Earth Day Message: “Our People, Our World, Our Future”
Greetings from Buenos Aires (BA), my first trip to this beautiful, charming, welcoming city. I hope you have also been doing some positive activations during Earth Month.I am here attending The World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 18th Global Summit with 800 other delegates from across the globe. It has been a very impactful few days and I participated in robust dialogues with other industry leaders and notable speakers. This year’s theme is: “Our People, Our World, Our Future”. The Summit asked challenging questions facing our travel industry today and how we can work together towards a more sustainable future.
Here are some of the 2017 key statistics of our great industry:
- 1.3 billion travelers crossed international borders
- 4.0 billion air travelers
- 313 million jobs supported by Travel & Tourism
- 1 in every 5 jobs were created last year by Travel & Tourism
- 10.4% Travel & Tourism contribution to global GDP
- 4.6 % Travel & Tourism GDP growth (vs 3% total GDP growth, so our industry grew 50% more)
WTTC was started over 25 years ago to get leaders of our disparate industry to work together to speak with one voice to governments to enunciate the importance and scale of our industry, and its importance to all economies and more recently as a force for good and peace, to help ensure governments support and encourage tourism.
As Arnold Donald (CEO of Carnival Corp) mentioned in comments he made here, “travel is the antidote to ignorance” and we are all ambassadors of our country when we travel abroad and return home better informed and touched by the places and people we meet on our travels. I believe WTTC’s work and mission today is more important than ever, with the rise of populism, concerns about over tourism, building walls and travel bans or more visa restrictions.
A New WTTC Initiative: Tourism as a Partner for Climate Action with the United Nations
I also participated in discussions about the important role of tourism in supporting global action which was initiated by the WTTC and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN Climate Change) towards a climate neutral world with the ‘aims’ of:
- “Communicating the nature and importance of the interlinkages between travel and climate change.
- Raising awareness of the positive contribution Travel & Tourism can make to building climate resilience.
- Reducing the contribution of Travel & Tourism to climate change and supporting quantitative targets and reductions.”
Along with top industry leaders, I personally signed on behalf of our companies the WTTC Climate Change Declaration where we agreed with the WTTC and the UN towards a common agenda with many joint activities. We have active, ongoing CSR activities and programs to further measure and reduce our carbon footprints in our offices, on our trips and to help further inform our travelers and supply partners on what we all can do more to help reduce, reuse and recycle, etc.
Energy, waste and other climate change related reduction programs are just part of what it means to be sustainable today – doing more to help less fortunate people around the world are equally important activities we have, and we are always encouraging our team to make the most of the annual volunteering programs we offer, such as those on our team in LA who volunteered with my family at the WE Day LA:
A Second WTTC Initiative: Travel & Tourism Declaration on Illegal Trade in Wildlife
As our not-for-profit foundation, TreadRight celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year, we continue to work hard to progress our Wildlife Initiatives and keep supporting the important work of our project partners and leading wildlife organizations including the The Cape Leopard Trust, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Wildlife SOS – India, and the Wilderness Foundation Africa, as well as WildAid in the past, to try and ensure wildlife populations can continue to thrive in their environments.
On behalf of The Travel Corporation and TreadRight, I also signed this week in Buenos Aires the new Travel & Tourism Declaration to support global action to combat illegal trade in wildlife which has become a top priority in this sector.
It was great to hear my friend and colleague John E. Scanlon, Special Envoy, African Parks and former Secretary General of the International Convention in Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) speak during his panel session including creating opportunities for local communities and ensuring they benefit from wildlife-based tourism which will help prevent the flow of illegal trade in these destinations. John discussed how poaching isn’t limited to a few high-profile species. Unfortunately, poaching is at an unprecedented scale and 7000 species are suffering from it. He also mentioned “last year 1300 rhinos were poached in Africa from a population of just 25,000”.
The continued decimation of wildlife is so disturbing and worrisome. Our industry coming together to sign this declaration is just the first step in a new commitment for all of us to do more to reduce and eventually eradicate this disgusting and unnecessary killing, transporting and selling of endangered wildlife. Education is so important, as when the buying stops, the killing stops, when one eliminates the demand for such animals. We are dedicated to helping do all we can to help achieve these goals, as our wildlife around the world is intricately tied to the health of our planet, as well as our industry.
Tourism Cares Volunteer Project Event: “We Give Better Together”
We continued to support our TTC and TreadRight partner, Tourism Cares as a lead sponsor for their volunteer project event at the Buenos Aires Eco-Park which was a former a historic zoo (opened in 1888), now in the process of being transformed to an interactive eco-park, and all animals being carefully relocated over the next two years, including this forlorn lion.
As part of our giving back activations to our wonderful host city, I joined other industry leaders and passionate summit participants (thank you one and all) in doing a little work on Thursday afternoon to assist in the transformation of the park by preserving and replanting some native plant species, aiding in the restoration of a historic bridge structure and making some paper from pulp which were turned into guide books for children who will be visiting the park, to help educate them about the park’s history.
This is the fourth such volunteering event we have organized in conjunction with the WTTC summit, to show as an industry, we do not just speak about sustainability, and giving back, but do so physically and personally when visiting such beautiful cities, and with these plantings, help reduce our carbon footprint in coming here too. I want to sincerely thank Tourism Cares, WTTC and the 100+ participants who came together yesterday to help leave a small mark in this stunning city.
This has been my first of many visits to Argentina. I had to the opportunity to meet some incredible people – political leaders such as the outstanding President Mauricio Macri (who has made remarkable progress in his first three years to open up the country to foreign investment, many new infrastructure projects and wish him much success in continuing his goals to open Argentina to many new international tourists), the delightful, energetic Minister of Tourism, Gustavo Santos and the past President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, as well as one of the finest cinematic storytellers of our generation, Francis Ford Coppola (who was interviewed on stage by good friend Costas Christ, who works with him on his eco-lodge projects). Spending time with many of the inspiring leaders of our industry was also wonderful, engaging with and learning from and with them.
Best of all, which is what makes my job one of the best and our industry such a standout, has been spending time with a few of the delightful, friendly and engaging local habitants, called “Portenos” as they live near the port of BA. I had the opportunity to dine in a local family’s home, people who welcome our travelers of Trafalgar into their home on every trip as one of our signature dining experiences, “Be My Guest”. One gets to meet and spend time with a charming family, getting to know a bit about each other, to break bread and eat their food at their dining table, drink their fantastic local Malbec wine and learn about each other’s lives, aspirations and history.
It is a powerful reminder that this is why we travel, and this is why we all must work harder to help protect and preserve our planet for future generations – so as to help preserve our earth for humankind. We are so different and so diverse, but we can come together, get to know each other, share our experiences and find commonality together – in doing so we leave better and more informed people.
Thank you to Martin, Cora, Lina, Julia and Augustin for welcoming me into your home (it is a smallish world – they have a painting hanging in their home painted by President Macri’s daughter, shown above), sharing your meal with me, and allowing me to leave your beautiful country a better person, and hungry to return for another visit with my family. Thank you also Federico, Fernanda and Christina for showing me a little of BA today, so I saw a morsel of your country after four days sitting in meetings doing what we do.
Wishing you a very Happy Earth Day,