Fiona Jeffery OBE, chair of the WTTC’s Tourism for Tomorrow, Awards looks ahead to today’s ceremony

It was almost 20 years ago, shortly after I became head of World Travel Market (WTM), that I realised the importance for our industry of the environmental debate.

I was struck by the simple fact that if we didn’t do more to protect the places our industry sets out to promote then we would have nowhere to promote and no businesses to run.

So I felt there was a job to be done in educating our industry to take greater responsibility for the protection of the places we visit and the communities we engage with.

That was the thinking behind the launch of WTM’s World Environmental Awareness Day in 1996.

This ultimately evolved into World Responsible Tourism Day in partnership with the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), which is now a three-day educational programme dedicated to the full range of environmental, social, cultural and economic sustainability challenges that affect and impact our industry.

When I left WTM after 26 years in 2013, I wanted to continue devoting my time to things that make a difference to our industry.

So I jumped at the opportunity to take on the newly-created role of chair of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards when David Scowsill, president and chief executive of the WTTC, asked me.

I am not an environmental academic or expert but, like millions of others, I care passionately about our industry and its future and have a desire to make this issue relevant, accessible and important to industry professionals wherever they are in the world.

The Tourism for Tomorrow Awards do exactly that by celebrating the best examples of sustainable tourism business and destinations around the world.

In an area that is often seen as esoteric, academic, full of jargon or too ‘big picture’ the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards are a way of bringing sustainability back to earth and making it relevant to every one of us.

The awards are among the most prestigious in the industry. They provide a way of sharing best practice which everyone in our industry can understand.

They can help set standards and make a real difference to businesses wherever they operate in the world. I feel honoured to be leading them.

The Awards are celebrated for many reasons – but particularly for the rigor of the judging process which includes site visits to each of the 15 short-listed finalists, regardless of where they are in the world.

This approach involves a major investment but it means that every applicant is properly assessed and the judges have absolute trust in the quality and accuracy of the information presented to them.

Sustainable or responsible travel can cause people to switch off, it’s sometimes seen as too academic or complex, but the bottom line is it’s simply about our industry setting standards and doing the right thing.