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13 Jul, 2018

Imtiaz Muqbil to deliver first communications course on enhancing Travel & Tourism’s linkages to UN SDGs

Imtiaz Muqbil, Executive Editor

Bangkok/Colombo – On July 17-18, 2018, I expect to deliver the first, ground-breaking communications training course on enhancing the linkages between Travel & Tourism and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Executives from Sri Lanka’s Jetwing hotels and travel group will be the first beneficiaries of this tailor-made, 12-hour course, entitled “People Planet Profits — How the UN SDGs can Contribute to All Three.” I have carefully designed the course to elevate awareness levels amongst the participants about the UN SDGs, explain their relevance and brainstorm practical ways to convert the Knowledge Base into passionate communications, activities and projects.

The course title is derived from the founding principles of the Jetwing group’s partriarch and founder Herbert Cooray who firmly believed that taking care of “People Planet Profits” in equal measure was the best principle on which to build a successful business.

The training course has been in the works for a while, but gained new impetus following the PATA Industry Council (IC) meeting in Gangneung, Korea. There, former Council chairman Mr. Peter Semone, Founder and President, Destination Human Capital, asked the roughly 30 participants, all senior management executives: “How many of you are familiar with the UN Sustainable Development Goals?” It was a shock to see only six hands go up.

Everyone in the room had most certainly heard of TripAdvisor, AirBnB, Google, Uber, Facebook, WhatsApp, Elon Musk and all the other pet content-matter of the technobabblers. But only 20% of the so-called industry “thought leaders” and “creative thinkers” who were advertised as being present at that PATA annual summit in Korea had heard of the UN SDGs.

The communications course will analyse the reasons for this grim knowledge gap, and strive to rectify it.

The first four hours will focus on Macro issues covering the Context and Big Picture, including the background and history of the SDGs, and ways of making them easy to remember and understand. A global overview will provide a status update of the latest SDG indicators data. That will be followed by a State of the Union report on Travel & Tourism itself, covering key Issues, Trends and Challenges facing the Industry.

The next four hours will delve into Micro issues. Participants will connect the macro and micro dots and discuss ways of mainstreaming SDGs within their respective areas of responsibility.

The final four hours will be devoted entirely to walk-the-talk brainstorming sessions and workshops on making the SDGs work for the cause of People, People, Profits.

I hope to see this course set a new benchmark for travel & tourism industry communications in this new era of too much change taking too fast.

As one of the Asia-Pacific region’s longest serving travel trade journalists, I have long been conscious of the serious knowledge gap.

Because communications is almost 100% under the administrative supervision of marketing departments, communicators usually push new services and facilities, deals and special offers, and others such material to drive immediate bookings and boost Profits.

By contrast, the level of content on People and Planet is negligible.

If travel professionals start generating more communications material on what their individual companies and organisations are doing to support the SDGs, it will lead to a ripple effect industry-wide. Everyone will join the me-too bandwagon, and the cause will gain traction.

Jetwing has nominated 20 executives from a broad range of disciplines including marketing, management, engineers and naturalists, to attend the course. Most of them are in their 20s and 30s. I expect the course will see them gain new perspectives and ideas that will serve them well throughout their careers.

Given my nearly 40 years of exposure to and coverage of United Nations Asia-Pacific agencies in Bangkok, I am proud to be maintaining a long-standing track record in advancing the agenda.

Between 1998-2006, I was editor and researcher for Issues & Trends, the monthly publication of the Strategic Intelligence Centre, PATA, and produced several issues highlighting the linkage between tourism and poverty, sustainability, globalisation and demographic change.

On December 17, 2014 I delivered a unique PATA webinar on the topic of “Prepare, Prevent, Pre-empt. The focus of this was on crisis preparedness and prevention, not management.

On 2 December 2015, I delivered a lecture on “How Travel & Tourism can be a Part of the Solution for Fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals” at the PATAcademy, Bangkok.

On 4 December 2015, I delivered a Keynote Presentation on “From Development to Enlightenment – How Travel & Tourism Can Help Meet the Sustainable Development Goals” organised by the Lao National Institute for Tourism and Hospitality (LANITH), Vientiane.

In May 2017, I launched The Olive Tree, the first and only publication designed to help travel & tourism become a more enthusiastic part of the solution in achieving the UN SDGs. Jetwing Hotels is a launch sponsor of this unique publication.

In July 2017, I launched the The Olive Tree Awards, the first essay competition for young people in the travel industry on how travel & tourism can contribute to the UN SDGs.

Other travel industry institutions seeking to benefit from this course can email me at imtiaz@travel-impact-newswire.com