The future of sustainable tourism with the United Nations

The future of sustainable tourism with the United Nations

Students recently went on an excursion to Geneva to participate in the launch of the NetZero facility and Re-Planet Capital Fund Ecosystem at the United Nations. These trips are holistic learning experiences and networking opportunities for our students.


By Swiss Education Group

5 minutes
students at the united nations


Opportunities in Hospitality Education

As part of their real-world learning, students at Swiss Hotel Management School (SHMS) are often given unparalleled opportunities to engage with global issues, especially those that intersect with the hospitality industry. Most recently, our Master of Arts students, accompanied by Master of Arts Program Manager Malin Persson and Lecturer Laszlo Kele, hopped on a bus to the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in Geneva for the launch of the United Nations NetZero Facility and Re-PLANET Capital Fund Ecosystem. The event was hosted by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), who welcomed our students as the bright future of the hospitality industry.


A Platform for Real-World Learning

The event celebrated a more sustainable future, one that our students are preparing to lead. Our Master of Arts students were more than just observers at this event; they were active participants in discussions that will shape the future of sustainable tourism. The current tourism industry is thriving, and it is more important than ever to consider the consequences that the industry has on the planet and how to move towards the future with sustainable tourism. Students have to learn the status-quo and current developments in order to build on it when they enter the industry. This excursion was part of our ongoing effort to blend academic learning with real-world experience, ensuring our students are not only well-educated but also industry-ready.

Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the UNWTO, underscored the importance of youth in his opening address regarding the pressing issue of climate change. ““Everyone is asking how to change the planet, and, in my opinion, students are the future. The future is with the new generation. We are investing a lot in our students,” he said.  Mr. Pololikashvili's words resonated with our students as he emphasized their pivotal role in shaping the future and driving positive change.


In-Depth Insights into Global Challenges

The focus of the event – the impact of tourism on the environment – is a critical subject for our students, who are preparing to enter the hospitality sector. Already, the 2015 Paris Agreement had established ambitious goals in response to climate change, but its implementation has been the biggest challenge. Through sessions led by experts like Mrs. Zoritsa Urosevic, Executive Director of UNWTO, our students gained invaluable insights into the global challenge of climate change and the need for substantial socio-economic transformation in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

To achieve a 50% reduction of emissions by 2030, and a completely self-sustaining tourism industry by 2050, policy-makers determined that they need a new global finance governance model, one that leverages various stakeholders to unlock the value of carbon, particularly Blue Carbon (oceans), and promotes circular and sustainable business models while remaining economically profitable.

What was being launched at the UN, the Re-Planet Capital Fund Ecosystem, developed in collaboration between UNWTO and NOAH Regen, presented an innovative financial framework dedicated to catalyzing climate action. It aims to bridge the gap between ecological necessity and profitable business endeavors. Its expected far-reaching impact will also affect everyone entering the hospitality and tourism industries, including our students, and it is imperative that they understand the program as it develops.


Bridging Theory and Practice

Because SHMS students come from all over the world, their knowledge of the environmental needs of different countries can be quite varied. An event like the UN NetZero Facility launch fills in that information. After all, climate change does not affect every country equally. For example, students learned about the needs of tropical island nations that typically rely on tourism to support their industries. With sunshine and fresh air, countries such as those in the Caribbean are in high demand for paying travelers looking to relax and vacation.

But with the warming of the planetary ecosystem, they face a unique crisis where rising sea levels means that their countries could become swallowed by the sea even as soon as the next few decades. Although the situation sounds grave, the event remains optimistic. There is hope in international cooperation and finding the right steps to move towards a better solution both within and outside of the hospitality world. Understanding the proposed blended finance model of the Re-Planet Capital Fund Ecosystem, which combines various funding sources for ecological and profitable business models, was another key learning aspect for our students. The use of blockchain technology for fund management of carbon credits highlighted the innovative solutions being developed to address climate challenges.


Shaping the Future of Hospitality

Participating in such a globally significant event reaffirms our commitment at SHMS to educate and prepare hospitality leaders who are not only skilled in their trade but also conscious of their role in global sustainability and ethical practices. There is no better role model than the United Nations for international cooperation, tackling world issues when globalization is more prevalent than ever.

After all, the tourism industry is not going anywhere soon. The demand for travel and service is more than ever before, exceeding pre-Covid numbers. As Mr Pololikashvili stated in regard to the future of tourism and sustainability, “We need to invest now! Like wine, it takes time. Tourism has rebounded very fast. Planes are full; hotels are full. Tourism is on par with 2008, our best tourism year despite price increases of 30%.”

The challenge is not easy to tackle, but with clear promotion and communication, even if even one percent of tourists and companies were agreeable to voluntary contributions, there would be 20-30 million contributors.

As Mr. Frédéric Degret, Founder and CEO NOAH ReGen Group and Special Advisor to the UNWTO Secretary-General, said, “How do we make this new model a disruptive one? By making green and blue carbon understandable, trustworthy, and transparent so people choose to contribute.  The potential is real for significant funding. For example, if we promote voluntary contributions, say one dollar per traveler on airlines, that equals 4.5 billion dollars per year to invest. Re-Planet, in combination with other investment funds, has the capacity to scale that 4.5 billion up five-fold. Then we then have to ability to talk to governments and bring large scale funding to projects.”

Our students returned to campus with a renewed sense of purpose, understanding that their future careers hold the potential to positively impact the planet and confidently reforge their industries. 

UN panel of experts

Networking into Opportunities

An event at the UN comes with high-profile world leaders, and it also becomes a chance for our students to know the change-makers of the world and to learn from them directly. One highlight of the excursion was the interaction between our students and key industry figures. Students are able to debate and ask questions with today’s world leaders and policy-makers as well as show their own knowledge and expertise.

In a particularly inspiring instance, a conversation between one of our students and Mr. Pololikashvili led to an exciting internship opportunity for them at the UNWTO headquarters in Madrid. This outcome exemplifies the real-world impact of our educational philosophy, where networking and proactive engagement can open doors to significant career opportunities.


Our Commitment to Holistic Education

We at SHMS, are proud to facilitate such opportunities for our students, guided by our dedicated faculty. These educational experiences directly become the plans and actions for the future of hospitality. Lecturer Laszlo Kele, who accompanied the students on this excursion, says, “Geneva was just the beginning. Now, it's about turning these experiences into global conversations.”

This event was more than just an educational trip; it was a step towards ensuring our students are at the forefront of sustainable practices in the hospitality industry. The world changes rapidly, and our students are prepared to adapt and reshape it. In combination with their academic studies, excursions like this to the United Nations give students at SHMS a background in theory as well as real-world practice. They are prepared for anything that comes their way and can look forward as dependable industry leaders. 

The participation of our students in the UN NetZero Facility and Re-PLANET Capital Fund Ecosystem event reflects Swiss Hotel Management School’s dedication to providing an education that is both relevant and forward-thinking. It is initiatives like these that prepare our students to not only enter the hospitality industry but to lead it towards a more sustainable and responsible future.

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By Swiss Education Group