Travelers Disconnect for Digital Detox Holidays

Australia's luxury resort Saffire Freycinet is located mid-way along Tasmania's East Coast. To eliminate the last bit of temptation, the resort requires guests to surrender their digital devices upon arrival if they are participating in the resort's "e-tox" package. (Photo courtesy Digital Detox Holidays) Posted for media use

Australia’s luxury resort Saffire Freycinet is located mid-way along Tasmania’s East Coast. To eliminate the last bit of temptation, the resort requires guests to surrender their digital devices upon arrival if they are participating in the resort’s “e-tox” package. (Photo courtesy Digital Detox Holidays) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

TOWNSVILLE, Queensland, Australia, July 24, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Hard to believe for Internet addicts who check their phones 80 times a day but the phenomenon of digital detox is on the rise and could be an important part of the tourism industry in the future, researchers at Australia’s James Cook University  have concluded.

Philip Pearce, who became the first professor of tourism in Australia in 1990, is now at JCU studying changes in the portrayal of digital-free tourism – where internet and mobile signals are either absent or digital technology use is controlled.

Professor Pearce said, “Digital black hole resorts have become popular luxury vacation choices in the United Kingdom and North America,” and he added that “digital detoxing holidays” are new and powerful selling points for many isolated island destinations.

Pearce said services offered will likely expand to include temporary disconnection, alternative activities, personalized digital-free experiences and special programs for certain groups such as a family with children or a group of work colleagues.

Take Petit St Vincent, for instance. This luxurious private island in the Grenadine islands of the West Indies accessible only by boat, lets guests unplug. Amidst generous comforts and ultimate privacy, there is a deliberate absence of connectivity. There are no TV’s, phones or internet in the beach front villas and cottages, encouraging guests to unwind and relax.

Or travelers in search of digital detox could choose to visit northern Thailand’s Lisu Lodge, a basic lodge in Chiang Mai Province without televisions, phones or Internet connection. The main organized activity is a trip to the tribal village of the Lisu to meet the shaman of the village, drink tea with the locals and experience how the Lisu lived centuries ago. Guests can go mountain biking, water rafting or have an elephant adventure – all without their digital devices.

There are several digital-detox booking websites such as DigitalDetoxHolidays.com.

For this study, the JCU researchers analyzed media references to digital-detox over the past decade.

“The first references we found on the topic of digital-detox holidays were a single article from 2009 and another the next year,” said Pearce. “Serious media coverage of digital-free holidays started in 2011.”

Pearce said the experience was first offered as an up-market product targeting the high-end travel market.

“By 2016 and in 2017 though, there was a change of emphasis, with digital-free holidays going from a niche product to one appealing to a broader consumer base,” he said.

“There is recognition in the industry of the ‘new escapism,’ where people not only want to stay away from the physical home environment, but also to disconnect from the digital world of routine work and social life,” Pearce said.

Still, he said, it’s a small market.

“It’s not yet clear if this kind of tourism will be profitable for many commercial operators. We only know there has been a rise in media coverage which may indicate a growing industry phenomenon.”

There are all kinds of tech-free holidays. There’s the luxury get-away version of digital detox, and there’s the back to basics digital-free retreat.

Based in California’s Bay Area, Digital Detox® Retreats offers a back to basics experience. At the company’s Camp Grounded Summer Camp for Adults, Digital Detox retreatants from over 30 states and 8+ countries trade in their computers, cell phones, emails, Instagrams, clocks, schedules, work-jargon and networking for an off-the-grid weekend of fun in the California redwoods.

Founders Levi Felix and Brooke Dean say on their website, “By providing a truly integrated experience that nourishes both mind and body, while deepening one’s sense of self without the digital distractions of everyday life, we are able to focus on the tenants of connection, rather than disconnection.”

“It’s not just about unplugging. It’s about rediscovering what happens when we truly plug-in to life. As we disconnect from our devices, we reconnect with ourself, our community, nature and the world at large.”

Then, there’s the medical approach, such as the expertise offered at the reSTART Center for Digital Technology Sustainability, a rehab facility for online addicts located near Redmond, Washington, the home of Microsoft.

For close to a decade, reSTART has been coaching problematic users, often gamers, whose lives have become unmanageable. Relationships with family members have deteriorated, motivation to engage in offline activities has diminished, and connection with educational pursuits has often turned to apathy at best, and downright school refusal for a few.

In January, the World Health Organization included Gaming Disorder in the draft 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

WHO says this decision is based on decades of scientific research conducted around the world showing that certain types of digital media use may lead to functional impairments in some users.

The decision was made despite the objections of the video game industry and researchers who believe the scientific evidence for the classification is weak at best.

WHO describes gaming disorder as “a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

“At reSTART,” say co-founders Cosette Rae and Hilarie Cash, “we understand that problematic Internet and gaming use often co-occurs with other mental health conditions. Our program is designed to address a wide variety of underlying issues which may contribute to excessive Internet use (e.g., family problems, divorce, childhood trauma, depression, anxiety, ADHD, etc.) by connecting individuals with integrative community service providers knowledgeable in these areas during a stay at the center.”

It’s not a vacation, but a life reconstruction opportunity. Each participant receives one-to-one individual therapy with professionals in the field of addiction recovery. Participants begin each day fitness class and a personal discovery session. Group work fosters an understanding of what participants want out of life by examining choices and defining personal values.

And in Australia, where Internet usage stands at 88 percent, 69 percent of the population are active social media users, and many Aussies spend an average of five hours and 34 minutes online daily, Professor Pearce said there is an opportunity in remote parts of the country to explore the feasibility of partial disconnection.

There, the combination of isolation and disconnection could appeal to a special market, particularly if blended with interests such as astronomy tourism and outback photography.

Sounds good to me, but not to quite a few Americans.

While Americans want to relax and get away from their daily routines, they don’t want a break from their phones, according to new research sponsored by Nashville-based mobile phone insurance company Asurion.

A survey of 2,000 Americans and found that they checked their phones an average of 80 times a day while on vacation, with some checking their phone more than 300 times each day. Whether on a beach, by the pool or in a museum, the average American checks his or her phone five times an hour, or once every 12 minutes while on vacation. And nearly 10 percent said they check their phones more than 20 times an hour.

“The results reveal that while people enjoy taking a vacation from everyday life, they don’t necessarily want to take a full break from their phone, which serves as their main connection to friends and family, and is a practical tool to help get around when travelling,” said Asurion spokesperson Bettie Colombo.

Four hours is the average time Americans can stand to be away from their phones while indulging in rest and recreation.

Asurion advises a mini-digital detox:

  • Set the phone on Do Not Disturb for select hours when you don’t want to be contacted.
  • Block out everyone while still allowing for crucial calls and texts from closest friends and family.
  • Many apps can help users break their screen dependency and reduce distractions.

The Forest app – available for both the iPhone and Android – sets a timeframe when a user wants to leave the phone alone. During that time the Forest app plants a digital seedling that slowly grows into a tree on the phone screen. The tree withers if the user checks the phone before the time is up.


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Featured Image: Tourist on vacation in the Maldives relaxes without any digital devices, June 12, 2018 (Photo by Ryan Adams / http://homedust.com/) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The True Cost of Tourism

Visitors to The Netherlands explore Amsterdam by bicycle, April 7, 2017 (Photo by Huub Zeeman) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Visitors to The Netherlands explore Amsterdam by bicycle, April 7, 2017 (Photo by Huub Zeeman) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

SYDNEY, Australia, July 3, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The carbon footprint of tourism is about four times larger than previously thought, finds a world-first study. This year the world’s tourism footprint has been quantified across the entire supply chain – from flights to food to souvenirs – and revealed as a gigantic contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Driven by an “insatiable appetite for luxury travel” that increases in tandem with income, Australian researchers found that tourism is a trillion-dollar industry growing faster than international trade. It’s already responsible for almost a 10th of global greenhouse gas emissions.

International tourist arrivals grew six percent in the first four months of 2018, compared to the same period last year, according to the World Tourism Organization, continuing the strong 2017 trend and exceeding UNWTO’s forecast for 2018.

From January to April 2018, international arrivals increased in all regions, led by Asia and the Pacific (+8 percent), with South-East Asia (+10 percent) and South Asia (+9 percent) driving results.

While the United States is responsible for the majority of tourism-generated emissions overall, U.S. tourists are increasingly joined by members of the growing middle-classes in China and India, the study found.

Through international arrivals, small islands attract an excessive share of carbon emissions considering their small populations, and they are experiencing the consequences.

Key island destinations like the Maldives, Australia and New Zealand are vulnerable to climate stresses, such as sea-level rise, coral bleaching and melting ski slopes.

The research, led by the Integrated Sustainability Analysis supply-chain research group at the University of Sydney, drew data from 189 individual countries and all upstream supply chains.

The findings were published in May in the peer-reviewed journal “Nature Climate Change” under the title “The carbon footprint of global tourism.

Author Dr. Arunima Malik, from the University of Sydney School of Physics, said the complex research took 18 months to complete and incorporated more than one billion supply chains and their impacts on the atmosphere.

“Our analysis is a world-first look at the true cost of tourism, including consumables such as food from eating out and souvenirs. It’s a complete life-cycle assessment of global tourism, ensuring we don’t miss any impacts,” Dr. Malik said.

“This research fills a crucial gap identified by the World Tourism Organization and World Meteorological Organization to quantify, in a comprehensive manner, the world’s tourism footprint,” she explained.

Co-author Dr. Ya-Yen Sun, from the University of Queensland’s Business School and the National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan, said a re-evaluation of tourism as low-impact is crucial.

“Given that tourism is set to grow faster than many other economic sectors, the international community may consider its inclusion in the future in climate commitments, such as the Paris Accord, by tying international flights to specific nations,” she said.

“Carbon taxes or carbon trading schemes, in particular for aviation, may be required to curtail unchecked future growth in tourism-related emissions,” said Dr. Sun.

Lead researcher from the University of Sydney, Professor Manfred Lenzen, said the study found air travel is the key contributor to tourism’s footprint. He warned that the carbon-intensive aviation industry would contribute an increasing proportion of global emissions as growing affluence and technological developments make luxury travel more affordable.

