FITUR Green 2014: vision, innovation and new approaches to sustainable tourism destinations

The 5th edition of FITUR Green provided a unique platform to analyze best practices and trends across the entire tourism value chain and explore the role and potential of public and private sectors as well as partnerships in the creation, development, growth and consolidation of sustainable tourism destinations.

The approach was very comprehensive and put tourists as the center of an extensive debate, based on the premise that sustainability depends on, and revolves around people.

Key sections of the three-day forum, held from 22 to 24 January 2014 in the context of FITUR, focused on new technologies and green innovations to improve sustainable tourism management and financial tools available for their implementation.

Some emerging trends have been identified:

  • New communications technologies and social media can improve destinations’ sustainability and competitiveness while influencing consumers’ behavior. Communicating sustainability in the right way can definitively change production and consumption patterns.
  • Certification helps certified entities to measure their performance in a more efficient way while helping them develop and monitor a sustainability strategy.
  • Sustainability is imperative since it responds to consumers' demand and expectations.
  • Innovation is not just about creating a new product. It is about new processes. It is about finding alternative production methods, accessing new markets and cooperating with new suppliers. It is crucial for the establishment, development and survival of businesses in the medium-long term.

For the tourism sector to fully benefit from those new approaches, vision, innovation, correct planning and sound monitoring are critical. FITUR Green, co-organized by the Hotel Technology Institute (ITH), the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and FITUR, proved once more to be pivotal to reflect collectively on these issues, and more importantly, to come up with new solutions and approaches together.

The event was officially inaugurated by Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of UNWTO, Ana Larrañaga, Director of FITUR, Juan Molas, President of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (CEHAT) and of the ITH, and Miguel Mirones, President of the UNWTO’s Affiliate Members and Member of the CEHAT’s Executive Committee (see the photo below).

UNWTO was represented at two roundtables, both held on the day devoted to sustainability of tourism destinations (22 January 2014). Luigi Cabrini, Director-Adviser to the UNWTO Secretary-General on Sustainability, participated in the debate on Sustainability and Competitiveness, together with Benjamín Liberoff (National Tourism Director of Uruguay), Ana Braña (Managing Director of the Sociedad Mixta de Turismo de Gijón) and Arantxa García (Head of Sustainable Development of TUI Travel Accommodation & Destinations).

On the same day, Luis Meler (Director of AENA’s Air Navigation Network), Ana Carmen Picher Fernandez (Head of Coordination, Business Area of Passengers at RENFE), Ramón Biarnés (Sales Director of the Avis Budget Group South Region - Italy, Spain and Portugal) and Alfredo Serrano (National Director for Spain, Cruise Line International Association), participated in the roundtable on Innovation for Sustainable Tourism moderated by Dr. Dirk Glaesser, Acting Director of Sustainable Development of Tourism of UNWTO.

On Friday 24, Claudia Lisboa, from UNWTO’s Institutional Relations and Resource Mobilization, presented the Nearly Zero-Energy Hotels (neZEH) project, being developed by UNWTO and Creara together with eight other European partners and co-funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe Programme of the European Union. Main aim of the neZEH project is to improve overall energy performance in the accommodations sector.

With regard to the attendance, representatives from the Tourism Unit of the European Commission, the Spanish Ministry of Tourism and governmental tourism agencies from various countries – such as France, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Portugal, Cape Verde, Israel and Zambia – joined the three-day forum.

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From left to right: Juan Molas, President of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (CEHAT) and of the ITH; Ana Larrañaga, Director of FITUR; Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of UNWTO; and Miguel Mirones, President of the UNWTO’s Affiliate Members and Member of the CEHAT’s Executive Committee.