CAUTHE Conference - Reflections and Recommendations

Eliza Raymond
Jul 23, 2023

As I’m writing this and reflecting on the past few days, I’m looking out over some of New Zealand’s incredible native birds and trees. It’s a great reminder of the beautiful world we’re trying to protect through GOOD Travel.

So, the conference! 

CAUTHE stands for the Council for Australasian Tourism and Hospitality Education. The conference was recommended to us by one of our advisers, Dr Nancy McGehee from Virginia Tech University. I was initially a little unsure of how relevant an academic conference would be for a social enterprise like GOOD Travel, but the conference theme sounded very promising: Time for Big Ideas? Re-Thinking the Field for Tomorrow. We also wanted to be true to our core value of continuous learning and make sure we were up-to-date on the latest in sustainable tourism research.

And it was brilliant!

A highlight was presenting about GOOD Travel at a Special Interest Group meeting on voluntourism. This was our first time to present about GOOD Travel to an academic audience and we were thrilled to receive so much positive feedback as well as new ideas for how we can continue to improve GOOD Travel.

We also participated in a whole range of different presentations and workshops on topics ranging from protecting cultural heritage to experiential learning. Throughout the conference, there were three themes that really stood out for me.

The first theme was the power of the tourism industry. 

Ms Lesley Immink, Chief Executive of the Tourism Export Council of New Zealand, told us that in New Zealand alone, we receive 3.4 million visitors each year and 1 in 8 Kiwis are employed in tourism. At the global level, 10% of GDP comes from the tourism industry, with tourism generating US$1.5 trillion in export earnings!

Tourism affects people, communities and environments everywhere.

The second theme was the potential for the tourism industry to be a force for GOOD - but the long road ahead to achieve this.

We heard a slightly terrifying presentation about the growth of integrated casino resorts. But at the same time, we heard that more and more people are searching for meaningful travel experiences and are seeking opportunities for compassion and generosity. For example, the voluntourism market is estimated to grow 19-20% each year over the next decade (UNWTO).

The most memorable presentation for me was from keynote speaker Professor Pauline Sheldon from the University of Hawaii. Her presentation was titled ‘Pathways Forward: Tourism for the Greater Good’ so I was quite excited about it before she’d even started! She began by talking about how the positive impacts of tourism often ‘flow to the top’ whereas the negative impacts often ‘flow to the bottom’. And she talked about how we need a new way to define success in tourism (and in life!) that focuses on generosity and well-being for all. 

Professor Pauline Sheldon challenged all those involved in tourism - tourists, tourism enterprises and tourism workers - to redesign tourism to be a greater force for GOOD.

Similarly, the CEO of New Zealand’s Tourism Export Council told us how for too long, the tourism industry has focused on making money first and doing good second. And she said that the time had come to turn this around. She also encouraged the tourism industry to take a leadership role in working with the local community and government to deliver more sustainable business practices.

Related to this last point, the third theme that stood out was around the importance that each individual person can make towards creating a better tourism industry. 

The actions of each individual tourist matter. And as GOOD travellers, we need to be aware not only of where we spend our money but also of how we behave when we travel. One delegate told me that she thought that the terms ‘sustainable tourism’, ‘ethical tourism’ or ‘responsible tourism’ were too limiting and that she preferred to use the term ‘better tourism’ as this implied that we are all on a journey of continuous improvement.

So what does all this mean for you as a GOOD traveller? Here are our top tips from the CAUTHE conference.

  • Keep seeking meaningful, purpose-centred, transformative experiences when you travel.
  • Keep asking questions everywhere you travel to encourage accommodation providers, restaurants and tour operators to continuously improve their commitment to doing GOOD.
  • Keep a journal when you travel to help you reflect on your experiences.
  • Try to only order the amount of food that you want to eat - we were surprised to hear that among all waste products in a hotel, food waste constitutes the largest percentage.
  • Make a new commitment every time you travel to change one small thing about your ‘regular’ life when you get home.
  • Consider traveling during low season - not only will you have a more authentic experience as they’ll be less tourists around, but you’ll also help balance out some of the negative impacts that come with seasonal tourism.
  • Take time to learn a local skill if you truly want to begin understanding a new culture and way of life - we loved this quote that was shared in the conference: “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand” ~ Confucius.

Last but not least, we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who donated to the GOOD Summit fundraiser, which helped fund our participation in this conference. 

Your support enabled us to:

  • Present the GOOD Travel story to a Special Interest Group of experts on voluntourism and philanthropic tourism.
  • Reach 7,315 people through Facebook and gain 2.9K impressions through Twitter by sharing key learnings and reflections from the conference.
  • Expand our networks, including 25 new followers on Facebook and 36 new followers on Twitter who we will continue to share GOOD information and inspiration with.
  • Build new partnerships with a number of universities. We have already been invited to be guest speakers at three universities and we will also be following up with our new university contacts to offer study tours for their students.
  • Develop new ideas to strengthen the impact of GOOD Travel - from improving follow-up with our trip participants to measuring our impact.
  • Generate new ideas for potential research that GOOD Travel could carry out in partnership with universities as well as ideas to share with our partner businesses for how they can further improve their sustainable practices.
  • Learn about new sustainable tourism accreditation schemes, which we can use to help find GOOD partner businesses.

Thank you!

July 23, 2023
5 min read