“We found the per-capita carbon footprint increases strongly with increased affluence and does not appear to satiate as incomes grow,” Professor Lenzen said.

All aboard the electric bullet train from Shanghai to Hangzhou, China. China's high speed rail network extends to 29 of the country's 33 provincial-level administrative divisions, the world's longest bullet train network. May 2017 (Photo by Shankar S.)

All aboard the electric bullet train from Shanghai to Hangzhou, China. China’s high speed rail network extends to 29 of the country’s 33 provincial-level administrative divisions, the world’s longest bullet train network. May 2017 (Photo by Shankar S.)

Tourism Industry Asked to Act

Last week, the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Zurab Pololikashvili, called upon the tourism sector to take more action to combat climate change and biodiversity loss.

Speaking during a joint meeting of the UNWTO Commissions for South Asia and Asia-Pacific in the Fijian city of Nadi, Pololikashvili advocated for stronger partnerships and incentives for governments, businesses and tourists themselves, to make a difference in climate action efforts.

He emphasized that sound policies must be built upon accurate evidence, requiring the tourism sector to better measure its impact on sustainability. He acknowledged progress has been made on this front, including UNWTO’s development of a statistical framework to measure sustainable tourism.

The meeting highlighted the need for developing island countries to collaborate on actionable policies, with measurable results, to address climate change and biodiversity protection within the tourism sector.

UNWTO also pledged to raise further awareness of climate change’s impacts and effects on tourism through capacity building and educational opportunities.

“This is the perfect place to have this conversation on climate change, as Fiji continues to lead the efforts on climate resilience and sustainability not only within the country but in the entire region,” said Pololikashvili.

The Pacific island nation demonstrated this attitude as host of the 2017 UN Global Climate Summit, COP 23, when the Government of Fiji committed to the development of sustainable tourism as a tool to tackle climate change.

Each Tourist’s Actions Do Matter

The website Sustaining Tourism <sustainabletourism.net>offers tips for carbon-conscious travelers to reduce their carbon footprints.

Reducing the amount of energy consumed will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted, so:

When traveling:

  • Fly less and neutralize carbon emissions by offsetting your flight.
  • Use public transportation wherever possible. Take the train, bus, bicycle, or just walk.
  • Do several errands in one trip, carpool, and use uncongested routes.
  • Buy a fuel efficient car, and check the air filter monthly to increase fuel economy.
  • Hybrids save an enormous amount of CO2 and money. Plug‐in hybrids can save even more.
  • Check tires monthly and keep them at the maximum recommended pressure.
  • Except when in traffic, turn your engine off if you must wait for more than 30 seconds.
  • Remove car racks and other objects that add unnecessary weight.
  • Try to reduce the usage of air conditioning because it increases fuel consumption, use the air vents instead.

Use cruise control when possible, especially on long journeys. Sharp braking and accelerating wastes fuel.

At your destination:

  • Turn off the lights when you leave the hotel room.
  • Wear more clothes instead of turning up the thermostat.
  • Shut off your computer and unplug electronics when not in use.
  • Take quick showers.
  • Instead of using the dryer, line‐dry your clothes.
  • Recycle paper, plastic and glass.
  • Buy organic food as chemicals used in modern agriculture pollute the water supply and require energy to produce.
  • Use cloth or reusable bags when shopping instead of plastic or paper bags.
  • Buy produce in season, and buy local to cut the amount of energy needed to drive your products to market.
  • Buy products with less packaging or buy in bulk.

The Australian researchers advise that financial and technical assistance could help share burdens such as the impact of global warming on winter sports, sea-level rise on low-lying islands and pollution on exotic and vulnerable destinations.

Featured Image: A visitor floats in the warm Indian Ocean waters of the Maldives, a small island developing state, June 26, 2018 (Photo by John Jones / toolstotal.com)


 MaxNews

Wildlife Lives When Locals Are Paid

A sign publicizing the conservation effort in the Nam-Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area. July 2014 (Photo by David McKelvey / Wildlife Conservation Society)

A sign publicizing the conservation effort in the Nam-Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area. July 2014 (Photo by David McKelvey / Wildlife Conservation Society)

By Sunny Lewis

VIENTIANE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, March 20, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – An ecotourism strategy based on “direct payments,” to local people for the amount of wildlife seen by tourists, has resulted in a reduction in illegal hunting and an increase in wildlife sightings in a national protected area in Laos, finds a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Foundations of Success (FOS).

Scientists tested the new model in Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s Nam-Et-Phou Louey (NEPL) National Protected Area in northern Laos, covering 5,959 km² in three provinces. The park consists mainly of mountains and hills, and the area is the source of many rivers. It is named after the Nam Et River and Phou Louey Mountain, in English – Forever Mountain.

The protected area headquarters are located in the town of Viengthong.

The researchers used a direct payment approach to motivate villagers to reduce illegal hunting and trade, which is driving wildlife decline in one of the last bastions of habitat suitable for endangered and vulnerable species.

Nam Et-Phou Louey harbors one of the most important tiger populations in Indochina. It is estimated that there are seven up to 23 tigers in the area. Classified as Endangered, tigers represent the overall health of the ecosystem, as only the most healthy ecosystem can support enough deer, gaur and wild pigs to support this large carnivore.

Carnivores in NEPL include six cat species: tiger, leopard, clouded leopard, Asian golden cat, marbled cat and leopard cat; two species of bear: Asian black bear and Sun bear, classed as Vulnerable, and 11 small carnivores including civets, mustelids, and mongoose. A small elephant population persists along the Nam Et River.

Gaur are large herbivores that are the tigers’ preferred prey in NEPL. But guar are declining rapidly due to poaching for their gall bladders, which are sold at a high price on the black market.

NEPL has the largest population of the Critically Endangered white-cheeked crested gibbon, found only in Vietnam and Laos. Gibbons need large areas of primary forest with thick canopies to swing from and bamboo to feed on, thus their presence indicates healthy primary forests.

Sambar deer are very rare in Laos and are one of the tigers’ main prey. They prefer mixed deciduous forests, the predominant habitat of NEPL.

Three species of otters are found in NEPL, at least one of which is classified as Vulnerable to extinction. The presence of otters indicates the health of aquatic ecosystems, irreplaceable support systems for both wildlife and people.

The new compensation model included a contractual payment to villages that was directly tied to the numbers of wildlife seen by eco-tourists as well as a reduction in payments for occurrences of hunting violations.

The approach was designed to reduce illegal hunting pressure, increase wildlife sightings, and ultimately wildlife numbers, while generating ongoing economic incentives for conservation.

Scientists who implemented and then monitored this approach for four years found a three-fold increase in signs of hunting in the non-tourism sector of the National Protected Area but no hunting increase in the ecotourism sector.

An overall increase in wildlife sightings was observed. A wide range of threatened species benefited from the program, including Sambar deer, barking deer, primates and small carnivores.

“If eco-tourism or nature tourism is going to help increase these wildlife populations, there must be a direct link between the incentives for communities and the wildlife itself,” said Bounpheng Phoomsavath, director of Nam-Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area.

“Many projects claim to be benefiting wildlife but they often lack this direct link. Villagers get benefits but the wildlife populations continue to decline. The direct links are the key to our success,” Phoomsavath said.

In cases where ecotourism is used as a biodiversity conservation strategy, projects are often questioned for lack of resulting proof that threats to biodiversity have been averted or conditions for biodiversity have been improved.

“This study illustrates the importance of monitoring along a theory of change to evaluate if and how a conservation strategy is leading to expected outcomes and to inform adaptive management,” said WCS Lao PDR Deputy Country Director Dr. Santi (Joy) Saypanya.

The scientists say their study “provides key lessons on the design of a direct payments approach for an ecotourism strategy, including how to combine threat monitoring and data on wildlife sightings to evaluate strategy effectiveness, on setting rates for wildlife sightings and village fees, and the utility of the approach for protecting very rare species.”


Featured Image: A tiger in the Nam-Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area, Laos, 2011 (Photo courtesy Nam-Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area)

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Discover the World of Sustainable Hospitality

World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Taleb Rifai (third from left) at the opening session of World Tourism Day in Doha, Qatar, September 27, 2017 (Photo courtesy World Tourism Organization) Posted for media use

World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Taleb Rifai (third from left) at the opening session of World Tourism Day in Doha, Qatar, September 27, 2017 (Photo courtesy World Tourism Organization) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, October 3, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – A one-month worldwide trip visiting sustainable tourism initiatives is the prize that will go to the winner of a new competition hosted by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to select the world’s most responsible traveler.

With the aim of promoting responsible travel, the initiative is part of the Travel.Enjoy.Respect campaign taking place as part of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.

“Every action counts and travelers have a strong role to play in building a more sustainable tourism sector. Imagine the impact of one small action multiplied by millions,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai of Jordan. “We want to inspire all travelers to be the change they want to see in the world.”

The winner’s journey will be supported by Explore WorldWide, an adventure travel group with a commitment to responsible travel. Destinations including: Colombia, Germany, Mexico, the United Arab Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah and the Léman region in Switzerland have offered to host the winner and showcase responsible, sustainable tourism practices.

In this International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, World Tourism Day celebrated on September 27, was particularly meaningful.

The 2017 World Tourism Day took place in Doha, Qatar, where Rifai warned an audience of senior travel officials from around the world that this is “a crucial time for tourism.”

Even with global challenges such as climate change, migration and security, the UNWTO chief said that in 2016, a total of 1.235 billion travellers crossed international borders, a number equal to nearly one-sixth of the world population.

By 2030 the number of travelers crossing international borders in a year will have reached 1.8 billion, predicted Rifai.

Rifai said that by generating US$3.2 billion of spending worldwide every day, tourism creates one-tenth of jobs globally, represents 10 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 30 percent of world trade in services.

“But beyond the numbers and the economic benefits, travel and tourism is today a major contributor to a transformation that slowly and gradually is bringing us together, as humans, like never before, in a fast, globalized world,” he emphasized.

Breaking down stereotypes and enabling people to celebrate rich cultural diversity, is “tourism’s greatest contribution to a better world,” he said.

