Portugal co-curates Expo talk on sustainability and travel in the 21st century

The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened global efforts toward sustainable tourism while also posing challenges around protecting remote destinations. This was the focus of a panel discussion on January 13th, ‘World Majlis – Off the Beaten Path: Travel in the 21st Century’, an event co-curated by Portugal and India at Expo 2020’s Travel & Connectivity Week.


Portugal was represented by Ana Paula Pais, Head of Education at Turismo de Portugal, and Luís Araújo, President of Turismo de Portugal (Portuguese National Tourism Authority). Other members of the panel included Anne Hardy, Associate Professor of Cultural and Heritage Tourism at the University of Tasmania; Conchita Espino, PhD Executive Director for Costa Rica’s Asociación Mar a Mar; Rogers Valencia, Peru’s former Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism; and Dipak Deva, Managing Director for the Travel Corporation of India.


Moderated by Saeed Al Saeed, Science and Technology Advisor for the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the panel noted more travellers are beginning to steer clear of big-city destinations in favour of the rural countryside in the post-COVID period, which impacts local communities and the environment.


©Antony Fleyhan / Expo 2020 Dubai


Luís Araújo, who defines sustainable tourism as ‘a force for good’, said it is important for locals to see tourism from the perspective of sustainability: “The change and shift of [the] tourism paradigm worldwide affects the management of the destinations.”


He also noted governments have a ‘huge responsibility’ in defining the way forward, and pointed out Portugal’s strategy for the coming years: “We’ve launched a 3-year plan to accelerate sustainability in our country, which forces any enterprise that works with tourism in Portugal to be 90% dependent on renewable energies, and have efficiency measures in waste management and water management, by 2027”.


©Antony Fleyhan / Expo 2020 Dubai


Ana Paula Pais said it is also essential to reorganise the training in tourism and cited the need to rethink and build learning communities: “Tourism is a global community. Countries need to reorganise training in the industry [to improve] technical skills and thinking skills.”


“In Portugal, we are running different projects to reposition tourism schools not only as places to learn, but also to build a network of institutions based on the local community, with the responsibility to act not only in tourism, but also culture, sport, health […] We need to deliver training according to community needs”, she added.