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What Is Sustainable Travel and How Do We Do It... Before It’s Too Late?

by Rebecca Adair

November 18, 2019

We have a simple choice in our industry: to be part of either the problem, or the solution.

We all face daily commercial realities that impinge upon our business decisions. Bills and salaries need to be paid and livelihoods maintained. But sometimes we are fortunate to work on things that can have a positive impact on society and the environment.

We’ve found that once we do some of these, our appetite grows for more. At Kemosabe we are going through the process of B Corp status, where planet and people are put on an equal footing to profit. It’s not easy to attain but we’re trying and will get there. We are also fortunate enough to work in the travel business, where the discussion of sustainability has been around for decades. We have built sustainable destination marketing plans and executed for governments, DMOs, hotels and airlines across the world — but want to do more. As such, we’re dedicating our next edition of Human Magazine to ‘Travel for Good’, promoting the best tangible cases in Sustainable Travel. A demonstration of proof to encourage more.

In 1972 the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment focused on the challenge of preserving and enhancing our environment. It was an issue rearing its head then, well before travel exploded. International tourists increased from 25 million globally in 1950 to 1.4 billion in 2018, two years ahead of the World Tourism Organization’s long-term forecasts. The United Nations in 1987 published the definition of sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. There have been many different definitions since, but we cannot deny these future generations the education and benefits that travel provides — sharing the beauty of countries and cultures and finding our common humanity. Practically speaking, travel and tourism generates over 10% of global GDP, employs 1 in 10 people and is growing faster than the rest of the global economy. It would be a travesty for these benefits and economy to disappear. We must maintain and develop it, but for the right outcome and the right reasons. ‘Travel for Good’ means travelling for the right reasons towards the betterment of ourselves and the people and environment we come into contact with. If we can’t do this then I personally believe we simply shouldn’t travel. In a world of increasing disparity, we can come closer through travel and by doing so generate and distribute both empathy and wealth to those needing it most.

The talk of Sustainable Travel has been going on for almost 50 years, but in those years we’ve seen mass over- tourism, cultures diluted, environments degraded, and mass transportation and built structures gulping fossil fuel and water to accommodate travellers. And we’ve seen nothing yet. You’ve heard or can imagine the growth projections.

In September 2019, HRH The Duke of Sussex launched Travalyst in his words “to pave a new way to travel so that everyone can explore the world in a way that ensures cultures, places and wildlife are unharmed and secured for many generations to come.” Many key organisations including, Ctrip, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor and Visa are now on board.

In an effort to add to this momentum, our next edition of Human Magazine will illustrate the actions that people and organisation large and small are taking today. We have asked our fellows in the travel industry for the single best action with tangible results already underway to positive effect. We say enough of the talking, and not enough of the action, so we celebrate and highlight these fantastic initiatives to inspire everyone involved in travel to accelerate, kickstart or enhance their own initiatives. The alternative just doesn’t bear thinking about.

If you would like to contribute or know a great project that may be included, please get in contact with me below.

John Speers

Fellow of the Institute of Travel and Tourism Head of Strategy & Performance KEMOSABE


Travel marketing