Global Hotel Industry Sets Sustainability Goals

To drive progress towards a better world, the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) marked its 25th anniversary on September 26, one day ahead of World Tourism Day, by announcing four sustainability goals supported by ITP member companies.

Wolfgang Neumann, ITP Governing Council Chair, said, “We have agreed on a total of four core goals, with two addressing environmental issues – climate and water – and two supporting the people who work in the hotel industry and its supply chain. This even balance between planet and people reflects the passions and dedication of ITP members to make a real and lasting difference to a broad range of issues against which commitments can be agreed.”

  • CARBON: The goal is to embrace science-based targets to curb climate change, and encourage the wider industry to join in reducing carbon emissions.

Rising carbon emissions are accelerating climate change with devastating impacts on communities and biodiversity, thte ITP states. The hotel industry already accounts for around one percent of global emissions and this is set to increase.

The hotel industry must reduce its absolute carbon emissions by 66 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050 to stay within the 2˚C threshold agreed under the Paris Agreement on Climate; this is the quantifiable science-based target the ITP aims to meet.

ITP members also encourage the uptake of consistent reporting through the use of the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI), developed by the World Travel & Tourism Council in collaboration with ITP and already used by over 24,000 hotels worldwide. The initiative provides a common methodology for measuring and reporting on the carbon footprint of a hotel stay or meeting.

  • WATER: The goal is to embed water stewardship programs to reduce the number of people affected by water scarcity, improve water-use efficiency and identify ways to address water scarcity.

Demand for freshwater is likely to outstrip supply by 40 percent by 2030 and a third of the world’s population will be living in areas of severe water stress by this time, the ITP states. In many countries, water consumption per guest in hotels greatly exceeds that of the local population, so the industry has a responsibility to encourage responsible use and consumption of water.

To improve water stewardship, ITP members commit to embedding water stewardship programs across their hotel portfolios.

Members encourage the uptake of the Hotel Water Measurement Initiative (HWMI), a common methodology for measuring and reporting on the water footprint of a hotel stay or meeting.

Developed by the International Tourism Partnership in partnership with auditor KPMG and 18 global hotel companies, and launched in August 2016, HWMI is free of charge and can be used by any hotel anywhere in the world, from small guesthouses to Five Star resorts. HWMI is now used by more than 12,000 ITP-member properties.

  • YOUTH EMPLOYMENT: The goal is to collectively impact one million young people through employability programs by 2030, doubling the industry’s current impact on youth unemployment.

Worldwide, more than 71 million young people, aged 15 to 24, are looking for work and 156 million young workers are living in poverty, often due to unstable, irregular jobs. Many find themselves working in difficult or dangerous conditions, often outside the boundaries of the formal economy, the ITP states.

The hotel industry is well-equipped to offer meaningful work and career development options to young people, as it is growing at four percent each year, and currently providing around one in 10 of all jobs.

ITP members also encourage the uptake of the Youth Career Initiative, created by the industry to bridge the gap between youth unemployment and a poor talent pipeline for hotels to recruit. There are more than 3,000 YCI graduates to date across 14 countries, with an 85 percent success rate of employment or returning to education.

  • HUMAN RIGHTS: The goal is to raise awareness of human rights risks, embed human rights into corporate governance, and address risks arising in the labor supply chain and during hotel construction.

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms to which all people are entitled. ITP members are focused on fighting modern slavery, human trafficking, and encouraging awareness, transparency and remediation of human rights abuses.

ITP members commit to further raising awareness of human rights risks in the hotel industry. They pledge to embed human rights into corporate governance requirements; work to address human rights risks in the labor supply chain, including elimination of fees charged to workers to secure employment; and identify ways to address human rights risks during the development and construction phase of hotels.

“ITP believes that the hotel industry can be a force for good and make a positive contribution to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and to the COP21 climate agreements,” said Neumann. “Our vision for 2030 is for sustainable growth and a fairer future for all. We understand that bigger impacts can be achieved faster through the industry working together at scale; for this reason we invite other hotel companies to join with us in our commitment to these four critical goals.”

ITP Director Fran Hughes commented, “This cross-industry alignment to a single set of Goals is a fantastic achievement for the International Tourism Partnership. It is also a reflection of the increasing importance that the hospitality industry attaches to sustainability issues.”

“As we move into the second half of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, business leaders have put competition to one side to create an ambitious vision for the future and a rallying call to the whole industry,” Hughes said. “By working together, I feel certain that these businesses will create a more sustainable future for the entire hospitality industry.”

Based in London, the International Tourism Partnership is a program of Business in the Community (BITC), the Prince’s Responsible Business Network. ITP is one of a group of not-for-profit organizations of which Charles, the Prince of Wales, is president.

Top Green Hotels Honored

The United Arab Emirates’ Sir Bani Yas Island is showing the world how sustainable travel looks and feels.

Nominated a World’s Leading Sustainable Tourism Destination 2017 for the World Travel Awards, Sir Bani Yas Island won this award in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The natural island is part of the UAE’s Al Gharbia region. Dominated by the Arabian Wildlife Park, with 13,000 roaming animals such as giraffes, cheetahs and gazelles, the island has multiple archaeological sites, including an ancient Christian monastery. Salt dome hills define the island’s desert interior. The coast features beaches, sea kayak routes and a shipwreck; flocks of flamingos grace a mangrove lagoon.

Many green hotels in Sir Bani Yas Island are energy efficient and LEED certified, while others provide organic products and focus on recycling programs. These eco-aware establishments have a low impact on the environment as they use solar panels and biodegradable materials, and offer eco-tourism activities such as archery and falconry.

At Al-Sahel Villa Resort, with its 30 private one and two-bedroom villas, General Manager Christian Gerart says, “More than 90 percent of the island is dedicated to nature and wildlife, and our resorts have recently been certified gold to the

Green Growth 2050 Global Standard, recognising our excellence in environmental, socioeconomic and cultural sustainability.”

He told “Good” magazine for the November 2016 issue that humans and wildlife can interact freely on Sir Bani Yas Island. “We constantly undertake research and conservation efforts as part of the development of suitably diverse habitats in the Arabian wildlife park on the island,” Gerart said. “Our aim is to maintain a working ecosystem for the animals, where natural interactions happen within and between species as they do in the wild.”

And finally, the award for the World’s Most Sustainable Hotel for 2016 was handed to Italy’s Vigilius Mountain Resort at the World Boutique Hotel awards November 9 at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall, London.

No road, no cars, no noise, no stress at the Vigilius Mountain Resort, just silence and nature. Guests arrive after a short trip by cable car at a modernist chalet, a mountain hotel in South Tyrol 1,500 meters above sea level.

Owner Ulrich Ladurner says, “As a sustainable hotel, the Vigilius Mountain Resort contributes to this in a variety of ways at once: as a “green hotel” and an A-class ClimateHouse, which works economically and using only renewable resources.”

Ulrich explains, “The key to the success of this sustainable hotel is solely and exclusively our staff and their authentic amiability. The mountain is honest and simple, we want to emulate it. Those might be very simple values but they no longer go without saying. … Anyone who comes here is looking to find themselves and to find us. In simplicity. We want to give you that.”


CapacityBuildingBillboard970x250.160312Featured Images: Guests enjoy sunset at a hotel on the United Arab Emirates’s Sir Bani Yas Island. (Photo courtesy Sir Bani Yas Island) Posted for media use.

Sacred Sites Strategize for Impact Investments

 Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India. December 1999 (Photo by Ryan) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India. December 1999 (Photo by Ryan) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, August 1, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Representatives of sacred places and cities that attract spiritual pilgrims are working with highly placed conservationists to create a dedicated fund for their environmental protection by relying on the investment community’s growing commitment to ethical or impact investment.

The altar at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, September 2009. (Photo by Jay-Ar Cruz) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

The altar at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, September 2009. (Photo by Jay-Ar Cruz) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

In London last week, proposals totaling nearly a billion dollars were discussed in a meeting organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), which was founded in 1995 by HRH Prince Philip.

ARC is a secular body that helps the major religions of the world to develop their own environmental programs, based on their own core teachings, beliefs and practices.

ARC now works with 11 major faiths, helping the religions link with key environmental organizations, creating powerful alliances between faith communities and conservation groups.

The event at The Wesley, the UK Methodists’ first eco-hotel in London, was co-hosted by R20, a not-for-profit, public-private partnership that envisions mobilizing the regions of the world to be leaders for green growth.

Founded in 2010 by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other subnational leaders in cooperation with the United Nations, R20’s mission is to support local governments in the creation and successful financing of renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure projects.

The projects chosen are ones that produce measurable environmental, social and economic benefits, as well as attractive financial returns for investors.

According to the R20 Executive Director Christophe Nuttall, “The investment community, which has already made great strides in ethical investment, is starting to realize that religions are producing structured investable projects in this area.”

The aim of the London meeting was to set up a structure for faiths to access impact investments.

Pioneering impact investor BlueOrchard, and R20, together with ARC, are proposing to build just such a dedicated fund for sacred places and pilgrim cities.

Based in Switzerland, BlueOrchard was founded in 2001 by the United Nations as the world’s first commercial manager of microfinance debt investments worldwide. BlueOrchard now has a total of seven offices on four continents.

To date, BlueOrchard has invested US$4 billion in 350 institutions across 70 countries, providing access to financial and related services to over 30 million low-income individuals.

On July 25, the BlueOrchard Microfinance Fund exceeded the US$1 billion investment mark for the first time since its inception in 1998.

“Having proven for almost two decades how social impact, outstanding financial returns and environmental developments go hand in hand, BlueOrchard has become the industry’s thought and innovation leader,” says Peter  Fanconi, who chairs BlueOrchard’s Board of Directors.

Inside a mosque in Fez, Morocco, January 2011. (Photo by Anna & Michal) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Inside a mosque in Fez, Morocco, January 2011. (Photo by Anna & Michal) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Ten pilgrim cities and sacred places were represented at the London meeting:

Naga, Cebu, Philippines: Catholic. The province of Cebu and Naga City are proposing to replace thousands of polluting tricycle vehicles with electric vehicles as the major form of transport to key pilgrimage sites such as the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.

