Not only should tourists and the tourism industry “do no harm” when promoting travel, it should also look for ways to “do some good,” said Gail Grimmett, president of the Travel Leaders Group’s Elite Travel Division, speaking recently at a conference for the United Nations’ International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
Noting that “an increasing number of travelers seek destinations and travel companies based on their sustainable practices,” Grimmett called on travel agents to “build awareness about responsible tourism practices and the options available to our clients in sustainable travel.”
She said, “sustainable tourism is not some distant, theoretical goal. It is the here and now, and something all of us can practice. There are opportunities for all of us to learn more about the impact that our industry has on the environment and communities, and find ways to transform tourism and travel into a force for economic and environmental prosperity.”
Grimmett cautioned the industry that its success and global forces put the earth and its great destinations at risk, including everything from “over-tourism, natural and man-made threats to the environment, and economic pressures on sought-after destinations and the people who live there.”
“If we do not protect the treasures we all cherish, they will disappear,” she stated.
Grimmett cited numerous examples of companies with active sustainable tourism programs, including Wilderness Safaris, which develops tourism models that promote conservation and respect local cultures through programs that provide benefits to the community to compensate for setting the land aside for wildlife.
She also noted positive efforts by Toronto-based G Adventures, Abercrombie & Kent, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and Starwood Capital Group’s 1 Hotels.
“To me, sustainable tourism is about helping to preserve and enhance the beautiful. It’s about caring for and contributing to the natural, cultural and social environments that make a destination special, and make us want to travel there and return again and again,” Grimmett said.