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Sustaining tourism business growth: The value of community

Sustaining tourism business growth: The value of community
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It’s not about the word.

It’s not about the rhetoric.

It’s about the heartbeat of its essence: ‘Sustainability’ – the opposite of extinction.

As the United Nations’ International Year of Sustainable Tourism For Development enters its final days, the question is becoming more and more frequent, and more audible: ‘How do we sustain IY2017?’ How do we keep the spirit alive? What will be its legacy?

Different entities have taken different approaches to bringing the concept of IY2017 to life. Importantly, the year has widened understanding about the word ‘sustainability’, going beyond green to also relate to economic, cultural, social and even ideological sustainability.

It has been a year of sectors and subsectors widening the lens, and zooming in. It has not, however, been in a vacuum.

GROWING RELEVANCE DUE TO GROWING UNCERTAINTY

The global landscape in which we live has shifted profoundly over the past year. Social sentiment, in particular, has undergone remarkable, often incomprehensive, changes – some bringing us together, some pushing us apart. Some building bridges, some building walls.

One organization, a leading travel association responsible for over $15 billion for over 8.5 million travelers recognized that a vital part of sustaining the ability of global Travel & Tourism (T&T) to act as a force for good, is sustaining the core essence of why people travel – to understand the world around them, and in so doing, to understanding themselves. The association: USTOA – United States Tour Operators Association. This recognition evolved to become a rallying cry of their recent Annual Conference – an event that brings together ‘a small select group of 900 travel professionals and networking opportunities throughout the conference to make new contacts and conduct business’ offering ‘direct and unprecedented access to travel industry leaders and decision makers representing the top US-based travel’.

The theme for the 2017 conference: ‘Embrace Community.’

But why this theme? Why invest the attention of such a critical group of industry leaders on a theme seemingly soft? Why define the year’s most important event by a theme that could be seen as secondary to a business agenda?

For Dale, the need to anchor the conference in this theme was exactly the right thing to do, at the right time, for the right reasons.

To Dale, there is a growing sense of hopelessness, in many parts of the world, for many reasons. It is hard not to notice, especially as political, natural and economic challenges facing nations are causing people to lose hope in a future offering safety, unity, stability. Aloneness, despite our being connected to millions of people every single day, directly and virtually. The global community is losing its sense of community. Dale’s firm belief in how to turn the trend?

“You need to recommit yourself to the communities who have shaped you as a person and as a professional. Good strong community shapes who you are later in life. Reinvesting into local communities, however you define community, helps get the hope back. As you share these communities, regardless of what comes out you get a sense that ‘we’re going to be ok’. Through that, good will come, and it sustains unity of the future.”

Growing up as a young boy in the American Midwest, Dale was a 4H member, his being part of that community embedding a spirit of service in him which has sustained his sense of purpose.

PUTTING VALUE ON PARTNERSHIPS

The truism that Dale speaks of is undeniable, how will this positively impact businesses? How will this theme serve USTOA’s members?

Dale has clearly thought this through.

“I think it will strengthen the business partnership. I can’t say economically, but I think people will take everything a little more seriously regarding how good they’ve got it, recognizing the value of the partnerships they have in their business, and celebrate it.”

Importantly, they will also recognize the blessing of community that they have within USTOA.

It is these communities that will play a central role in sustaining the strength of the T&T sector, and its ability to continue to play a role in global development, upliftment and harmony.

Another way in which IY2017 has woken us up to our interconnectedness.

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