Djerba Island, Tunisia: Muslim and Jewish business owners plan on developing infrastructure to accomodate pilgrim and tourist visits to sites such as the Ghriba Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Africa.

Etchmiadzin, Armenia: Orthodox Christian. Planning is underway for a model green pilgrimage city focusing on education, water and energy. Pilgrims come to see the oldest cathedral in the world, Etchmiadzin Cathedral, built in the early fourth century.

Fez, Morocco: Muslim. At more than 1,000 years old, Fez is considered the spiritual heartland of Morocco. The city is planning biogas collection for public lighting.

Fujaira, United Arab Emirates: Muslim. planning new pilgrimage and tourist facilities based on traditional Islamic architecture. Among other sacred sites, pilgrims come to visit the 500 year old Al Bidya Mosque, called the oldest, smallest and most beautiful mosque in UAE.

Jiangsu Province, China: Taoist. Chinese authorities want to replace old energy systems in 200 temples with high tech sustainable technologies that will be a model for other, secular development in China.

Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, India: Hindu. Two state governments are proposing sustainable financially viable ways to cope with the millions of pilgrims passing through to visit the tiger reserve, which forms the catchment area for 14 rivers and streams, including the Ganges. A core area of this reserve has been proposed as a national park.

Kano, Nigeria: Muslim. The largest Sufi pilgrimage site in Northern Africa, Kano hosts up to three million people at key times. The government is planning infrastructure and drinking water distribution programs.

Rameshwaram, India: Hindu. Separated from mainland India by the Pamban Channel, this town is the center of attraction for Hindu devotees across the world. Two of main attractions are the great Ramanathaswamy Temple, built in the 17th century, and the nearby Five Faced Hanuman temple. Businesses plan to overhaul transport, water and waste facilities for pilgrim visits to the island’s temples.

Zanzibar City, Tanzania: Muslim and Christian. The city is planning an eco-hotel and environmental education centre on abandoned land beside the UNESCO Heritage Site of Stone Town. Pilgrims come to visit the 500 year old Malindi Mosque, Zanzibar’s oldest, dated to the 15th century.

There were also three complementary business initiatives represented at the London meeting:

Amaravati Buddhist Centre, London, UK: Buddhist. This center is planning an eco-village for the 21st century on its wooded site in London.

Wesley Methodist Hotel Group, London, UK: Methodist Christian. This company is expanding its chain of award-winning eco-hotels to include the first-ever Methodist National Park, in Kenya.

Dartington, UK: Multi-faith. A 14th century historic house and substantial grounds and property are the central point for 40 organisations, including businesses, working on technological solutions to energy needs, agriculture, waste and water.

All 13 groups have produced business plans to attract investment for sustainable infrastructure enterprises.

A dedicated fund is needed, meeting participants agreed. In the short term this could help finance some or all of the attending projects. In the medium term this could finance up to 200 sustainable projects in different cities and places.

By 2030 this could grow to include 7,000 cities, some of which will be considered sacred, but others which will benefit from having local faith groups consult in investment plans, meeting organizers said.

While there is an increased interest in ethical, or impact investment from investors, meeting participants recognized that there is a real shortage of sustainable projects for sustainable funds to invest in around the world.

R20 and BlueOrchard have developed a unique value chain which, on the one hand, identifies and structures a portfolio of low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure projects up to bankability, and on the other hand, helps invest in these projects due to a de-risking blended finance mechanism with philanthropic, subsidies, equity and loans from both public and private banks.

R20, BlueOrchard, ARC and representatives of many of these projects will be taking part in the Faith in Finance meeting on October 29 in Zug, Switzerland. Find out more at: ArcWorld Projects


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Featured Image: The Laozi-Jinshan Temple, with a gigantic statue of Laozi the legendary founder of Taoism (Photo courtesy Mao-shen, Sacred Taoist Mountain of Eastern China) Posted for media use

Where Tourists Step Lightly, Biodiversity Flourishes

Rainbow lorikeets in Queensland, Australia, June 2013 (Photo by Dave Curtis) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Rainbow lorikeets in Queensland, Australia, June 2013 (Photo by Dave Curtis) Creative Commons license via Flick

By Sunny Lewis

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, May 23, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – “We share our planet with millions of species of wild animals and plants. They keep us alive through making fresh air, clean water and healthy soils; they are used every day to make medicine, food and furniture and they support cultural, recreational and tourism pursuits,” says John Scanlon, who heads the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

“While wildlife keeps all of us alive its future is squarely in our hands,” said Scanlon. “We alone will determine the fate of the world’s wildlife and in doing so our own destiny.”

Scanlon made these observations at the World Travel and Tourism Council’s 17th Global Summit in Bangkok, Thailand in late April, an event held in advance of the International Day for Biological Diversity, celebrated around the world on May 22.

In Monday’s global celebrations, held under the theme of Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism, people enjoyed the benefits of ecotourism, but also examined the potentially negative impacts that tourism can have on biodiversity.

Dr. Cristiana Pașca Palmer, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity said, “As we celebrate the 16th edition of the International Biodiversity Day let us all remember that by celebrating and protecting biodiversity we respect and give consideration to all forms of life that exist on this beautiful planet and that support the very existence of humans.”

Opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force in December 1993. This international treaty governs the conservation of the many species of plants and animals, the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. Based in Montreal, with 196 Parties to date, the Convention has near universal participation among countries.

Biodiversity and tourism are intimately linked. The travel and tourism sector is one of the largest and fastest growing global industries, accounting for 10 percent of global GDP and one in every 10 jobs.

And it’s growing quickly. The tourism sector grew by 3.9 percent in 2016, says the UN World Tourism Organization, with inevitable impacts on the animals and plants that visitors travel to experience.

About 40 million people are drawn every year to the Caribbean’s beautiful beaches and marine life, providing $25 billion of revenue annually, nearly half the region’s total income.

In Belize, which bridges the divide between the Caribbean and Central America and encompasses the world’s second largest reef, more than 50 percent of residents support themselves by income generated through reef-related tourism and fisheries.

Some 1.4 million people visit Australian parks every year to enjoy their natural landscapes and culture, contributing $23 billion a year to the economy.

“Tourism is like fi­re: you can cook your food with it, but if you are not careful, it could also burn your house down!” writes Jochen Flasbarth, director-general, nature conservation in Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

In his Forward to the publication “Managing Tourism and Biodiversity: User’s Manual on the CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development,” Flasbarth details the risks.

“Risks include the immense volumes of traffic and waste and the huge land and resource consumption connected to travel. Sensitive ecosystems, especially those in coastal and mountain regions, are also the areas that are particularly interesting for tourism. For example, an estimated 71 percent of the dune landscapes that existed in the Mediterranean region in 1990 have now disappeared. At Germany’s coasts of the North and Baltic Seas, this ­figure is around 15 to 20 percent.”

The key is responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and improve the wellbeing of local people who often act as stewards for the biodiverse areas.

“Many conventional businesses, such as hotels and tourism operators, have taken steps to ensure that they adhere to sustainable tourism principles and best practices in their day to day operations,” said Dr. Pașca Palmer.

She says many travellers are now making choices based on whether or not good conservation practices are followed by operators at their destinations.

Nepal’s Chitwan National Park is a great example of wildlife-based tourism generating local jobs, with government and operators engaging with and supporting local communities.

In Chitwan National Park on Monday, in the presence of the Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, ministers, representatives of local communities, international organizations, and media, Nepal destroyed confiscated stockpiles of wildlife parts. Parts of tigers, rhinos, leopards, pangolins, various reptiles and many other species were destroyed.

“Today’s event will not end wildlife crime,” said Scanlon, “but it does help to raise public awareness of the serious threats posed to wild animals and plants, people and economies by such crimes and it provides an ideal opportunity to make a very public expression of Nepal’s steadfast determination not to tolerate any poaching or illegal trade of its wildlife.”

“The strong measures being taken in Nepal not only benefits its extraordinary wildlife,” Scanlon said. “They are ensuring personal security, providing local jobs and community development, and supporting well-managed wildlife based tourism, and along with it the national economy.”

At Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in Southwest Uganda, tourists arriving to see gorillas have increased from 1,300 a year in 1993 to around 20,000 today, according to Dilys Roe,a principal researcher in the Natural Resources research group of the Lond-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

International tourists pay US$600 each to track gorillas and the Uganda Wildlife Authority shares US$10 per permit sold with local people recognizing that their support is important for conservation. But local benefits from gorilla tourism are very limited.

“Relationships between local people and the park are poor, and poaching, snaring and other illegal activities continue,” wrote Roe on the IIED blog on Monday. “This poses a significant threat to the park and to the long-term conservation of the mountain gorillas. It also represents a missed opportunity for harnessing tourism as an engine for local economic development in this remote rural area of Uganda.”

To address these problems, IIED is working with the Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation, the Responsible Tourism Partnership and the International Gorilla Conservation Programme to develop new or improved local tourism products and services that meet the needs and interests of tourists, tour operators and lodges. This project is supported by the UK government’s Darwin Initiative.<

“We know that tourism impacts on biodiversity can be devastating,” said Inger Andersen, director general of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “Land clearing for tourism infrastructure, pollution and uncontrolled numbers of visitors destroy critical ecosystems that are often home to threatened species and provide an array of benefits to both people and nature.”

“As the official advisory body on nature under the World Heritage Convention, IUCN sees these impacts first hand. Andersen says over a quarter of all natural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List are negatively affected by tourism.

But, she says, the impacts of tourism on the natural world do not have to be so destructive, and, “The industry itself can directly contribute to preserving the very places it depends on.”

In 2014 IUCN launched a new global standard of excellence – the Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas, which recognizes and helps ensure success in managing some of the most valuable natural places on the planet. Sustainable tourism is an important element of this success.

Andersen points to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, a green-listed area inhabited by the world’s last three northern white rhinos. The Conservancy recently won the prestigious Tourism for Tomorrow award for its work to improve lives in surrounding communities. It supports six health centers serving 20,000 community members, supplies water, solar power and ICT equipment to local schools, and provides cook stoves and solar devices to households.

