Corporate social responsibility is top of the agenda at ITB Berlin. For many years the World’s Leading Travel Trade Show has been raising awareness for CSR in tourism. Numerous lectures in Hall 4.1, at the ITB Berlin Convention as well as other forums lead the way. ITB Berlin, through numerous initiatives, also campaigns 365 days a year for greater social justice, climate protection and human rights. Coinciding with the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development declared by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), this interview took place with CSR commissioner Rika Jean-François.
Sustainability and corporate social responsibility are key topics at ITB Berlin. How did this come about?
Rika Jean-François: As early as 2004 adventure tours and ecotourism were given a large platform by ITB Berlin. Since 2009 CSR has also become an important topic at the ITB Berlin Convention. We began to address CSR in 2005 and firmly integrated it into our corporate strategy. I was then officially appointed CSR commissioner. ITB Berlin sees itself as a hub for research, science, enterprises, markets and societies. It uses this pivotal role to help companies position economically, ecologically and socially responsible tourism products and services in the travel market. In that respect the globally sustainable tourism council criteria (GSTC criteria), compiled by the United Nations Foundation, the Rainforest Alliance, the UNEP and UNWTO, point the way forward.
How did ITB Berlin 2017 focus exhibitors and visitors’ attention on the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development?
Rika Jean-François: In 2017 we made sure we offered a wide range of lectures, panel discussions and seminars again at the ITB Berlin Convention and as part of the programme of stage events dealing with sustainability in Hall 4.1. Furthermore, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), ITB Berlin 2017 devoted an entire day to the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, which was declared by UNWTO. Forward-looking topics included climate protection, sustainable food and beverages in the hotel industry and at tourism destinations as well as child protection and human rights. There were other inspirational events too. In association with the Round Table on Human Rights in Tourism and Studiosus Reisen, and under the patronage of the German UNESCO Commission, in 2017 Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung, which ITB has always supported, launched the Award for Human Rights in Tourism. Furthermore, the 32nd meeting of the World Tourism Network on Child Protection took place. ITB is an active member of The Code + ECPAT, and as a member of the board of directors I am campaigning for a greater focus on child protection in tourism. ITB Berlin 2017 presented the World Legacy Awards in association with National Geographic as well the Celebrating Her – Global Awards for Empowered Women, together with the International Institute for Peace in Tourism (IIPT) India.
How does ITB Berlin support exhibitors through projects?
Rika Jean-François: A joint effort and comprehensive tourism concepts are needed to bring about lasting change. People can find out in depth about ecological, economic and social sustainability not just at ITB Berlin itself, but 365 days a year, for instance at the ITB Academy. Destinations can co-organise workshops with us for their stakeholders, where we can draw their attention to sustainability and defending human rights in tourism. Under the heading of ’Sustainable trade fair participation’ we have put together tips for exhibitors so they can organise their appearance at ITB Berlin in a sustainable manner. Also, as an important opinion-former in the industry we are promoting the concept of a voluntary climate protection donation. We urge our customers and partners to travel responsibly and sustainably. Visitors can offset their CO2 emissions when flying to ITB Berlin through our partner atmosfair on the Travel Info page of our website, and thus ensure a carbon-neutral trip. Naturally, the team of ITB manages all its trips in the same way. ITB Berlin recently became a forest shareholder, thereby supporting a sustainability project launched ten years ago in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania which compensates for visitors' CO2 emissions. In 2018, in collaboration with the partner country Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, and for the first time in the history of ITB Berlin, the opening ceremony will leave a zero carbon footprint.
Apart from the trade show what other initiatives does ITB Berlin support?
Rika Jean-François: A 365-day commitment to sustainability and social responsibility has long been understood by ITB Berlin. In 2011 ITB Berlin was the world’s first trade show to sign the Child Protection Code which pledges to protect children from sexual exploitation in tourism. ITB Berlin also supports End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking of Children (ECPAT), the Global Code of Ethics, and is a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and Adventure Travel Conservation Fund (ATCF).
ITB Berlin is also a founding member of the Round Table for Human Rights in Tourism which conducts an international awareness campaign supporting human rights in tourism. Diversity is another topic. We support the struggle against discrimination of travellers and destinations alike and are involved with the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) and the IGLTA Foundation. The World’s Leading Travel Trade Show also supports social projects at community level such as Berliner Aidshilfe, Berliner Kältehilfe and Sozialhelden.