• Building A Better Future Through Tourism

    by Lizzie Keenan

    "I am fundamentally optimistic about the power of tourism to change the world," President Bill Clinton told delegates at the WTTC Global Summit in 2013. And so is Sustainable Travel International. Our work helps people build a better future through tourism. We build partnerships, share knowledge, and design tools to make tourism more beneficial for everyone..

    According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals grew by 5% in 2013, reaching a record 1.08 billion global visitors last year. With an expected increase of 4% in 2014, it is more important than ever for us to take stock of the impact our industry is having on our planet, and assess whether or not we are prepared to manage it well and sustain it for future generations.

    Many of us have seen our favorite travel destinations succumb to poorly managed tourism over the years, leaving them vulnerable to issues like climate change, cultural erosion, and unsustainable development. However, we have also seen tourism create job opportunities and economic growth in otherwise economically disadvantaged destinations. We have witnessed conservation driven tourism programs that are preserving our natural environments and supporting the recovery of threatened species, rather than destroying them. So the question is, how do we ensure that the power of tourism is a dominant force for good within the industry? How do we take these positive impacts to scale?

    With the guidance and implementation support of Sustainable Travel International, several leading organizations recently joined forces to address the challenges tourism can create head-on by helping destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America to safeguard their natural and cultural assets, while creating vibrant regional economies. This collaborative initiative, the Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas (SDAA), marks the largest-scale effort to date through which public and private entities have united to focus on destination sustainability in the Americas.

    The SDAA, over the next three years, will offer 30 destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America significant support with their sustainability efforts. Through destination-level assessments, action planning, training, and monitoring tools, each participating destination will be equipped with the information and resources they need to implement quick-win action projects and benefit from valuable expertise to inform and shape destination level policies and initiatives.

    Regional initiatives like the SDAA are critical for tourism to enact positive global change at scale. I sat down with Seleni Matus, Vice President of the Caribbean and Latin America for Sustainable Travel International and former Director of Belize Tourism, to talk more about current trends in sustainable tourism and how they are being addressed.

    What makes the SDAA a truly ground-breaking initiative, from your experience?

    There are two things. One is the unified approach that regional organizations have agreed to, and the second is the scale at which we are planning to operate.

    The approach is comprehensive, while also being superbly practical. It involves:
    A destination diagnostic, which is visually impactful and allows decision makers a very quick way to understand areas of risk in their destination
    A quick-win action plan that the destination can enact now, to see immediate positive change
    The establishment of a Destination Stewardship Council, so work can be maintained beyond the scope of this initiative and can be an institutionalized process, to be safeguarded against the risk of changes in government
    Online training course with focused on sustainable destination management
    A monitoring system to track change over time support dialogue for politicians and decisions makers about ROI
    A marketing program, so destinations can tell the story of why this work is critical for their destination and why sustainability supports their competitiveness in the tourism arena

    This six step approach has been agreed upon and is being supported by major regional political organizations, like the OAS, the Caribbean Tourism Organization, and SITCA. Not only are regional organizations behind the SDAA - the private sector, including Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, is actively supporting this practical approach as well. There is wide consensus that this is a serious movement with great potential.

    This is the first time that there has been such a vision positioned by regional organizations representing governments, private sector, and NGOs - all working together in a meaningful manner to enact change at scale. There have been other regional projects in the past, but they have had limited success and have not been sustained or expanded with this kind of reach. The SDAA initiative is the first to provide a comprehensive, practical approach to support sustainable destination management. It is designed to ensure continued success, long past the duration of the project.

    What do you believe are the trends in private sector participation in destination sustainability, and why is their involvement important?

    More and more, multinationals are recognizing the need to expand their CSR and environmental programs to include the destinations they serve. There has been an important recognition, within the industry, that the travel experience is created in destinations - tourism product and place are inextricably linked. While it is still important for the private sector to be looking at sustainability within their supply chains, it is also important for them to look beyond that and support work in destinations. TUI and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. are examples of the private sector doing this well. Both multinationals have implemented programs in their organizations to support destination stewardship beyond their supply chains.

