What You Need to Know about the TTDI
What’s new in the updated Travel and Tourism Development Index framework?
There are now 5 sub-indexes with 17 pillars nestled under the categories; Enabling Environment, Policy, Infrastructure, Demand and Sustainability. I’ll go into more detail on these a little later.
What I’d like to explore is this: does this framework change anything? Or is it just another framework amongst many frameworks and certifications available to businesses and industry?
Maybe you’re familiar with the TTDI (or its previous name the TTCI), the Sustainable Tourism Development Framework, Triple Bottom Line, BCorp certification and any number of other sustainable business frameworks for the betterment of environment, community and people and of course, those specific to the tourism industry.
As a tourism professional for more than 25 years, I’ve heard a lot of talk on sustainability, of the importance of people for success and I’ve seen some outstanding examples of leadership, particularly in more recent years since I began PFSEA. I’ve also seen a lot of lip service, failed implementation, poor treatment of staff and disregard for the local environment.
So, how do we do better?
There is no standard for metrics that will feed into the framework, it’s up to each country to determine their own measures. Whilst I think a degree of flexibility for local culture, infrastructure and offering is important, no standard at all makes it very hard for destinations to learn from one another and reach a desired level.
The discussions that I’ve heard about the TTDI is that the expectation is for tourism to reach the pre-pandemic levels by 2024 at the soonest 2. I also want to question if we really want to go back to those levels? In my pre-pandemic home of Siem Reap, Cambodia, there was immense over supply of hotels, every one, practically, with a swimming pool, millions of plastic bottles being used every single day and way too many people visiting the 3 most popular Angkor temples with little crowd control or regard for how this was possibly sustainable.
The first two years of the pandemic have given destinations a much needed break. Can we use this as an opportunity to restart with better sustainability in mind for community, culture, environment and economy?
Let’s take a look at the TTDI framework
As mentioned, there are 5 sub-indexes for the pillar and, in my opinion, they provide a solid framework for the necessary factors we need to consider.
What does it all mean?
All of these sub-indexes are important, however we need to ensure that they’re balanced equitably. In the past 4-5 decades we’ve seen economic factors take a higher priority over environmental factors to the detriment of all of us. We’ve also seen that whilst travellers ‘demand’ nature spaces, that those spaces become over crowded and highly littered and polluted as a result. The longterm ‘sustainability’ of a destination also includes it’s economic benefits. You can have a lot of money today but not tomorrow. Or you can have a bit of money today and tomorrow if you take care of the natural resources in your destination.
Another important thing to note, is that like all frameworks currently available (many of them are very good), they’re optional. Which means they lack urgency and importance and with that approach, we will continue to see environment treated as an add on, or a greenwashed sticker that says we care but actually shows that we don’t.
We need systemic change. We have an ideal opportunity RIGHT NOW to build back better. To apply all of these sub-indexes with equal importance. Even better would be to place environmental sustainability at the top priority, because many of the other factors will align and support the communities and economies of destinations when protecting nature is non-negotiable.
What’s promising is that people are starting to understand how to do this better. Bringing your team on the journey is the most crucial success factor. Whether you’re running a government department or a hotel, whole of team buy-in with rigorous targets and accountability for implementation are we we need most right now if we are to see the change we so urgently need.
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