March 2, 2023

Rolling out the red carpet for sustainable and responsible tourism at ITB Berlin

Sustainability is essential and will yield financial benefits in the longterm explains Rika Jean-François, head of sustainability and social responsibility at ITB Berlin

For decades, the world’s biggest travel trade show has been promoting responsible tourism and sustainability as one of its main pillars.

After ‘humble beginnings’, ITB Berlin is now a key global player in raising awareness and inspiring travel professionals to adopt best practices. This year, ITB Berlin has carefully chosen the motto “mastering transformation” which means sustainable and responsible tourism on every level, says its head of sustainability and social responsibility Rika Jean-François. We spoke to the CSR expert about this year’s exciting and educational events.

How is ITB leveraging its key position to promote corporate social responsibility?
In the past, it has been challenging but now there appears to be a red carpet for us as people understand that we really need to do something. At ITB, we have always had the privilege of bringing these subjects to our huge platform where we can raise awareness and address the world.

What are the main themes in CSR and how is ITB Berlin addressing them?
We all need to react socially, responsibly and environmentally. Sometimes people only concentrate on one factor but this won’t work. We must take a holistic approach when tackling climate change, creating resilience, applying best practices and embracing regeneration. At ITB Berlin, we try to explore as many of these topics as possible through talks and events. There is a lot to discuss in just three days, so we focus on quality content and what is most relevant today.

How can CSR add value to travel and tourism companies’ offering?
As we promote best practices, companies become inspired and discover how they can benefit financially by investing in sustainable tools. These changes will pay off very soon. Travellers are aware of climate change and have started to seek sustainable products. Destinations are also more motivated, and even the luxury segment. With our 2023 programme, we address the whole supply chain of tourism, so everybody can learn something new.

Tell us about the Responsible Tourism Track and ITB-supported awards.
Our former ‘CSR day’ is now called the Responsible Tourism Track, taking place on Thursday at the Orange Stage in Hall 7.1. This is a call to action because our product – tourism – depends on a friendly and sustainable environment. On Tuesday, we also have the Sustainable Destination Track as well as the Diversity and Inclusion Track which tackles LGBTQ+ Tourism, DEI in Marketing and current subjects like the influence of geopolitics in tourism and take place on the Green Stage in Hall 3.1.

ITB-supported awards include the pioneering TO DO! Awards, the ITB Earth Award as part of the Destination Story, the Green Destinations Story Awards, the Social Entrepreneurship Competition in Tourism and the LGBTQ+ Pioneer Award. Marking International Women’s Day on Wednesday, we also have Celebrating Her Awards for exceptional women in tourism, and the new Gender Equality Champion of the Year.