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Is Your Travel Program Sustainable? How the Upcoming UN Environment Forum Offers an Important Message

Sep 22, 2017 |


| by Christopher Bensley

Many of us are aware of the United Nations’ declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. But what does this lofty designation mean and why should you care? That’s the focus of a day-long event taking place next week in Washington DC on World Tourism Day, September 27, 2017. Co-hosted by the UN Environment Office and CREST (Center for Responsible Tourism) the event will feature case studies and cover the five key areas identified for this international year. These areas range from tourism as a tool for poverty reduction to environmental protection, and mutual understanding and peace. Holbrook Travel, a long-standing promoter of sustainable travel, is sponsoring the event.

What exactly is Sustainable Travel?

To better define the overused term eco-tourism, the UN World Tourism Organization provides this definition for Sustainable Travel: “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”. It should minimize the negative impacts of tourism and be beneficial to the area in which it takes place. A responsible travel program recognizes the cultural impact of travel on the local community, how travelers’ money is distributed the local people, and the environmental impact of travel. Many companies, including Holbrook, offer a “carbon offset” program where a portion of travelers’ cost is invested back in conservation.

Use the UN “pillars” to evaluate your program

Travel planners do not need to attend the forum to benefit from the useful resources and tools available during and after. The pillars presented provide guidelines for monitoring and measuring how responsible any travel program. Here are some key questions to ask about your trip or travel program:

  • Do your activities lead to empowering communities to raise awareness of their heritage?

  • Do they break barriers and build bridges between travelers and hosts?

  • Are there opportunities for cross-cultural sharing that can build trust and support conservation?

Learning the impact of tourism with facts and examples

At the forum CREST will release its annual meta-analysis "The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics". This resource, available to anyone, contains factoids and quotes from tourism, social, cultural heritage, and environmental organizations, tourism experts, and practitioners. It presents how the tourism industry is a major catalyst in improving sustainability, if done correctly. Tourism accounts for 10% of the world GDP, one in every eleven jobs globally, and provides employment, poverty reduction and social inclusiveness. It can have a positive impact on resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change.

More on the UN Environment forum agenda

The forum will test these pillars by presenting case studies from North America, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Each case study will include short testimonials by tourism leaders and will be moderated by journalists. Among the panel speakers will be Collin Laverty, owner of Cuba Educational Travel; Chief Douglass Neasloss, First Nations leader in the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada; and Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked.  

A final note: Holbrook Travel is delighted to announce that Andrea Holbrook is joining the board of CREST. Andrea carries forth the mission and history of Holbrook. “Our core belief is that travel should have a positive impact on the world and we are deeply committed to maintaining responsible travel practices” said Andrea.  Holbrook Travel specializes in educational and natural history group programs since 1974 and founded Selva Verde Lodge & Private Reserve in Costa Rica.