Robin prepared a version of the following for the meeting of the World Travel & Tourism Council in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The outcry for “change” has never been greater. While easily stated, real change cannot occur without real partnerships and new commitments. In the beautiful and diverse country of Brazil, a rapidly growing BRIC country and site of extraordinary World Events in 2014-2016, we engage in unequivocal commitment towards environmental protection, social and cultural enhancement and sustainable tourism. Powered by consumer demand and increasingly embraced by the mainstream, the time to move from passive listening to decisive action is now.
Tourism must build upon and create new and non-traditional partnerships and we must raise awareness for the vast intangible benefits of travel that permeate all levels of all societies; enhancing the well-being and common interests of all mankind. It is time to look beyond short-term gains towards long-term gains and to prioritize environmental planning as our most important strategic investment.
The United Nations framework (UNEP, UNWTO, UNF and UNFCCC) have aligned and since 2007, along with global conservation, travel and government entities, are developing “Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria”—the GSTC Partnership, promoting universal sustainable tourism principles. To date, some 11,000 companies are certified representing only 1% of tourism companies worldwide. Since 2010, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC ) and the UNWTO representing governments that have united on key initiatives to build tourism and sustainability to key policy leaders in dozens of important nations.
True partnerships are long term in nature, are values-driven for the greater good, and realize results that no entity can achieve independently. Those that involve private and public business, government, and non-profits, always offer a unique solution to pressing challenges. They may be those we have never considered; including partnerships among competitors. Benefits are far-reaching and include cost effectiveness, added value, organizational learning, and visible results that go beyond the corporate boardroom.
In Dubai recently, we were inspired by long-time WTTC members such as Bill Marriott, who despite dozens of economic crisis, continually involves his team in innovating change and who now takes a lead in the environment by greening hotels, greening the supply chain, greening customers, and greening the rainforest in Brazil, with a $2 million commitment from Marriott which is continued by CEO Arne Sorenson and his team.
At Tauck, we strive to set an example. My grandfather brought early travelers to the National Parks, and we have since spent decades supporting our public lands and the Native American and local communities. We have tours that visit over 58 national parks, uniting with others and our National Park Service and National Park Foundation, and beyond our industry to protect our national treasures.
As one example, in 2007, we expanded this concept in Southern Africa, and partnered with Wilderness Safaris, DeBeers Diamonds, DHB Bank and Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Camps. We brought post-apartheid reunification and local community involvement with new safari lands on the borders of Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. We made a measurable difference for the youth and families in the Malukele villages, a concept that has expanded to nearby regions to protect and preserve endangered wildlife regions.
The world stage is set for an era of real partnerships. Globalization, advanced technology, open politics, market interest, non-profit growth and a new generation. These are exciting opportunities. Our industry must take center stage, align in collaboration towards our defined goals, and you and your company will be needed to play an important role.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil