce myself and Millennium Destinations to my dear Skaleagues in Seoul on the occasion of our monthly meeting in February, and to give a presentation on the upcoming 24th World Forum of the AMFORHT - World Association for Hospitality and tourism Education and Training, which will take place in Seoul, South Korea on May 19 to 22, 2020.
For its first edition, the Forum will coincide not only with the prestigious Asian Leadership Conference (May 20 to 21) but also the Korea World Travel Fair & Seoul International Travel Industry Fair (May 21 to 24).
The meeting was also an opportunity to get an encouraging situation update on the COVID19 outbreak.
International Workshop in Cambodia Discusses Effective Measurement and Monitoring of Tourism Sustainability
By Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL - Siem Reap, Cambodia
The first Asia Workshop of the International Network of Sustainable Tourism Inventories - INSTO took place in November in Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia.
The first Asia Workshop of the International Network of Sustainable Tourism Inventories - INSTO was successfully co-hosted on November 17 to 20, 2019 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Minister of Tourism of Cambodia, in collaboration with the Monitoring Centre for UNWTO Sustainable Tourism Observatories (MCSTO).
I attended this highly inspiring and energizing event aimed at further advancing the dialogues among the established and potential observatories in Asia-Pacific region and strengthening knowledge about the regular monitoring of tourism at the local level, as the Founder & CEO of Millennium Destinations and delegate representing South Korea.
The workshop was targeted at:
Considering the continuous growth of tourism in the Asia and the Pacific region, it seems crucial to be able to collect and monitor the necessary relevant data to make sure that tourism is planned, managed and controlled.
As of today, there are 28 observatories in the world (including 9 in China), and the Kingdom of Cambodia expressed its intention to establish one Sustainable Observatory in Kompong Phluk in 2020. Japan and the Republic of Korea also expressed their interest in establishing observatories.
This was welcomed by Dr. Dirk Glaesser, Director of Sustainable Development of Tourism, and by Mr. Harry Hwang, Deputy Director of Regional Department for Asia and the Pacific.
The UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories was created in 2004 with the main objective to support the continuous improvement of sustainability and resilience in the tourism sector through systematic, timely and regular monitoring of tourism performance and impact and to connect dedicated destinations in order to better understand destination-wide resource use and foster the responsible management of tourism.
On November 20, I took a field tour to Kampong Phluk Eco-tourism Community, located in Siem Reap province close to Tonle Sap Lake. The Kampong Phluk commune has 3,707 peoples (911 families).
Kampong Phluk Eco-Tourism Community was established on April 17, 2015. It covers 12,329 hectares in 3 villages and plays an important role to attract many national and international tourists.
GSTC Partners with Millennium Destinations for its 2019 Sustainable Tourism Training Program in Seoul, South Korea
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) had its 2019 Sustainable Tourism Program in Seoul, South Korea on November 9 & 10, 2019 at the Seoul Global Startup Center.
This session was hosted in partnership with Millennium Destinations, with Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL as Lead Trainer and GSTC Director for Asia-Pacific Mihee KANG as co-Trainer, with the exceptional participation of GSTC CEO Randy DURBAND.
The training programme started with an introduction of GSTC and its four programs, as well as global trends in sustainable tourism, sustainability marketing, and sustainable tourism product development and management, followed by a detailed presentation of GSTC criteria for Industry and Destinations.
It also included presentations by Luis RIESTRA, General Manager of Crescendo Hotel about Planet21 initiative of Accor group and its actions in 2019, Lin HWANG, Founder & CEO of Damogo, a Seoul-based startup specialized in food waste reduction, and Louis HAAG, Co-Founder and CEO of HEROST, developed as a digital platform for co-creating, promoting and sharing sustainable, community-based travel experiences.
Through this interactive leaning journey, participants gained an in-depth understanding of the GSTC criteria as the global baseline standards for sustainability in travel and tourism, the roles of accreditation and certification in advancing the sustainability agenda in the tourism industry.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) manages the GSTC Criteria, the global baseline standards for sustainable travel and tourism; as well as acts as the international accreditation body for sustainable tourism certification.
On Dec. 4 to 7, 2019, the GSTC2019 Global Conference will bring together international and domestic tourism stakeholders involved in the development and promotion of sustainable tourism; including public sector, hotels, tour operators, academia, development agencies, NGOs, consultants, and more.
Given its beautiful sights and rich history, Japan is an ideal place to visit for adventurous millennials. There are certain highlights that every millennial must see, and no trip would be complete without any of the places listed below.
