What is the definition of “sustainable travel”? I chose: Weekly travel

Arne Weissman

The term “sustainable” has become so flexible that, paradoxically, its continued effectiveness as an indicator of critical issues may not be sustainable.

In modern usage, it has risen as an acronym to describe practices critical to preserving environmental conditions: initiatives that can slow climate change, conserve resources and ensure that pollutants do not spoil the land, water, and air.

Then, in the name of sustainability too, people began to raise awareness of issues that are also important to the long-term prosperity of travel companies but go beyond the original meaning: a more equitable distribution of profits between global businesses and local communities, increased awareness and sensitivity towards host cultures, and building strength More diverse workforce, food sovereignty, tackling excess tourism, and ending the exploitation of animals to entertain tourists, among others.

The industry must address these topics; Each represents a primary concern. Perhaps part of the reason why all of these topics are included under “sustainability” is that, even in original use, it is difficult to define sustainable practices globally. For example, water conservation in the southwestern United States is a serious issue, but in Scotland, not so much.

The lack of an easily auditable definition and checklist of sustainable practices has not only expanded what can be considered a sustainable business, but has opened the door to anyone and everyone claiming, without oversight or accountability, that they are running a sustainable business.

Fortunately, more and more companies are beginning to look carefully and meticulously at their businesses to determine ways in which they can address issues specifically related to their operations.

And many of them, in the name of transparency, have publicly shared their status. Among the companies that have caught my eye for their efforts in this regard is the Travel Corporation, which earlier this month released a report on its impact on the progress of its initiatives; AndBeyond which was one of the first companies I saw to release a comprehensive report on their practices and progress; Intrepid Travel, which has quietly led the industry on many meaningful fronts; And Ma Sher, a supplier of branded gear and apparel, and its CEO, Derek Headon, is the CEO most knowledgeable about responsible travel themes I’ve met.

The last two of these companies are B Corps certified, a designation that indicates that they have undergone rigorous top-down analysis and scrutiny of their practices (“B” stands for “beneficial”).

There are too many travel companies that make sincere efforts to be responsible citizen companies; If you’re among those driving the industry forward, feel free to add what you’re doing in a comment below.

I attended the Tourism Cares Meaningful Travel Summit in North Lake Tahoe earlier this month. The nonprofit has embraced the word “meaningful” as its pole star, beginning a few years ago by creating a meaningful map of Jordan, which highlights local social institutions and lesser-known attractions in the country and brings deeper experiences to both visitors and host residents.

While “meaning” wouldn’t be the right label for every item that falls into the sustainability basket, I like it because it puts the traveler front and center of the equation. Each day, Tourism Cares Summit began with a “land acknowledgment,” which drew attention to the fact that the ski resort at which the meeting took place—and, in fact, the entire Lake Tahoe area—was home to the Washoe tribe for centuries before American expansion westward. The acknowledgment was meaningful to Washoe who was in the room but just as much to the audience. It certainly led me to search for more information about the tribe than was readily available in the regional attractions.

I also had the opportunity last week to participate in a roundtable discussion with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her country’s tourism officials. Similar to the acknowledgment of the land, the meeting began with a Maori recitation.

Interestingly, she spoke about the benefits to visitors who go to a destination that takes its stewardship of the Earth very seriously. “We want to make sure that when people come to visit, they feel good about doing it,” she said.

Strange as it may seem, in the eyes of some activists, travel has joined an unenviable constellation of industries that are seen as evil, unlike the big oil companies, big tobacco, and big drug companies. Perhaps this speaks to why there are so many initiatives around responsible “sustainable” travel. They are allowed to redress against a term synonymous with responsible corporate behaviour.

But whatever the name is, we must not forget our responsibility: Whether the primary purpose of the trip is lounging on the beach, visiting a museum, or eating local cuisine, people will increasingly, Arden suggests, want to feel good about their vacation. Regardless of the activity, before they return, they want to know that they have done more than harm by traveling.

Leave a Comment