Robin delivered a version of the following at the global meeting of the American Society of Travel Agents in Merida, Mexico, March 2014. The following is an excerpt.
Thank you for the opportunity to address the American Society of Travel Agents at one of your most important global gatherings, here in the beautiful Yucatan Peninsula. I’m delighted to be here with you today.
I’d like to talk with you about my deeply held belief that we in the travel industry can all be agents of change for sustainability and economic growth. Travel has a catalytic role to play. As members of the global travel industry, we possess a unique capability to make a difference, now more than ever before.
A Life in Travel
Fifty years ago, I had my very first experience outside of the United States; in Mexico, in the wondrous colonial, silver mining town of Guanajuato. I lived in Guanajuato for three months and my experiences with the people of Mexico changed my life and in many ways influenced the future of our family’s third-generation travel company.
Tauck is the oldest tour company in America; started by my grandfather in 1925 when he was only 23 years old. We have been in the business for 90 years. Today, our global operations help visitors of all ages and backgrounds reach 82 countries on all seven continents. The Tauck family is very proud that two generations of Tauck leaders have been inducted into the ASTA Hall of Fame. Their dedication to further the interests of the travel industry serves as an inspiration to my generation and the next.
The Time is Now: Global Growth and Change
There are exciting efforts underway to ensure that the greatest treasures of the world—places that enrich, inspire, and educate—are intact for the future and continue serve as sources of pride and economic growth. As leading members of the global travel industry, you have more power to contribute to the future than you may know. We can share our knowledge and resources, give back to places and destinations that transform us as travelers, and contribute to the sustainable growth of our industry.
The travel and tourism industry is the largest industry in the world, and it’s growing at an unprecedented rate. Consider this: the exponential growth in international arrivals has boomed, from just 25 million in 1950 to 1.8 billion by 2030. As this trend line continues to surge upward, we must think progressively and with great intention for sustainability. I see one billion travelers as one billion opportunities. You influence one in seven people on the planet. If one tourist buys local products today, they’ll be supporting, by the billions, the communities they visit through income and job creation for generations.
So What Exactly is Sustainable Tourism?
Sustainable tourism encompasses environmental, climate, socio-cultural, and economic impacts, often referred to as the Triple Bottom Line. It is a level of tourism activity that aims to enhance destinations over the long term. Despite environmental challenges, through partnerships, we can build policies for greater engagement. We can overcome and achieve the socio-economic balance we seek, especially in culturally rich destinations. Collaboration is making a difference, now more than ever.
Public and Private Partnerships in the 21st Century
If we are to be agents of change, then public private-partnerships will continue to play a critical role. Government, business, and conservation entities are embarking on an exciting, collaborative journey aligning their initiatives. For example, the United Nations World Travel Organization and the WTTC are united in sharing the goals of enhancing “tourism for tomorrow,” a strategic priority since 2010.
Today, more than 60 presidents and prime ministers have joined forces. The highest single voice driving global leaders for tourism is known as The Golden Book, presented to dozens of Heads of State. In 2010, President Calderon of Mexico was the first leader to sign on to this initiative. The alignment has resulted in new opportunities: new infrastructure, eased taxation, visa waivers, open skies agreements, and more. The Golden Book allows travel sellers to “sell well.” I am encouraged by the fact that responsible tourism is increasingly becoming the norm, rather than the exception.
Explore and Progress
The desire to experience new places has been with us for a very long time. In fact, the word progress in middle age English meant a “seasonal journey.” So the very idea of advancing ourselves, of making progress, has its roots in travel.
I have had the opportunity to travel to over 280 World Heritage Sites in more than 100 countries. As a U.S. Commissioner for UNESCO, I am engaged with international governments and major conservation entities in protecting World Heritage Sites on behalf of our industry.
We can all be agents of change to steward unique and iconic places. Travel enriches our understanding of ourselves and illuminates heritage and history. It reaches into the very fabric of what it means to be human. Cultural and natural heritage are our past, our present, and our future—the very basis of life a testament to our values.
In closing, I wish all the best to everyone in the American Society of Travel Agents for a bright future from one of your founding families.
Merida, March 2014