Today marks World Tourism Day, and between the overtourism threatening the industry and initiatives like orphanage tourism and cruel elephant tourism being boycotted, it’s a poignant day for all of us.
Typically, World Tourism Day recognises the ways we foster general awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its overall social, political, and economic value.
This year’s theme surrounding sustainable travel aligns with The Travel Corporation family of brands’ philosophy to “TreadRight” in all of its practices.
In 2017, a year the United Nations has designated as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, Brett Tollman, Global CEO for TTC and founder of TreadRight, addressed why now is the time for sustainability in travel.
“The travel sector has an important decision to must choose to use our sector’s distinct influence and capabilities to help shape a more sustainable future for our planet, or we can choose to watch everything we value – as well as profit from – erode and disappear,” he said.
“We need to ensure World Tourism Day is given an elevated value as it comes at a critical juncture for the travel sector around the world.”
As one of the world’s largest sectors, supporting 284 million jobs and generating 9.8 per cent of global GDP – the travel sector can help to increase public appreciation of the environment and help to spread the word on the value of connecting with the natural world and other cultures and communities in a sustainable way.
Tollman added, “Travel can help people see the fragile beauty of our planet and influence the decision makers.
“If the travel industry can move the world the way we move people around the world, then our influence can be incredible, but we have to act now and we have to act together.”
The belief that tourism can affect global sustainability is not new. In the 1970s, discussions and debates were being had about the “new promising field” of a “tourist industry based on natural resources,” and whether tourism would be invasive to the natural world, or if a symbiotic relationship between tourism and sustainability could prove tenable.
Four-plus decades later, the conversation has largely shifted to the idea that, while tourism and sustainability can have a symbiotic relationship, symbiosis is far from guaranteed, and all tourism activities will inevitably have both positive and negative impacts.
That is to say, if tourism is to have a positive impact on environment and communities, the travel industry and travellers must make a conscious and careful effort to ensure that happens.
Tourism can also contribute to environmental protection, conservation and restoration of biological diversity and sustainable use of natural resources, as the attractiveness of the natural world is a vitally important asset for our sector, proving that maintaining the vibrancy of natural sites is crucial to tourism organisations being able to continuously benefit from their existence.
“When The Travel Corporation first founded our own not-for-profit dedicated to sustainability in The TreadRight Foundation some 10 years ago, we did so with the belief that we needed to act responsibly within our own space,” Tollman said.
“Through the foundation, we’ve experienced remarkable success stories and witnessed truly inspiring achievements in sustainability while recognising an ever-increasing desire from consumers to deliver our travel product in a responsible and sustainable manner.”
Currently running two initiatives – the Wildlife Initiative currently partners with WildAid and Wilderness Foundation – Africa and Wildlife SOS – India; The Heritage Initiative currently partners with the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise to currently deliver our small grants to Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco in Peru, Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti in Italy, as well as partnering with Manitobah Mukluks to support the Storyboot School in Canada.
Outside of the scope of the two initiatives, all brands – through their contributions to TreadRight – all brands also support our water project partner Just a Drop.