Stand Up & Make a Difference: Is It Too Much to Ask for a Sustainable World?
Transforming Our World NOW at the World Travel & Tourism Council’s 17th Global Summit
Greetings from Bangkok. I wrapped up our recent Earth Month activities by participating in one of the most impactful WTTC Global Summits with 900 other leaders and change makers from the public and private sectors. This year’s Summit theme was: “Transforming our World” –looking to catalyze our global tourism community’s power and potential to transform economies and destinations, along with the challenges of ensuring a sustainable future across the world, with the forecasted growth in global travelers from 1.2 billion last year to 1.8 billion in several years time.
Life is a great leveler, and so events will happen around the world all the time that potentially will disrupt such projections, we need to anticipate that many areas and destinations across the globe will be challenged in numerous ways as more and more travelers visit them. Our industry is magnificent and amazing in so many ways, but we are somewhat inwardly focused, have an insignificant lobbying effort (hence the importance and relevance of WTTC) and we are not doing enough collectively to ensure we are protecting and preserving the destinations, cultures, wildlife and natural resources needed to sustain our industry for future decades and generations to come. The annual WTTC summits help focus and galvanize dialogue around such issues and help us bring focus and action to such important issues and challenges.
2017 Year of Sustainable Tourism: 17 Actionable Goals
I discussed in my recent blog post about highlighting the importance of the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s 2017 Year of Sustainable Development (for which The Travel Corporation is a Diamond Sponsor), and the ongoing (unfortunate/unnecessary) debates on global warming and climate change, and how these issues are not going away. Award-winning scientist and environmentalist, David Suzuki, who is acknowledged as a world leader in sustainable ecology, and a UNESCO recipient for science, provides an overview about climate change if you would like to learn more.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which took three years to define and outline, have been highlighted by the UNWTO to provide an overview and inspiration of the myriad of challenges facing humanity today, including: poverty eradication, human rights, the protection and preservation of wildlife both on land and oceans, and the socioeconomic issues of local communities. Realistically, there is too much to do here in any one year, even for just one SDG, but by defining what we should be doing, we have goals and targets which we can all help work together to reduce, mitigate and achieve. That is the overarching goal here – to galvanize and inspire more action and have less debate, inertia and criticism.
Leaders Perspective Sessions: How Travel & Tourism’s Contribution to Individual Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Can Be Maximized
During the Leaders Perspective sessions at the WTTC summit, I had the opportunity to speak about SDG #15 “Life on Land” and discussed the wildlife and heritage initiatives of our TreadRight Foundation. Many in our industry do amazing work to help others and to support and engage the communities we visit and bring travelers to. My two minutes on stage gave me a brief opportunity to share some of the work and projects we have undertaken to help support our family and business goals and ethos through our Treadright Foundation – to contribute some of our annual profits to give back and support existing, meaningful projects that help bring new people into our industry, support communities and cultures where we bring our guests to and help protect and save the wildlife of our planet.
There were also a variety of compelling discussions and presentations about protecting and sustaining ecosystems and stopping biodiversity loss. I would like to highlight these two outstanding keynote speakers: (Please click on their photos below to be taken to the the WTTC video library where both powerful keynotes can be viewed).
Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalization and Development, University of Oxford, spoke about changes and trends in society including demographic shifts and the impact of technology and what is projected between 2017 and 2030. Fascinating and powerful.
John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), discussed the phenomenal stress and suffering of much of the world’s most endangered species and how it is imperative to protect them. He implored our travel industry community to join the fight against illegal wildlife trade, which we fully and actively support.
Here is my panel discussion with John Scanlon and we were interviewed by Stephen Sackur of the BBC, to discuss the impact of travel and tourism on endangered species:
Is It Too Much To Ask?
Also at the summit, WTTC launched a very powerful campaign: Is It Too much to Ask? which challenges both the tourism industry and each traveler to look at what they can do to help the world become a better place for future generations and the possibilities from our positive and collective actions around sustainable travel. As already noted, last year, 1.2 billion trips were taken around the world which is projected to grow to 1.8 billion. Our industry has challenged itself in what do we as a collective body to improve principally our environmentally friendly operations, more actively support the preservation of cultural heritages, protection of wildlife, and the social and economic well-being of local people in destinations around the world.
Both we in the industry and all travelers themselves need to do more and not just when we travel, but as human beings in our daily lives, during all 365 days in a year, so we can actively reduce, reuse and recycle as well as better respect and help preserve local cultures and communities and so much more. There is just one PLANET EARTH and it is incumbent on all of us “world citizens” who inhabit this beautiful, fragile planet to do more to help protect and preserve her. We as a global company and as a team of individuals are committed to doing more, giving back in so many ways and donating some of our profits annually to TreadRight. In addition, we give back in different ways to the communities we take our travelers to, and protect and preserve wildlife worldwide. We will work to continue to ensure that our team members volunteer whenever they can with different and meaningful charitable projects.
Most importantly, we will endeavor to do more to help inform and educate travelers about responsible travel and implement more sustainable best practices around the world. And with that in mind, we certainly encourage anyone and everyone to look at the WTTC’s Is It Too Much to Ask? campaign to learn more about what we can do to better educate ourselves as well as our friends and families, and commit to the various compelling, simple pledges they outline.
So please take the time to view the video and share it. Now is the time to stand up and be counted, by doing more and using less and for all of us, to actively protect our planet, cultures and communities in our world today. Anything and everything we do, helps on a daily basis such as taking a three-minute shower or using less plastic or none at all.
And in closing, to demonstrate that I don’t just write about or speak about such things, here are some photos of a mangrove tree planting event that 75 caring industry people participated in together, the day after the summit finished, including Gerald Lawless, Chairman of WTTC, some of our members, numerous WTTC team members, the brilliant US-based Tourism Cares team who organized the event (tourismcares.org) , some local tourism players from YAANA VENTURES (thanks again to CEO, Willem Niermeijer) and myself. As a united group, we planted over 470 mangrove trees which over the lifetime of these trees will offset over 470 tons of carbon from our collective trip to attend the summit and will help support the local villagers where we planted these trees through their bartering enterprise.
Wishing you all the best and let’s tread right,