“So we all have a responsibility,” says Andersen. “The tourism industry needs to lean in to create sustainable solutions for the industry and the consumer. And we as consumers have to work on the demand side of the equation, by booking our vacations and trips to destinations that support sustainable tourism. In that way, tourists will return home refreshed, but will also have contributed to creating a fairer and healthier planet, proving that the tourist industry can thrive while contributing to the protection of the planet.”


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Featured image: Silverback mountain gorilla of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, May 2013. (Photo by Mahboobeh Shirkhorshidi) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Boost Your Productivity, Take a Break

Meditation on a rooftop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at SHA Wellness Clinic (Photo courtesy healthandfitnesstravel.com)

Meditation on a rooftop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at SHA Wellness Clinic (Photo courtesy healthandfitnesstravel.com

By Sunny Lewis

LOS ANGELES, CA, April 03, 2017 (Maximpact.com News)

Hard-working, productive people need a break once in awhile to stay on top of their game, as many successful executives know. For instance, Mark Douglas, CEO of the Los Angeles marketing and advertising company SteelHouse, pays his employees $2,000 a year to take a vacation.

The results speak for themselves, Douglas told “Business Insider” in 2016. In the previous three years, only five people out of 250 have left the company, three for reasons unrelated to their jobs. “We have virtually zero turnover,” Douglas said, and he finds that employees who come to work recharged tend to be more productive.

Writing in the “Harvard Business ReviewShawn Achor says he’s been partnering with the U.S. Travel Association to promote the business case for taking time off from work. He finds that people who take vacations are the same people who get promoted.

Achor describes research showing that “when the brain can think positively, productivity improves by 31 percent, sales increase by 37 percent, and creativity and revenues can triple.”

That said, the question is: where can eco-conscious travelers go to enjoy a relaxing, refreshing trip, without the guilt trip?

The answer: many thousands of places.

In fact, tourism is now the world’s largest industry, with nature tourism the fastest growing segment, says the U.S.-based nonprofit Nature Conservancy .

The green lifestyle website Earth 911 says “A booming industry, eco-travel now boasts a whopping eight billion eco-tourist visits a year worldwide.”

There are luxury or bare-bones eco-friendly health retreats and activities everywhere around the world – from Italy to New Zealand, from South Africa to Norway, Australia, Bali or Hawaii, from Costa Rica to France, from California to Japan – just spin the globe and stop it with your finger. Chances are you can find a marvelous eco-travel destination wherever your finger lands.

For more structured advice to help travelers choose from among the multitude of destinations, have a look at London-based healthandfitnesstravel.com. Their travel experts offer their constantly updated suggestions for the Top 10 in a variety of categories: the best yoga or detox retreats, beach spa holidays, de-stress, wellness or weight loss getaways, fitness breaks, sportsholidays and more for singles, couples, families or groups. Prices are given on the site.

Their top suggestion for a yoga retreat is the Absolute Sanctuary Yoga on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand, a good choice for finding balance: mentally, physically and spiritually. Classes feature a wide variety of styles for beginners and advanced yogis. The Love Kitchen restaurant serves “super-foods from produce that is locally hand-picked.” A garden, library, spa, massages, a steam room and swimming pool are among the amenities.

For their top luxury de-stress experience, healthandfitnesstravel.com recommends the SHA Wellness Clinic in the seaside resort town of Alfaz del Pi on the Costa Blanca, Alicante Province, Spain.

This wellness spa and medical clinic offers activities founded on both Eastern and Western philosophies to promote a healthy balanced lifestyle. These include outdoor yoga sessions and macrobiotic cooking classes, an oxygen bar and floatarium, shiatsu, deep tissue massage, reflexology and stone therapy, as well as a hydrotherapy area with therapeutic pools and sauna.

One of the Top 10 in the Healthy Breaks category is the Kurotel Longevity Medical Centre and Spa just outside the mountainous tourist town of Gramado in the state of Rio Grande do Sul at Brazil’s southern tip.

This destination offers one-to-one consultations with medical, psychological and nutritional experts, a team that specializes in helping guests form sustainable, healthy habits without deprivations. All treatments feature local products prepared by an onsite cosmetics company.

Eco-conscious adventurers might want to experience the New Zealand’s Whanganui River on North Island, which earlier this month became the world’s first river to be granted legal status as a person.

The indigenous Maori people won an decades-long legal battle when on March 15 the New Zealand Parliament established a new legal framework for the river, New Zealand’s longest navigable waterway.

The 290 km-long Whanganui River offers great paddling adventures for canoe or kayak safaris, with easy-to-access huts and campsites dotted along the riverbanks. An overnight stay at Tieke Marae is a special highlight. Run by local Maori, the stop offers a chance to see local customs in action.

The river flows through the Whanganui National Park, a unique landscape of river valley systems with steep slopes and sharp ridges covered with native lowland forest.

The New Zealand Department of Conservation provides three Great Walk hikers’ huts and many campsites along the path of the Whanganui Journey. Jet-boating, cycling, hiking, bird watching are a few of the other ways to enjoy the river and the national park.

The Whanganui Journey is a remote and peaceful canoeing experience on the Whanganui River. (Photo courtesy NZ Dept. of Conservation) Creative Commons license via Flickr)

The Whanganui Journey is a remote and peaceful canoeing experience on the Whanganui River. (Photo courtesy NZ Dept. of Conservation) Creative Commons license via Flickr)

 

And in Chile, eco-tourists will have plenty to explore when they visit Patagonia, where the largest land donation in history from a private entity to a country was finalized on March 17.

Kristine and Douglas (1943–2015) Tompkins, American business leaders who made their fortunes from clothing brands The North Face, Esprit, and Patagonia gave Chile more than 407,000 hectares through their charitable foundation Tompkins Conservation.

Their donation will help create the Route of Parks, a planned 17-park network spanning more than 1,500 miles of Chile’s Patagonia region from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn.

Visitors exploring this year can start with Pumalín Park, which has been a private park with public access about the size of the state of Rhode Island first established by Douglas Tompkins. As part of the Route of Parks, the government of Chile is converting Pumalin into a national park for the enjoyment of nature-loving Chileans, global adventurers and tourists from around the world.


Featured Image :Outdoor yoga at Absolute Sanctuary Yoga

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Create eco-tourism projects through Maximpact’s Advisory and discover project services for all types of business and organizations.  Find a eco-tourism expert for your projects through Maximpact consulting network.  Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

Ethical Travelers Shape World’s Largest Industry

CaboVerdeTree

Giant trees are just one of the many unique sights on the Atlantic island chain of Cabo Verde. (Photo by Frans Neve) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BERKELEY, California, January 31, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Each year, Berkeley-based nonprofit Ethical Traveler searches the world to find the 10 most ethical destinations that beckon visitors with forward-thinking policies, excellent tourism infrastructure, outstanding natural beauty, and welcoming cultures.

A project of the nonprofit Earth Island Institute, Ethical Traveler hosted responsible travelers Sunday evening at a reception to honor the winners of the 2017 Ethical Destinations Awards.

The 2017 Ethical Destinations Award winners, in alphabetical order, not ranked, are:

•             Belize

•             Cabo Verde

•             Chile

•             Costa Rica

•             Dominica

•             Mongolia

•             Palau

•             Tonga

•             Uruguay

•             Vanuatu

By no means evenly distributed around the world, five of the destinations are in Latin America, and four of them are islands. There is only one located in Asia. None are in Europe or North America and none are on the African or Australian continents.

An article authored by Ethical Traveler’s Molly Blakemore, Karen Blansfield, Morgan Lance and Natalie Lefevre with Jeff Greenwald explaining the reasons behind the selection of this year’s 10 most ethical destinations also sketches the financial underpinnings of the travel industry.

Travel is more than an opening for good will,” the authors say. “It is one of the world’s most powerful economic engines, and can drive the way countries treat their citizens, indigenous peoples, wildlife and the environment.

They point out that travel is the world’s largest industry, with a trillion-dollar annual footprint.

This means that travelers have enormous power. Where we put our footprints has reverberations reaching far beyond our personal experience. By voting with our wings, choosing our destinations well and cultivating our roles as citizen diplomats, we can help to change the world for the better,” the Ethical Traveler authors say hopefully.

Every year, Ethical Traveler volunteers review the policies and practices of over 100 developing countries. The group then chooses the 10 that they believe are doing the best at promoting human rights, preserving the environment and supporting social welfare, while creating a lively, community-based tourism industry.

Ethical Traveler is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization. No money or donations of any kind are solicited or accepted from any nations, governments, travel bureaus or individuals in the creation of its annual list.

Now – let’s travel!

Costa Rica scored highest in environmental protection among the 2017 Ethical Destinations, a big improvement from last year, followed by Chile and Dominica.

The Central American country plans to go carbon neutral by 2021, and officials claim it has reached 81 percent of its goal. According to a report by its National Centre for Energy Control, Costa Rica ran on 100 percent renewable energy for 76 straight days between July and August of 2016.

The global refugee crisis continued in full force of need this year. In response, Costa Rica, along with eight other North and Central American countries, made a formal commitment to shelter and improve protections for refugees.

Costa Rica is also one of the few countries that are “actively and sincerely trying to combat the human trafficking epidemic by arresting and breaking up the criminal groups responsible,” write the Ethical Traveler volunteers.

Costa Rica did not make it to the Top 10 last year because no progress was made on preventing turtle egg poaching, and Costa Rica’s president had expressed his intent to weaken endangered shark protections.

While there are still indications of ongoing sales of sea turtle eggs in some markets and the nation is under scrutiny for inconsistent support of international conventions on shark protection, there has been some progress, the Ethical Traveler volunteers report.

Costa Rican delegates led international shark conservation measures at a crucial February 2016 shark meeting, and Costa Rica has reached an agreement with Ecuador and Colombia to increase the protection of the migratory routes used by sharks and sea turtles.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis has committed to nearly quadrupling Cocos Island National Park, where fishing is restricted to protect sharks.

The island countries of Barbados and Palau attained perfect ratings in air quality, as did Chile and Uruguay, which also scored 100 percent in forests.

Palau’s President Thomas Remengesau, Jr., a known environmental champion, established the first no-take zone, setting aside 80 percent of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone as a national marine sanctuary. He created the Marine Sanctuary Act to protect the oceans and marine life, and he is encouraging other countries to follow that path.

