Steering Committee Member Under The Spotlight : Charles-e. Bélanger, Isto-oits
In an interview, Charles-E. Bélanger, Director of the International Social Tourism Organisation (ISTO-OITS), reveals the mission of the organisation towards responsible and fair tourism and the reasons for their investment in Destinations for All.
Tell us more about the ISTO?
The International Social Tourism Organization (ISTO) is a non-profit association established under Belgian law in 1963. It brings together actors who share a social, supportive and sustainable vision of tourism around the world.
You represent more than 160 public, private and social member organisations in nearly 40 countries. What is the global mission of the organisation?
We see our mission as twofold: to encourage the development of tourism for all and to promote and support the various forms of tourism – responsible, united, fair, and community – in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations Development Programme.
As director, what is your role?
I coordinate the implementation of the actions carried out in terms of representation, of member networking and the development of knowledge and realisation of projects. This is accomplished through the various bodies of the organization and at the level of its regional divisions (in the Americas, Europe, and Africa), its Alliance on Training and Research, and its Task Force and working groups.
You have joined the newly formed steering committee of Destinations for All (DFA). How and why did you choose to get involved in the continuation of DFA?
Our commitment is long-standing. ISTO joined Destinations for All for its first edition in Montreal in 2014, and continued its commitment to the Summit in 2018 in Brussels. It was an obvious step for us, as the issue of accessible tourism, holidays and leisure for the greatest number of people, including people with disabilities, is at the heart of our association’s mission. In addition to being involved in the organization of the first two summits and participating in conferences and workshops, ISTO promoted DFA throughout its extensive network.
Destinations for All is deeply appreciative of your long-standing involvement. What would be your ultimate goal for this sector?
This, without doubt, would be to ensure that the physical and psychological barriers that constitute obstacles to the mobility of people, particularly to that of those who travel, are minimized. It is essential that reception areas, information and other services, sites, tourist activities, equipment and products are accessible to all those who wish to use them.
So you are likely to be on the Board of Destinations for All for many years to come. What can we expect, and what does ISTO hope to achieve in the long-term?
ISTO is not only determined that the organisation of future DFA summits will continue, but will also strongly encourage all actors concerned with the issues of accessible tourism and, more broadly, with the promotion and development of a humanistic vision of tourism, to strengthen their international synergy and collaboration.
More about Destinations for All steering committee members
More about ISTO-OITS