Imagine a future in which tourism and events in Ireland have a regenerative impact on the nation, and the world. A future in which visitors have sustainable options for dining and accommodation; in which waste is dealt with responsibly; and any unavoidable emissions are offset. Let’s go one step further, and imagine a future in which international visitors will return home from Ireland with the knowledge needed to make their life and locality more sustainable.
Now to the present moment. Over the course of the past two months, the coronavirus has had an impact on the events and tourism industry of such unpredictable magnitude, that the year ahead is looking rather gloomy. With the MWC in Barcelona, ITB in Berlin, and COCAL in Lima cancelled, alongside tourism in many destinations being severely impacted by travel bans, it is understandable that our colleagues and friends are in a panic.
However, fear and panic challenge clarity of thought, which is precisely what is needed most in times of uncertainty. The work of visionaries is not to get stuck in this whirlwind of current affairs, but to understand and use them to imagine a path for the future. This article began with a vision for Ireland, as recent actions of Fáilte Ireland have been moving the nation’s tourism and events industry towards this imagined future.
In January, Fáilte Ireland organised a forum and workshop on the topic of sustainability, as a continuation of the work the Global Destination Sustainability Index had started with Dublin’s Convention Bureau in July of 2019. The importance of being a master collaborator, and not having one’s mind clouded by fear and panic, was exemplified once more, as over 70 stakeholders from across Ireland convened to discuss and plan the future of business tourism.
The event was kicked off by Fáilte Ireland’s very own Sam Johnston and Catriona Doran, followed by an analysis of Ireland’s 2019 GDS-Index performance, an academic intervention by Dr Joanne Rourke from Dublin City Council on the Circular Economy, and some brilliant presentations from local organisations such as Croke Park, FoodCloud and Green Hospitality.
The hosts, Croke Park, also did an outstanding job of ‘walking the talk’, and impressed all attendees with their local, organic and vegetarian feast, sealing delegates approval on their inspiring policies that consider their impact on the neighbouring environment, community and economy.
A workshop followed, in which stakeholders were grouped together to co-create their vision for the industry, using the insights, knowledge and experience from a diverse group of participants. Once the key challenges to overcome were identified by all delegates, the day came to a close. This input, alongside a wider stakeholder survey, will feed into the creation of a clear roadmap for a sustainable visitor economy in Ireland.
The day’s events galvanised tremendous optimism and renewed engagement from everyone involved, and highlighted how clarity and collaboration can help us navigate, and hopefully mitigate, challenging times.
About the Author: Noah Joubert is a Sustainability Consultant of the Global Destination Sustainability Index, with the mission to engage, inspire, and enable destinations to become more sustainable places to visit, meet and thrive in.