    Why is this important? Because the private sector can help push governments to protect their assets and attractions, and plan for well managed growth. Governments are very open to looking at issues when there is a clear signal from the private sector that an issue is important and needs to be considered. Private sector can have an important role to play here, to help influence and inspire governments and other stakeholder groups on collective work around those areas of destination sustainability that need the most attention.

    What role is needed from destination organizations to make real change happen? Why?

    They need to prioritize the issue of destination sustainability and make sure it is operationalised and institutionalised in the destination, to safeguard against changing governments and political agendas. This will allow destinations to sustain their efforts beyond the four or five years that a current administration has power.

    How do we ensure that "sustainable tourism" becomes the norm?

    By continuing to build the business case for it and helping destinations tell a compelling story about what is occurring in their destination. Like with the destinations that are part of the SDAA, we are able to help them establish positive feedback loops, through monitoring and storytelling, so that over time they can see clearly that this work is valued by both travelers and the private sector.

    To engage in partnership opportunities with Sustainable Travel International, please visit sustainabletravel.org or email us at info@sustainabletravel.org. For more information on the Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas, please visit sustainabletravel.org/sdaa/.

  • WTTC Announces Judges for 2014 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards

    The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) announced this week the judges for its prestigious 2014 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.

    The Awards recognise the very best in sustainable tourism worldwide. In their tenth year under WTTC stewardship, the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards have been expanded to reflect the broadening scope of WTTC’s sustainability agenda. There are now six award categories, with the addition of two entirely new awards to recognize the areas of human resources and innovation.

    18 independent experts on sustainable tourism will select three finalists for each of the six Award categories:

    • Business Award
    • Community Award
    • Destination Award
    • Environment Award
    • Innovation Award (new category)
    • People Award (new category)

    The Awards are among the most coveted in the Travel & Tourism industry, each year recognising the most innovative businesses and destinations in sustainable tourism best practices. The selection of finalists and winners includes a rigorous three-step judging process culminating in an on-site expert field evaluation of all finalists to document best practices in action.

    Led by Costas Christ, one of the world’s top sustainable tourism experts, who also serves as Chairman of Judges, the judging panel will select a shortlist of 18 finalists, following which the second stage of the process, the on-site field evaluations, will begin.

    The 18 judges on the Finalist Selection Committee for 2014 are:

    • Amber Marie Beard, Vice President Sustainability, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, Thailand
    • Kelly Bricker, Chair of the Board, Global Sustainable Tourism Council, President, The International Ecotourism Society, US
    • Tony Charters, Principal, Tony Charters and Associates, Australia
    • Paul Clark, Group Director of Human Resources, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
    • Gail Henry, Sustainable Tourism Product Specialist, Caribbean Tourism Organization, Barbados
    • Marilú Hernández, President, Fundación Haciendas del Mundo Maya, Mexico
    • Xenia Hohenlohe, Marketing Director, Considerate Hoteliers, Germany
    • Judy Kepher-Gona, Director, Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda, Kenya
    • Mariglo Laririt, Director of Sustainability, Ten Knots Development Corporation, Philippines
    • Alix Marcaccini, Owner, Cuixmala Eco Resort, Mexico
    • Dr Graham Miller, Head of School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Surrey, UK
    • Samson Parashina, President and Chairman of the Board, Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, Kenya
    • Jenny Rushmore, Director of Responsible Travel, TripAdvisor, US
    • Manal Saad Kelig, Executive Director, Adventure Travel Trade Association, Egypt
    • Mahen Sanghrajka, Chairman, Spirit of Big Five Foundation, Big Five Tours and Expeditions, US
    • Karma Tshering, Chief of Nature Recreation and Ecotourism, Department of Forests and Park Services, Bhutan
    • Jalsa Urubshurow, Founder and CEO, Nomadic Expeditions, Mongolia
    • Tony Williams, Director, Hospitality Operations, Qatar Foundation, Qatar

    David Scowsill, President & CEO of WTTC said: ‘We are delighted to have such high calibre judges to select our finalists who will provide an important perspective based on their diverse cultural backgrounds and professional expertise in the Travel & Tourism industry. We eagerly await the announcement of this year’s winners at the WTTC Global Summit in Hainan, China, on 24 April 2014.”