Harajuku is known worldwide as the centre of Japanese youth culture and fashion, with many of its streets lined with small, independent boutiques and cafés. You'll find yourself spoilt for choice as you browse the fashion boutiques, as well as Omotesando Hills – a large shopping centre home to over 100 shops. However, what makes Tokyo so incredible when it comes to shopping is its thrift-shopping culture. Despite being the land of technology, it's a mecca for hidden vintage outlets off the beaten tracks. In Harajuku, check out Kinji Used Clothing, a warehouse filled to the brim with incredible vintage items and categorised by both style and brand. If you're looking to become more sustainable, this is a great place to start.
The legendary Mount Fuji is the largest volcano in Japan, standing at 12,389 ft tall. Its spectacular core has made it a prominent feature in Japanese art and literature, and there are many ways for you to experience this magnificent sight – whether from a distance, or on the Fuji Visitor Center's observation deck. Travelling to the top can be an exciting adventure, with some trips around the mountain taking as long as 12 hours. It is quite cold at the top, so remember to pack layers.
The snow monkey – also known as the Japanese macaque – is a species native to Japan. They are famous for their red faces and their love for bathing in the hot springs. They are also noted as being an exceptionally intelligent species, quickly learning new skills such as eating and hunting. You'll need to venture out a bit to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park in the Nagano Prefecture to see them, but it's well worth the visit.
Kyoto is home to a large collection of temples. Popular temples include Ryoan-ji, where you can sit in the zen stone garden and achieve a tranquil mindset, which is perfect for anyone who has difficulty attaining peace of mind. Kinkaku-ji – the Golden Pavilion – is one of the most scenic temples you could visit, especially if viewed from across the lake. And there's also To-ji, which is immersed in nature and full of beautiful gardens and majestic trees. Japan's 1600 temples will simply leave you spoilt for choice.
Hokkaido’s flower fields
Whenever millennials go anywhere, they are generally on the lookout for scenic sights to fill their Instagram pages. Some of the finest imagery can be found on the island of Hokkaido, which offers several beautiful flower fields. It's like looking out over a rainbow scattered over the land.
Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo
Another area that any millennial tourist should visit is the famous Shibuya crossing intersection in Tokyo. There’s so much life here, with a huge crowd of the city’s residents and visitors all milling together at once, making it a fascinating spot for photography.
Japan is an incredible country, with so much to explore. These scenic locations are almost guaranteed to offer you a transcendent experience, and will leave you yearning to come back to take in even more of this divine culture.
Don’t forget, though: it’s important to be a responsible tourist, and respect the locations you’re visiting – especially when they already receive huge numbers of visitors already. Part of the joy of travelling is finding hidden attractions off the beaten track (as well as the more obvious highlights like those above) so keep your eyes peeled for these hidden secrets on your travels. You never know what you might find out there.
As part of its efforts to promote ecotourism in Daebu island, Ansan city organized a fam tour for foreign residents in Korea on Oct. 26, 2019.
It can be sometimes challenging to promote a fragile and vulnerable ecosystem such as an island, when the least thing you want is to see it become a mass tourism destination. Nonetheless, sustainable tourism is definitely a powerful tool for local development and community empowerment, and a smart marketing strategy can help target and attract the right people: those who care and are equipped to co-create a sustainable, fair and responsible experiences with the locals.
Within the framework of its project to develop ecotourism in Daebudo (Daebu island), the tourism department of Ansan city, South Korea, organized a fam tour (familiarization tour) for foreign residents in South Korea on Oct. 26, 2019.
Once called “the Hawaii of Ansan” and now dubbed “the Treasure Island”, Daebudo has been praised for its beautiful landscapes and has kept the appeal and characteristics of an island even if it is now linked to the Ansan mainland through the Sihwa seawall. With several thousand visitors per day day during peak season, Daebudo has indeed become a popular destination for Koreans, and particularly families or anyone looking for a beautiful, quiet and exotic escape. Many people, and particularly photographers, visit Daebudo and surrounding islands as top spots to watch the sunset. On the other hand, most visits to Daebudo usually do not last more than one day and the island does not seem to attract many foreign tourists or foreigners living in Korea, if we refer to the number of mentions on the Internet and in social networks.
