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Sustainable Sustainability

by Abe Peck, Travel Weekly (15 August 2016)Sustainable Sustainability t0815destinationbetter_c

“Travel is like fire. Out of control, it can wreak devastation, but if you harness that energy, it will keep you warm, enrich your life. The power of travel is an incredible force for good in the world.”

That’s how Costas Christ, director of sustainability for Virtuoso, summarized the amazing race that marks today’s travel. More people can reach more destinations in less time than ever before, yet saturating pristine places risks crushing cultures and environments. How can an industry that accounts for 5% of global carbon emissions increase responsible repeated visits? And how can sustainable travel’s financial bottom line reach the green promised land without going into the red?

Sustainable travel, defined by the U.N. World Tourism Association as “development [that] meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future,” has gained traction from the backpacking days.

In May, Mandala Research published a report titled “The Role of Sustainability in Travel and Tourism, 2016,” which posited that 60% of 2,300 U.S. leisure travelers had taken a “sustainable” trip during the previous three years. They spent an average of $600 more per outing, and they stayed seven rather than four days on trips that “bring higher benefits to local communities including job creation, giving back and volunteering.”

“Travelers are looking for authenticity,” said one of the study’s co-sponsors, Barbra Anderson, founding partner of the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based consulting firm Destination Better. “They want to go to a place where they think companies are taking care of their business and the environment.” And, she added, “sustainable travelers spend 41% more.”

One trip in three years might not seem all that frequent, and the study’s identification of eight types of responsible travel, ranging from community to geo to agri, might seem too broad to some.

But Brian Mullis, founder and CEO of Sustainable Travel International and another study co-sponsor, called the report “a huge wake-up call.” Mullis’ Portland, Ore.-area group has helped more than 100 destinations protect natural and cultural assets, and he projected that 56 million to 60 million U.S. travelers are choosing destinations and travel companies based on sustainability practices.

“This is too big to ignore,” he said.

Continue reading this enlightening article on Travel Weekly.