• Held in Marbella, the VIII InterEcoForum, dedicated to sustainability in the water sector, welcomed international representatives from around the world
• Carlos Diez de la Lastra, CEO of Les Roches Marbella, opened the forum by recognizing that the tourism industry must rise to the challenge of providing goods and services that are committed to environmentally responsible tourism demanded by a high percentage of travelers.
• Alvaro Hidalgo, professor of finance at Les Roches Marbella, says that Spain is an example of the conscious use of water while highlighting the detrimental effects when water conservation policies are weak in places like Africa, where an estimated 5% of African countries’ annual GDP is lost due to the lack of access to water and sanitation.
Les Roches Marbella Global Hospitality Education hosted the VIII InterEcoForum on March 22nd and 23rd. The international meeting organized each year by TOP5 Spain has become a point of reference for the latest advances in the energy sector and sustainable development. This year’s forum coincided with the celebration of World Water Day as part of the General Assembly of the United Nations declaration of the international decade for action in “Water for Sustainable Development” that began in 2018. InterEcoForum aims to put the focus on the need to implement policies for the conservation of resources such as water as the core of sustainable development and fundamental for socioeconomic development, healthy ecosystems, and human survival.
The event, included in the official list of events of the United Nations (UN), included international representatives who have concurred on the importance of ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation as a vital instrument for the growth of the global community. According to Álvaro Hidalgo, professor of finance at Les Roches, investing in hydraulic infrastructures and innovative technologies is crucial for future economic prosperity in both developed and developing countries around the world. He said, “In Spain, an average of 22.80 euros per inhabitant per year is allocated to investment in urban water infrastructure, while in African countries the investment averages 7.10 Euros per inhabitant per year. We must close the investment gap that exists between developed and developing countries if we want to end the freshwater crisis.” In this sense, he stressed that 5% of African countries’ GDP is lost due to lack of access to water and sanitation. “This is a problem on a global scale, and countries like Spain, which are an example of the conscious use of water, have a lot to contribute.”
Tourism as a driver of change
The benefits of sustainable tourism do not only impact capital. Its strength is such that it has become a vehicle to improve the life of the localities, preserve the cultural heritage, and raise awareness towards the environment that lay the groundwork for the implementation of more inclusive, ethical policies. Today’s travelers choose their destinations based on parameters that go beyond the traditional notion of tourism. The new traveler wants to be assured that his or her impact on their destination is a positive one on the environment and the local culture as a whole. For this reason, travelers demand practical sustainability initiatives as well as cultural awareness. In the last decade, travel agencies, tour operators, transportation, restaurants and, of course, hotels have had to transform their vision on the efficient use of resources; from simple recommendations to their guests to consciously use water to truly innovative solutions that have emerged from the growing “circular economy”. We already know that 87% of travelers are committed to sustainable tourism, something that presages a steady increase in new consumers who are socially aware. According to Carlos Díez de la Lastra, CEO of Les Roches Marbella, this puts us in a new context. He mentioned, “the commitment to a responsible and quality-oriented tourism industry is no longer a challenge; It is a reality for a very high percentage of travelers and therefore an imperative for those companies that want to continue being part of one of the most powerful collectives on the planet.”
Developing countries, affected by the shortage of fresh water, says Alvaro Hidalgo, must use new tools to achieve their goals, and tourism is a driver of change and a boost to the progress of the local economy that can not be ignored. “Tourism is capable of leading sustainable development programs and involving guests in strategies for efficiency and saving resources; create advisory networks to show municipalities how to manage tourism assets within their areas and maximize their opportunities; encourage the mobilization of investment in infrastructures, develop programs of Public Private Participation (PPP) between companies in the hotel industry and local or regional entities; and activate the funds available from the municipalities. “
Sunny Ofehe, Executive Director of the NGO, Hope for Nigeria Delta, spoke about Nigeria’s lingering water problems despite having established the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in 1979. He said, “sadly, after forty (40) years of establishment, Nigeria is yet to be boosted with a well developed, documented and coordinated water plan, its availability, and resource bank. As a result, the Nigerian people have resulted in searching for their own water supply which is most often not treated”. Mr. Ofehe stressed that the public water sector needs to be revitalized through huge investment support while establishing a public-private partnership in water resource management.
Les Roches, which is part of UNWTO since 2017 and accepts the principles of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, has always opted to link tourism to sustainability as an indispensable partnership that can work to solve the water crises in countries like Nigeria. Public awareness initiatives such as the annual Interecoforum are fundamental to ensure businesses, governments, social organizations, and educational institutions come together to find practical solutions to issues that affect the entire world.