April 2022, Funchal, Madeira. ‘We are now at a crossroads. As a destination we need to take collective action to protect and conserve our use of natural resources and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The evidence is now clear: the time for environmental stewardship and action has come.” Was the rallying cry from EarthCheck at the “Future of Tourism” conference held at the University of Madeira in September of 2019.
Since then, the world has seen over 200 countries coming together in the UK to commit to take action on climate change and forge the Glasgow Climate Pact. The Glasgow Declaration was also launched, including an ambition to cut tourism emissions in half over the next decade and reach Net Zero emissions as soon as possible before 2050.
“As the global economy starts to open up again post COVID it provides a rare opportunity to reset and reimagine how our destinations can better reflect community values and empower operators to be more adaptive and resilient.” Says EarthCheck CEO and Founder Stewart Moore.
“The traditional global call to ‘Build it Back Better’ has now moved to ‘Build it Forward Better’. This recognises that we have considerable room for improvement in how we manage our tourism industry.”
The Autonomous Region of Madeira is now playing a lead role in helping to restore and protect ecosystems, supporting nature’s ability to draw down carbon, as well as safeguarding biodiversity, food security, and water supply. The EarthCheck Destinations program provides a comprehensive approach to destination management, bringing together the public and private sectors to measure and monitor their environmental and social footprint and encouraging cross-sector collaboration.
“Importantly, one of the key outcomes of any sustainable destination is a strong, resilient tourism industry with dynamic products, services and experience offerings that can meet the needs of the conscious traveller and the community as the destination evolves,” continued Moore.
The recent announcement coincides with a growth of sustainable tourism offerings in Madeira, with various hotels and tour companies prioritising sustainability at the core of their DNA. One such member is the famous Reid’s Palace, a Belmond Hotel which perches above picture-perfect Funchal Harbour. Having welcomed guests for 130 years, the hotel will now benchmark and certify its sustainability performance. EarthCheck has signed a global service partnership with the LVMH-owned Belmond in 2021 to begin the certification process for all its properties, safaris, trains and vessels.
Eduardo Jesus, Regional Secretary of Culture and Tourism and President of the Madeira Promotion Bureau, has voiced his support for the destination certification noting, “This is a natural and fundamental step in the affirmation of Madeira as a tourism destination of excellence, capable of generating a differentiated demand, for being at the forefront of promoting the sustainable development of the territory in environmental, economic, social and cultural aspects.”
“We want to involve the entire local community in the process because we believe that an excellent territory for those who visit is capable of generating well-being for residents.”
The certification process will be able to be followed digitally through a website that will launch in April 2022 in Portuguese and English. A social media campaign will also be launched, showcasing videos and photos highlighting the island’s sustainable initiatives. A documentary film is planned to launch later in the year, including interviews from key industry stakeholders and visuals of the many tourist attractions and elements relating to the benchmarking and certification journey. The process and development of these activities are supported by IPDT – Tourism Consultancy. IPDT is specialised in helping destinations achieve certification.
“The Madeira Archipelago is a longstanding and well-established tourism destination; the first steps on the journey towards sustainable tourism date back several years with key milestones such as the declaration of the Porto Santo Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO back in 2020.” Said Daniel Frey, Founder of Green Growth and EarthCheck partner in Portugal.
“I have seen for many years how destination stakeholders have come together to shape their path and commitment, driving a common vision for the Archipelago. This culminated in partnering with EarthCheck in early 2022 to formalise its sustainability pledge and embark on the path towards the certification of the Madeira Archipelago, joining the select group of EarthCheck Certified destinations.”
The EarthCheck Sustainable Destinations Program is a worldwide network of destinations that aim to achieve world-leading sustainability outcomes. Supported by the EarthCheck benchmarking, certification and performance improvement system. The platform uses EarthCheck science, aligned to UNFCCC-relevant guidelines on measurement, reporting and verification, to tackle environmental and social problems such as climate change, waste reduction and non-renewable resource management.