Praising Palau, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said, “If all nations that purport to support urgent action to protect the biodiversity of the international waters of the world’s oceans from bottom trawl fishing were as consistent and persistent as the Republic of Palau, the deep sea habitats of the high seas would undoubtedly already be safe from high seas bottom trawling.

The island chain that is Cabo Verde juts up from the Atlantic, some 500 km west of Senegal, marked by mountains, beaches and peaceful seaside villages. Cabo Verde has committed to being free from oil-based energy by 2020, and is striving to be at the forefront of developing renewable energy technologies.

Cabo Verde continues progressing towards gender equality. Women now hold nine out of 17 national cabinet positions, and three out of seven seats on the Supreme Court.

Of all the countries on the initial list, Chile scored highest in social welfare, ranking 42nd out of the 187 countries, the Ethical Traveler reports.

Chile also enjoys modern medical care on par with that of the United States, is 28th in world rankings for life expectancy and has a literacy rate of 98 percent.

Uruguay ranks third of 146 countries for environmental sustainability.

So far, Dominica is the leader in renewable energy usage in the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, with its current renewable usage at 28 percent. Its goal is to become fully energy self-sufficient by 2020.

Although the Caribbean island nation of Dominica suffered damage from tropical storm Erika in 2015, the government’s response to the event has been to rebuild schools, shelter displaced citizens and create jobs through road and infrastructure repair.

Dominica has a very high number of people living to over 100 years, and consistently self-reports as one of the happiest nations in the world.

Mongolia, the sole Asian country on the Ethical Traveler’s Top 10 List, has established goals to reduce its carbon footprint by having 30 percent of all energy output be from renewables by 2030, a big increase from its current seven percent.

Mongolia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism has made it clear that the government intends to have reviews and oversight of mining explorations to increase the transparency of those operations.

Belize’s top tourist destination is the country’s barrier reef, popular for scuba diving and snorkeling and attracting almost half of its 260,000 visitors. Vital to the country’s fishing industry, the reef is a 300-kilometer (190 mile) long section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the world’s second longest reef, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Belize’s government recently endorsed the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan 2012–2030, a strategic framework for sustainable tourism development.

Belize has several world-leading examples of sustainable tourism, and the Ethical Traveler’s volunteers praised the country’s efforts, saying they were “put forth as a true example of environmentally conscientious and sustainable tourism.

Belize has also committed to the 10-Island Challenge, which challenges nations in the Caribbean to become 100 percent reliant on renewable energy rather than utilizing fossil fuels.

Education is also a priority in Tonga and Dominica, with impressive literacy rates of 99 per cent and 94 per cent, respectively—well above the global average of 84 per cent—and

The Pacific island country of Vanuatu is extending free education through to the age of ten.

In the Freedom House yearly report on civil and political rights, Belize, Cabo Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Palau, Uruguay, and Mongolia earned the highest possible score while Tonga, and Vanuatu follow with the second highest scores.

These countries are beacons that we hope other developing countries will follow,” writes the Ethical Traveler selection group.

Freedom House is a U.S. based and government funded nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights.

We’re especially hopeful to see Mongolia move up in the Freedom House rankings, as they made human rights and political freedom a cornerstone of 2016’s parliamentary elections,” the group writes.

Ecuador was included in the top rankings as a Destination of Interest, although it did not make it into the top 10.

While Ecuador does not qualify as a top ethical destination because of serious environmental and human rights issues, we are including it as a Destination of Interest because of the important role of tourism in the recovery of the country after a destructive earthquake in April 2016,” writes the Ethical Travelers volunteer selection group.

Before the earthquake, Ecuador attracted 1.5 million visitors and tourism brought in $1 billion in 2015, making it the fourth biggest source of income for the nation. Because of the high costs of rebuilding the affected areas, Ecuador might otherwise turn to other short-term income generating projects, such as the oil drilling under Yasuní National Park, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, which was begun in September 2016.

Ecuador has much to offer responsible travelers: the majestic Andean mountains, the Amazon rainforest, indigenous and colonial towns, beautiful beaches and the fascinating wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.

Ecuador won the World Travel Award for South America’s leading green destination and Tren Ecuador’s travel by rail won Best Responsible Tourism Project in the World and Best for Poverty Reduction and Inclusion at the 2016 World Responsible Tourism Awards.

So many wonderful places for responsible travelers to visit – so little time!


Featured image: Glorious golden sunrise on a beach in Cahuita, Costa Rica (Photo by Armando Maynez) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of eco tourism and environmental experts that can assist your organization. Create responsible tourism projects through Maximpact’s Advisory and discover project services for all types of business and organizations. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

Sustainable Tourism in an Unstable Political World

GrandCanyon

Pima Point along Hermit Road on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best places on the rim to see and hear the Colorado River. The paved Greenway Trail continues from here towards Hermits Rest, allowing bicyclists and visitors in wheelchairs to share the path with pedestrians. (Photo by Michael Quinn / National Park Service) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, December 22, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – 2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the UN General Assembly has declared, but as Donald Trump takes over the helm of the United States with his natural resources extraction agenda, and the European Union gets used to the idea of life without Great Britain, can sustainable tourism thrive?

Luxury doesn’t have to cost the Earth, yet development often means altering beyond recognition the very sites to which visitors are attracted.

UNESCO maintains a list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. It lists many sites throughout the troubled Middle East. And, the United States, which environmentalists fear is soon to be plundered by President-elect Trump and his rapacious Cabinet, already has two World Heritage Sites on the list

Florida’s 1.5 million acre Everglades National Park has suffered damage due to Hurricane Andrew, and deterioration of water flow and quality due to agricultural and urban development has placed the Everglades in danger, and there has been continued degradation of the site resulting in a loss of marine habitat and decline in marine species, UNESCO warns.

Also on the list of World Heritage in Danger is Yellowstone National Park in Montana. Established in 1872, it is the first national park in the United States and is believed to be the first national park in the world.

But now Yellowstone is endangered by sewage leakage and waste contamination in parts of the park; potential threats to water quantity and quality, past and proposed mining activities, and a proposed control program to eradicate brucellosis in the bison herds.

As President Barack Obama, the president who has designated 23 national monuments, more than any other president to date, prepares to leave the Oval Office on January 20, he is considering at least one more.

Obama could designate a national monument around Grand Canyon National Park, a hot button issue in the Southwest.

One of the world’s great wonders, the Grand Canyon is protected from new uranium mining claims under an Obama-era withdrawal only through 2032.

In the event that Obama does not create a monument to further protect the Grand Canyon, U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, a Democrat and Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, hopes to do so through Congress.

Grijalva was joined by tribal leaders from across Northern Arizona in October 2015 to introduce the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act.

Grijalva’s bill permanently protects the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining claims; protects tribal sacred cultural sites; promotes a collaborative approach between tribal nations and federal land managers; protects commercial and recreational hunting; preserves grazing and water rights; and conserves the Grand Canyon watershed.

Arizona Wildlife Federation president Brad Powell said there could be movement on the legislation before Trump’s Inauguration Day.

Trump has said that as president he will sell off U.S. federal assets to pay down the national debt, and his administration, backed by the Republican Congress, is likely to remove protections from some of the public lands precious to visitors.

But in the United States, as well as in many other countries, the movement towards sustainable tourism has gone too far to be undone.

To help visitors find sustainable destinations in the United States, the Earth Day Network has partnered with Google for the launch of the new Google Maps Summer of Green, an environment-focused video and map guide to eco-tourism spots, including spas, hotels and restaurants. Google Maps Summer of Green enables users to discover green travel options by featuring guided virtual video tours of environmentally friendly destinations such as nature museums and horseback riding outposts.

Just to the south, Mexico Tourism Board used the UN’s Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity , held December 2-18 in Cancun, as the launching pad for a new campaign focused on the country’s biodiversity and its wealth of nature, culture and gastronomy.

Biodiversity is part of Mexico’s identity and is recognized abroad as one of its most emblematic characteristics, as well as one of the primary reasons why tourists visit the country. Visitors to Mexico can encounter 564 species of mammals, more than 1,000 species of birds, 864 reptile species and 376 amphibians, as well as over 23,000 types of plants.

Lourdes Berho, Mexico Tourism Board’s CEO, said at the launch, “As global travel trends suggest, travelers are seeking destinations that are rich in biodiversity and sustainability. As the fourth most mega biodiverse country in the world, Mexico is the perfect place for those looking to immerse themselves in authentic cultural, culinary and nature-filled experiences. We believe that what travelers are looking for lives in Mexico, and this is the basis of our campaign.

Sustainable travel is more than just going green,” says Booking.com’s Todd Dunlap, managing director for the Americas.

It’s also about helping to support and retain local cultures, economies and environments while traveling. Most people don’t know how easy it is to weave sustainability into the types of trips they already want to take,” said Dunlap.

Available in 42 languages, Booking.com offers over 670,000 hotels and accommodations at more than 79,000 destinations in 212 countries and territories worldwide. It features over 49,000,000+ reviews written by guests after their stay, and attracts online visitors from both leisure and business markets around the globe.

There are many ways to be a conscientious traveler … without having to sacrifice comfort levels or relaxation,” Dunlap said. “Guests may not realize that as they sleep on organic cotton sheets, washed with water heated by energy generated from the hotel itself, they are staying sustainably. Or that when eating a meal made from ingredients sourced within 20 miles of their accommodation, they are a sustainable traveler supporting local business.

Many of the world’s best accommodations already provide these stealthily sustainable amenities to make sure their guests can enjoy all the luxuries of a vacation guilt-free,” he said. “In fact, you might already be a sustainable traveler and not even know it, that’s how seamless sustainable choices in accommodation can be!

Booking.com points to luxury hotels around the world that glory in their sustainability, such as The Savoy Hotel in London, which has become a pioneer of going green, winning numerous sustainability awards over the past nine years for its innovation in eco-friendly amenities and facilities.

The Rubens at the Palace hotel in London has the largest living wall, erected in an effort to combat the chronic stormwater run-off problem they have been experiencing due to vanishing green spaces.