    Costas Christ, Chairman of Judges said:  "Each year, more than twenty international experts from around the world, representing the private sector, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and governments, come together as independent judges to select the finalists and winners of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. This truly prestigious group of judges, hailing from Australia to Mexico, and from Kenya to Mongolia, represent the heart of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards programme.  In addition, the independent on-site evaluation of every finalist ensures that sustainable tourism achievements are demonstrated in practice as well as in principle, helping to usher in a global transformation of the Travel and Tourism industry, as an opportunity to protect natural and cultural heritage and improve local livelihoods around the world.”

    Meet past winners of the Travel and Tourism awards: Watch the video here!


  • Sustainable Travel Leadership Network TravelWell Discussion in Jamaica

    MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica
     – The Sustainable Travel Leadership Network (STLN) will host an interactive discussion on TravelWell, an exciting new initiative designed to transform decision-making in the travel industry, on May 15th, 2013 in Jamaica. The event, co-hosted by Condé Nast Traveler, Virgin Holidays, and global NGO Sustainable Travel International, is invitation only, and will take place in the morning at Secrets Wild Orchid Resort in Montego Bay.


  • Sustainable Travel International CEO and Founder Appointed to National Travel and Tourism Advisory Board

    Brian T. Mullis, who founded leading global non-profit Sustainable Travel International in 2002 and continues to serve as its CEO, has been appointed to the United States National Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. The official announcement was made this week by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, and coincides with National Travel and Tourism Week.


  • Chile and Peru Pilot New Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations

    WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 26, 2013)
    - The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) has selected the Cusco-Sacred Valley-Machu Picchu corridor in Peru, and the shores of Lake Llanquihue, Puerto Varas, and Frutillar in the Lakes Region of Chile for the second round of its pilot program to test its new Criteria and Indicators for Destinations.  These new Early Adopters are the first South American destinations to participate.


  • Hostelling International USA Launches Pioneering National Sustainability Initiative

    Hostelling International USA
    ’s (HI-USA) long-standing commitment to low-impact travel and environmental stewardship has taken a giant step forward, with the launch of an innovative pilot program designed to inform the organization’s national sustainability strategy while implementing best practices across a number of hostels.


  • Travel Oregon Awards Funds To Oregon Communities Through Its Innovative Travel Philanthropy Program

    Travel Oregon, in partnership with Sustainable Travel International, will donate more than $14,000 to projects throughout Oregon that improve the environment, support local culture and enrich the destination for future visitors through the Oregon Travel Philanthropy Fund (OTPF).


  • Cozumel Reaffirms Commitment To Sustainable Destination Management

    Cozumel has taken a giant leap forward in its quest to become one of the world’s leading sustainable destinations, through the completion of a comprehensive diagnostic and the development of an action plan focused on three priority destination stewardship initiatives.


  • World’s Leading Sustainable Tourism Initiatives Are Announced By WTTC’s Tourism For Tomorrow Awards

    The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has unveiled the twelve finalists for its 2013 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. Award applications were received this year from 46 countries, representing all continents.


  • St. Kitts and Nevis Demonstrates Global Leadership At Innovative Sustainable Tourism Awareness Forum

    For Immediate Release:
    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts and Nevis - December 13, 2012 - In collaboration with Sustainable Travel International, the St. Kitts and Nevis Ministry of Tourism and International Transport convened the island nation’s first-ever Sustainable Tourism Awareness Forum in late November.



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