Moreover, Daebudo has not been promoted as strongly as Ansan and/or is not perceived as an ecotourism or nature-based destination, even if Daebudo and Daesong wetland in Ansan have been designated as eco-tour zones by the Korean Ministry of Environment in 2014, together with Sanmakyi old trail and Lake Goesan in Goesan, Gasiyeon wetland and Lake Gyeongpo in Gangneung, Hyodon stream and Haryeli village in Seogwipo and Gochang dolmen.
According to researches, ecotourism is still considered a niche market but it has developed steadily over the past years. The market demand for ecotourism has been largely centered in the western world, mostly English-speaking countries, but more and more ecotourists are now coming from other regions such as the Asian Tigers.
For many ecotourists, the main motivation is the inherent quality of the landscape and wildlife of the destination, together with the opportunity to meet local people and experience cultural traditions and lifestyles. Many of them like to take photos and are even professional photographers. This is the case for more and more birdwatchers. Some ecotourists are looking for complementary activities such as hiking, cycling, etc.
In South Korea, outdoor and leisure / leports (leisure and sports) activities have become more and more popular. There are over 15 million regular hikers in South Korea and biking / cycling has developed recently. In general, a growing public interest in ecotourism has been reported in Korea.
Regarding Daebudo, it seems that tourism marketing efforts have been more focused on domestic visitors, and short term visits. Due to its characteristics, the island may compete with similar ecotourism destinations, in Korea or not, that are better known and/or or promoted, such as Suncheon Bay, which has become a renowned ecological tourism destination even among foreigners. Having said that, competition may become an opportunity if synergies and partnership can be created with those similar destinations.
The Ecotour in Daebu island designed by Ansan city included the following experiences:
Millennium Destinations provided its support to the project for the marketing and communication strategy and through arranging a diverse group of around 40 "Millennium Hikers", expats living in Korea and Koreans from different backgrounds (diplomats, professionals, professors, consultants, students, social media influencers, etc. ).
According to the results of the post-tour survey, all participants have been either very satisfied or satisfied with their experience in Daebu island, mudflat walking and interacting with the locals being their favorite activities. On the other, foreign participants expressed their need for more information and interpretation at least in English.
In any case, Ecotourism products in Daebudo should focus on protected areas as focal points. They should also intend to include experiences and activities that would contribute to reduce overcrowding and seasonality. Promotion activities should consider the carrying capacity of the island and should be carried out in concertation with the local residents.
Sustainable tourism may have become popular over the past years but what do we really know about it, and how to best achieve it?
If you want to be familiar with sustainable tourism and become an informed practitioner, join our upcoming 2019 GSTC Sustainable Tourism Training in Seoul!
This two-day training class is designed for travel, tourism and hospitality professionals interested in learning about sustainability good practices for businesses and destinations.
Through this interactive leaning journey you will gain an in-depth understanding of the GSTC Criteria as the global baseline standards for sustainability in travel and tourism, the roles of accreditation and certification in advancing the sustainability agenda in the tourism industry, as well as topics such as global trends in sustainable tourism, sustainability marketing, and sustainable tourism product development and management.
Ms. Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL, Millennium Destinations, Founder & CEO
Dr. Mihee KANG, GSTC, Director for Asia-Pacific
Hosted in partnership with Millennium Destinations, with the support of GreenBIM Engineering.
Information and registration here.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) is managing the GSTC Criteria, the global baseline standards for sustainable travel and tourism; as well as acting as the international accreditation body for sustainable tourism certification.
By Catherine GERMIER-HAMEL
Whereas France has been recently re-branded as a "startup nation", is there anything innovative, new and/or smart France can be proud of in the field of travel and tourism? And the answer is: absolutely (yes, I'm French)!
At least, this is what I intended to highlight during the 2nd OCOVA Forum in Asia hosted by the GSIPA - Gangneung Science & Industry Promotion Agency, on Oct. 16, 2019, under the theme of Tourism and the 4th Industrial Revolution.
In my presentation, I introduced French innovative inititiaves towards smart sustainable tourism, including France Tourisme Lab, the national network of incubators and accelerators in tourism, and tech for good initiatives that can be applied to tourism sectors.
As of today, 7 structures are part of France City Lab:
During the Forum, a partnership agreement was signed between GSIPA and Grand Sud Formation, a tourism high school based in Toulouse, France.
The Forum OCOVA has been organized annually since 2004 in Les Orres, a French ski resort located in the Hautes-Alpes department in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. It has been providing a venue for networking and knowledge exchange on smart technologies and innovation, particularly in mountain areas. The Asian edition of the OCOVA Forum was launched in 2018 in Gangneung, South-Korea.