HotelMilan

Hotel Milano Scala, a boutique hotel in the heart of Milan, is the first totally eco-sustainable hotel in Milan. Its 62 rooms and suites are dedicated to music, culture and sustainability. (Photo by Bruno Cordioli) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Visitors increasingly appreciate such efforts. A 2015 study by Booking.com found that 52 percent of travellers are likely to choose a destination based on its environmental impact, and that travellers are three times as likely to plan to stay in more green accommodations in 2015 than they did in 2014.

Rachel Dodds of the Canada-based website Sustaining Tourism points to a 2015 study by Expedia finding that almost a third of consumers (29 percent) would be likely to choose one company over another based on their environmental record, up from one in five (19 percent) in 2011.

There is growing sentiment amongst consumers that it is the travel company’s responsibility to be environmentally responsible,” she said.

Dodds gives the green nod to Hotel Milano Scala, Italy’s first zero emission hotel. “With their own rooftop garden growing herbs, room magnetic cards to optimize consumption and LEED certified, this hotel is green and groovy,” she says.

Civil society organizations throughout the world are engaging tourists to help protect the environment. For instance, the

Nature Conservancy’s Caribbean Challenge has, to date, designated 50 new marine/coastal protected areas. The aim is to conserve at least 20 percent of their nearshore marine and coastal environments in national marine protected areas by 2020, and to get the 40 million tourists who visit the Caribbean each year to help fund the cause with their donations.

Industry organizations are doing their part in Antalya, Turkey. There, for the first time in Turkey, the Belek Tourism Investors Association, Betuyab, founded in 1988 by investor companies with the leadership of the Ministry of Tourism, are ensuring sustainable tourism in the region.

For sustainability, all existing tourism establishments are connected to three wastewater purification plants. Some of the wastewater is used for irrigation, while the remaining water is completely cleaned and released back into nature.

Worldwide, the appetite for sustainable tourism and the will to satisfy it is growing.

A 2015 study for the Province of Ontario in Canada found that 61 percent of respondents were very or extremely interested in businesses or destinations showcasing their sustainability initiatives, and 73 percent are somewhat or extremely likely to consider sustainability in their travel plans.

The World Travel and Tourism Council  declares that members of the industry have generally improved their carbon efficiency by 20 percent in the last 10 years.

WTTC head David Scowsill writes in the organization’s latest report, “WTTC promotes sustainable growth for the sector, working with governments and international institutions to create jobs, to drive exports and to generate prosperity.

WTTC reports that, “Travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest economic sectors, supporting 285 million jobs and generating 9.8 percent of global GDP in 2015.

The organization reports that the tendency to buy holidays from socially responsible brands appears to be strongest in Asia-Pacific (64 percent), Latin America (63 percent) and Middle East/Africa (63 percent).

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 Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of eco tourism and environmental experts that can assist your organization. Create responsible tourism projects through Maximpact’s Advisory and discover project services for all types of business and organizations. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

 

Footsteps of a Responsible Traveller

TableMountainMan1

Visitor stands at the top of Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town, South Africa, January 2015 (Photo by Meraj Chhaya) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, July 5, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A luxurious hotel in Dubai rescues, rehabilitates and releases sea turtles and educates guests about turtle conservation… a hotel and restaurant association in India’s Kerala state works to ensure no food is wasted… accessible only by boat, a rainforest lodge and chocolate farm in Panama borders a spectacular National Marine Park…

These are just three of the 75 organizations in 30 countries longlisted for the 2016 World Responsible Tourism Awards at World Travel Market London, sponsored by the Belize Tourism Board.

In fact, Belize’s Reef Conservation International (ReefCI) is also on the longlist for protection of its section of the world’s second longest reef, where whale sharks play.

The 2016 list of finalists will be released in August, with the winners announced in a ceremony at World Travel Market London during World Responsible Tourism Day on November 8.

Justin Francis, managing director of Responsible Travel and founder of the awards, said, “This is an exciting time of year. It’s when we first get our real glimpse into diversity of the stellar work being done in responsible tourism worldwide.”

“There are a few things which have really got me excited this year and one is seeing representatives from destinations such as Dubai, places we don’t usually associate with responsible tourism, included in the longlist for the first time. For me this is a clear indication that the wider tourism industry is really recognizing the importance and benefits of operating in a responsible way.”

Tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing industries. International tourists numbered 982 million in the year 2000 and the World Tourism Organization projects up to 1.6 billion tourists annually by 2020.

International tourism is a trillion-dollar business, accounting for up to nine percent of global GDP. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that tourism is expected to continue to grow by 3.3 percent annually through 2030, generating one in 12 jobs globally.

While providing jobs, tourism can cause problems – environmental degradation, social dislocation, loss of cultural heritage, and economic dependence.

Learning about the negative impacts of tourism has led many people to seek more responsible holidays. In fact, sustainable tourism is becoming so popular that what is now viewed as alternative will soon be considered mainstream.

Sustainable, or responsible, tourism “respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment,” according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.

SloveniaCapital

Ljubljana, Slovenia will host the Global Green Destinations conference in September. (Photo by Lorenzo Magnis) Creative Commons license via Flickr

On World Tourism Day, September 27, a two-day conference, Global Green Destinations Day will begin in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, which earned the title of European Green Capital 2016. Experts in sustainable development and green tourism, opinion leaders, and representatives of destinations, associations, hoteliers and tour operators will gather.

The main partner and co-organizer of the event is Ljubljana Tourism, in cooperation with the Slovenian Tourist Board.

At Global Green Destinations Day the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations 2016 will be named, featuring the world’s most successful sustainable tourism destinations, as well as the best providers of green solutions in the tourism sector.

Increasing the number of visitors to protected areas can be an effective tool for conservation and community development, if well-functioning management systems are in place, according to a 2014 report released at the World Parks Congress hosted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Sydney, Australia.

Highlighting a global collection of case studies from Machu Picchu in Peru to the Damaraland Camp in Namibia, the IUCN report, “Tourism and Visitor Management in Protected Areas: Guidelines for Sustainability,” includes contributions from more than 50 experts from 23 countries and territories, and examples from over 45 countries around the world.

“Unlike other industries and human-driven activities, tourism in protected areas can be a strong positive force – increasing a sense of stewardship and revenues that are vital for the long-term protection of these important conservation areas,” said Dr. Yu-Fai Leung, the chief editor of the report and member of the IUCN WCPA Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group. “By contrast, reduced visitor numbers to protected areas can signal a lack of political interest or public support.

There is money to be made in sustainable tourism, which is why “green” hotels are getting an increasing amount of investment.

The Tanzanian based Bakhresa Group, for instance, has appointed Verde Hotels  of South Africa to overhaul and upgrade the old Mtoni Marine Hotel in Zanzibar. The brand new five star property will be known as Hotel Verde, Zanzibar’s greenest hotel.

“We are serious about being the leaders of the Green Economy sector and therefore we approached the developers of Africa’s greenest hotel, Verde Hotels, to ensure that Hotel Verde Zanzibar will be the greenest hotel in East Africa,” explained Said Salim Awadh Bakhresa, chairman of the Bakhresa Group.

Hotel Verde Zanzibar will showcase the integration of Five Star luxury and environmental best practice. Sustainability strategies for the redevelopment phase include: renewable energy generation, regenerative drive elevators, a grey water recycling system, responsible procurement, waste minimization and management, and indoor environmental quality optimization.

The original Hotel Verde in Cape Town is green from its energy-efficient LED lights, to its rooftop solar panels, to its zero waste to landfill policy. The hotel’s cooling/heating system achieves exceptional efficiencies by using heat pumps coupled to 100 boreholes and 11km of geothermal ground loops that use the earth as a thermal battery.

As a hotel management group, Verde Hotels constructs new hotels and renovates existing buildings that are then operated and managed by Verde Hotels , with sustainability at their core. The company’s stated aim is “to transcend conventional hotel and business standards whilst entering into a new era of environmental consciousness and responsible tourism.”

Verde Hotels aims to demonstrate that “luxury and sustainability are not mutually exclusive.”

It often comes down to small practical steps. In Houston, Texas, the Green Hotels Association offers a catalog of environmentally-friendly energy and water-saving products for the lodging industry with such water-saving devices as a toilet-tank fill diverter, which saves about 3/4 gallon of water per flush, is invisible to the guest, does not affect the flush, and costs about $1. Hair and skin care product dispensers save money and offer guests shampoo and soap at the push of a button. The association’s towel rack hangers and sheet changing cards ask guests to consider using their linens more than once.

And at other times, the big picture is the important focus. On June 10, the UN World Tourism Organization welcomed more than 70 experts from 21 countries at its headquarters in Madrid, to share experiences related to the measurement and monitoring of the impact that tourism has on destinations.

Special focus was put on the relevance and the opportunities available from non-traditional data sources, including social media analysis, geospatial data mapping, big and live data collection and usage, as well as the analysis of credit card spending patterns and the flow of visitors based on mobile device information.

This consultation took place in a climate that strengthens the role and responsibilities of sustainable tourism as a positive instrument for development, such as the upcoming International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in 2017.

UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said, “The declaration by the UN of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental, while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued” said

This Earth Day, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and the UK charity Reef-World Foundation (Reef-World) announced a new partnership for marine conservation and the sustainable development of marine initiatives and opportunities.

PATA officially endorsed Reef-World and Green Fins, a management approach to promote and measure compliance to an environmental code of conduct for sustainable diving and snorkelling activities for destinations and dive operators.

The top Green Fins member organization this year is Puerto Galera Dive Resort ABWonderdive B&B in the Philippines. In one of the world’s most beautiful bays, underwater photographers focus on seahorses and pygmy seahorses, ghostpipe fishes, frogfishes, flying gurnards and nudibranches of all kinds. Of course, the travel season there is over for this year as monsoon and typhoon season approaches, but there’s always next year!

Top Five Tips for Being a Responsible Traveller

  1. Don’t litter. Carry your own shopping bag. Avoid plastic bottles.
  2. Reduce energy consumption.
  3. Conserve water.
  4. Do not buy or eat endangered species.
  5. Inquire about the sustainability practices and environmental policies of hotels, lodges and guest houses at your destinations and patronize only those whose policies protect the planet.

