No one wants to think about a time when travel and tourism as we know it does not exist. For me, they are what I do as a career and part of the fabric of my life. Let’s recall, however, the lessons of 9/11 and the recession of 2008, when our industry was in clear jeopardy. We demonstrated resilience in meeting those challenges, but now we find ourselves at a place where the specter of a reduced existence is being raised again.
Sustainability is a big word these days. It’s defined as “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level” or “the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.”
So, can we maintain travel and tourism at the current level and not deplete our natural and cultural resources? If not, what happens to our product?
The proliferation of the term overtourism indicates that we are not maintaining an ecological balance. So how can we combat overtourism? Let’s start with respect.
When you are invited to someone’s home, you often bring a gift. Yet when we travel to destinations and they open their arms to us, how is it that we sometimes lose our consciousness? We must also make sure our actions and carbon footprint are positive.
Until recently, travel and tourism relied on marketing. But with information and social media now at consumers’ fingertips—and with issues like overtourism and environmental neglect at the forefront—travel companies are changing their words. Marketing companies are becoming management or stewardship companies, because it’s not just about numbers; it’s also about responsible planning to ensure sustainability.
Tourism Cares promotes these principles—and takes on that management role—by helping to educate and inform, as well as to connect the dots within the industry. We, too, have changed with the times.
Tourism Cares embraces its 15-plus-year history as a networking and volunteer organization that brought friends and colleagues together to give back to our industry, but now, the how is supplanted by the why.
Tourism Cares embraces its 15-plus-year history as a networking and volunteer organization that brought friends and colleagues together to give back to our industry, but now, the how is supplanted by the why. We continue to unite the industry, but we now work to leverage the power of tourism to create positive change.
Tourism Cares strives to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. In 2018 we worked with local nonprofits and social enterprises in the Florida Keys to promote healthy oceans and restore the mangroves and coral reef, which are instrumental in protecting the Keys from hurricanes. We went to Jordan and put a spotlight on social enterprises that promote gender equality and foster entrepreneurial culture in an effort to expand tourism as part of the country’s Meaningful Travel Map.
Earlier this year we went to Puerto Rico (click here to see a recap), where we highlighted the city of Ponce as an emerging destination, introduced our contingent to agritourism in nearby Yauco, and again connected social enterprises and local nonprofits to the wider tourism economy.
Preceding the 2019 IPW conference in Anaheim, we organized a volunteer event that brought together local and national nonprofits focused on urban agriculture and the homeless—issues affecting tourism nationwide—and raised awareness of tourism’s role in advancing the U.N.’s goals.
Seeing all of these efforts—and having NTA and its members with us every step of the way—you understand the developing body of Tourism Cares’ work. I am excited to have joined the Tourism Cares staff to help the industry become knowledgeable about the evolving language of sustainability, overtourism, social enterprises, community engagement, and social and environmental impact.
Tourism and travel will continue to exist, but don’t consider it a given. We must be conscious of the fragility that exists. As an industry community, Tourism Cares matters—now more than ever.
Be the best guest
We may think it’s enough that we are leaving our dollars when we visit a destination, but we can do more. Here is a list of six things to consider to makea sustainable, longer-term impact as you travel:
- When visiting areas associated with overtourism, spend a few days there, but also explore outlying communities, where similar gems await.
- Be mindful of the locals’ voice, adopt local customs and choose to explore as they do.
- Engage with social enterprises and hometown businesses to ensure your dollars stay in the community.
- Pledge to engage in positive behavior, as if it were your own hometown.
- Be mindful of your trash by packing a reusable water bottle, a shopping bag, a straw and a pair of utensils.
- Consider traveling in shoulder- or off-season, when your economic impact is most needed.
Top photo by Kendall Fletcher