Featured image : Chocolate workers at La Loma Jungle Lodge and Chocolate Farm, Panama, rated “excellent” by 297 travelers. (Photo courtesy La Loma)

 

Eco-Conscious Tourists Welcome, Destroyers Go Home

Bang Kachao

By Sunny Lewis

BANGKOK, Thailand, January 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Tourism can play a positive role in conservation by showcasing the value of existing natural and cultural heritage and focusing attention on the need for preservation. But tourists can be disruptive, and the amenities built to serve them can destroy wildlife habitat and disturb land needed as a bulwark against climate change.

Sustainable tourism is the key. It’s more than not littering and not buying souvenirs made from endangered species, but exactly what activities are sustainable and which are destructive? Groups around the globe are finding the answers.

The Pacific Asia Tourism Authority (PATA) is working with members from nine countries to cultivate a better understanding of how tourism affects the natural world.

At the PATA Academy, held in Bangkok in early December, a team from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its Mangroves for the Future initiative offered a seminar on Business Ecosystems Training, a product of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) that presents the basics of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

As part of the seminar, IUCN hosted a site visit to Bang Kachao, a 2,000-hectare riverine peninsula covered with wetlands and forests located across the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok.

As it is near Bangkok, Bang Kachao faces the degradation of natural resources, the reduction of green space, water pollution from households and industries, land-filling for flood prevention and riverbank encroachment.

Visiting Bang Kachao allowed participants to see how well-managed tourism and cooperation with local communities can help protect the peninsula’s habitats. They learned how sustainable tourism can help conserve wildlife habitat by providing income to the local people who do the work of preservation.

Talking with community conservation groups, participants learned that local wisdom and knowledge can contribute to the sustainable management of Bang Kachao through the restoration of its mangrove ecosystems.

In 2013, IUCN Thailand started working on biodiversity conservation in Bang Kachao. With Thailand’s Royal Forest Department, the Asia-Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management, community groups and academic institutions, IUCN supports efforts to conduct landscape and biodiversity surveys, to establish demonstration sites, and to promote ecotourism activities that benefit the local community.

That same year, IUCN and its Mangroves for the Future project partnered with the Marriott International hotel chain to protect the environment and support local communities in Bang Kachao and coastal areas of Thailand through mangrove restoration, the sustainable sourcing of seafood and local procurement practices.

All these practices are a part of daily life for conservationists in the world’s most magnificent, most fragile places. And they were not made up on the fly. Formal standards have been developed by an international body dedicated to sustainable tourism.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), a virtual organization that exists only online, establishes and manages global sustainable standards with the goal of increasing sustainable tourism knowledge and practices among public and private stakeholders.

At the heart of this work are the two sets of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Sustainability Criteria: Destination Criteria as well as Hotel and Tour Operator Criteria.

The guidelines are intended to apply to all forms of tourism accommodation, from large hotels and resorts to remote community guesthouses.

The GSTC Criteria are the minimum, not the maximum, that businesses, governments, and destinations should achieve to approach social, environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability.

Since tourism destinations each have their own culture, environment, customs and laws, the criteria are designed to be adapted to local conditions and configured for each specific location and activity.

And the guidelines have just become even more formal. In mid-December, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) published a new Technical Specification (TS 13811) “Tourism and related services – Guidelines on developing environmental specifications for accommodation establishments,” –  New guidelines help tourism accommodation go green.

As a member of the ISO’s Technical Committee on Tourism, the GSTC contributed to the development of the new standard.

GSTC Technical Director Guy Chester said, “Sustainable tourism is vital if we are to meet the recently adopted global Sustainable Development Goals. The Technical Specification focuses on environmental aspects and it is a tribute to the rigor and applicability of the GSTC Criteria that select criteria were adopted for this ISO document.”

Clare Naden of the ISO said, “The guidelines outline a number of things that accommodation establishments can do to reduce their impact, including conserving their use of resources, reducing pollution and better managing their waste, as well as ways they can make a positive contribution to the area. This includes things such as restoring natural areas of scenic beauty and educating staff, clients and the community of the important role they too can play.”

Tuba Ulu Yilmaz of Turkey, who led an ISO tourism technical specification working group, said the new guidelines are expected to be a technical reference for a wide range of stakeholders, not just accommodation providers who want to be more environmentally friendly.

“It is also aimed at countries with no regulations to constitute a framework; national and international bodies to assess and harmonize their existing schemes or certifications; and consumers who want the choice to choose establishments that have the environment in mind,” she said. “It will foster the ultimate goal of environmental sustainability and raise the overall standard of the tourism sector.”

But Geoffrey Lipman, president at International Coalition of Tourism Partners and chair of greenearth.travel, told a tourism workshop in San Jose, Costa Rica in November that “the travel industry is behind the curve in translating global policy into local level actions.”

The workshop, co-organized by The Long Run initiative of the Zeitz Foundation, the Costa Rican Tourism Board and the Chamber of Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism of Costa Rica, emphasized the recently adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals as amplifying the opportunity to realize the full potential of the tourism industry for the wellbeing of the people and the planet.

“Efforts need to be brought together to impact mainstream policy making,” said Lipman. “Everyone has a responsibility to link tourism to the Sustainable Development Goals and climate targets.”

Several United Nations agencies are involved in guiding and encouraging sustainable tourism. The UNESCO World Heritage Centre sets global standards for good management of the world’s most exceptional places.

Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti Plain, the Pyramids of Egypt and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are designated as World Heritage sites that belong to all the peoples of the world. This idea is embodied in an international treaty, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.

The World Heritage Centre encourages the 191 States Parties to the treaty to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of conservation of their World Heritage sites.

Sustainable tourism guidelines set the standards, and awards motivate extra effort.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) will recognize exceptional sustainable tourism projects on January 20 at an awards dinner in Madrid, Spain.

The diversity of these projects is shown in the category of Enterprises. Award nominees include:

  • Garuda Indonesia airline and its Bali beach clean-up initiative, which emphasizes the role of communities in preserving coastal areas;
  • Switzerland Explorer Tours, with a 100% electric bus tour and sustainable tour experiences;
  • Meliá Hotels International of Spain for promoting employment opportunities for young people at risk of exclusion;
  • The Treetop Walking Path in the Anykščiai Regional Park in Lithuania;
  • The Projeto Fartura of Brazil and its Plentifulness Project linking food, research and travel in 145 Brazilian cities.

The UNWTO Awards on Excellence and Innovation are held in collaboration with Madrid International Tourism Trade Fair and with the support of China’s Macao Government Tourist Office, Port Aventura, the Galicia Tourism Board of Spain, Hilton Worldwide, Etihad Airways, Mapfre Asistencia, Amadeus and the Paraguay Tourism Board.

 


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Samutprakarn Bang Kachao under creative commons license via Wikimedia Commons
Header image: Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and Botanical Garden or the lungs of Bangkok in Bang Kachao, Samut Prakan via 123rf

Wildlife Pays the Price for Ecotourist Fun

LOS ANGELES, California, November 16, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Drawn to the beauty of natural landscapes and the exotic animals that live there, ecotourists leave money behind when they go home, but they may also leave the wild animals they have enjoyed viewing more vulnerable because of their presence.

Protected areas around the world receive a total of more than eight billion visits each year. Ecotourism is supposed to enhance conservation through ecologically responsible travel.

But after analyzing over 100 research studies on how ecotourism affects wild animals, an international team of scientists in the United States, France and Brazil has concluded that such visits can be harmful to the animals.

When wild animals are habituated to the presence of humans, their behaviors may be altered in ways that put them at risk, the researchers have found.

When animals interact in seemingly benign ways with humans, they may let down their guard, said Daniel Blumstein, the study’s senior author and professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“This massive amount of nature-based and ecotourism can be added to the long list of drivers of human-induced rapid environmental change,” said Blumstein.

As animals learn to relax in the presence of humans, they may become bolder in other situations, he said. If this transfers to their interactions with predators, they are more likely to be injured or killed.

The presence of humans can also discourage natural predators, creating a kind of safe haven for prey animals that may make them bolder.

For example, in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, elk and pronghorns in areas with more tourists are less alert and spend more time eating, Blumstein and his colleagues report.

Interacting with people can cause a change in the characteristics of various species over time.

“If individuals selectively habituate to humans – particularly tourists – and if invasive tourism practices enhance this habituation, we might be selecting for or creating traits or syndromes that have unintended consequences, such as increased predation risk,” the researchers write.

“Even a small human-induced perturbation could affect the behavior or population biology of a species and influence the species’ function in its community,” they write.

Ecotourism has effects similar to those of animal domestication and urbanization, the researchers point out.

Research has shown that domesticated silver foxes become more docile and less fearful, a process that results from evolutionary changes, but also from regular interactions with humans, Blumstein said.

Domesticated fish are less responsive to simulated predatory attacks.

Fox squirrels and birds that live in urbanized areas are slower to flee from danger than their wild counterparts.

Blumstein hopes the new analysis will encourage more research into the interactions between people and wildlife.

“It is essential,” he said, “to develop a more comprehensive understanding of how various species in various situations respond to human interaction and under what conditions human exposure may place them at risk.”

This research is published in the current issue of the journal “Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

The study’s co-authors are Benjamin Geffroy, a postdoctoral researcher with France’s Institute National De La Recherche Agronomique in Rennes; Diogo Samia, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of ecology at the Federal University of Goias, in Brazil; and Eduardo Bessa, a professor at the State University of Ponta Grossa, also in Brazil.


 

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Tourists wait to photograph orangutans during feeding time at Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, Sabah, Malaysia. March 17, 2014 (Photo by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) under creative commons license via Flickr)
Slide image 01: Ecotourists stop a jaguar from crossing the river to reach a mate, Brazilian Pantanal, Aug. 22, 2011 (Photo by Paul Williams under creative commons license via Flickr)
Slide image 02: In Rwanda’s Virunga National Park a mother gorilla and her baby relax although a photographer is near. May 22, 2013. (Photo by Kwita Izina under creative commons license via Flickr)
Slide image 03: Ecotourists snorkel with fish in Brazil. (Photo by Benjamin Geffroy courtesy UCLA)