The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) has been both inspiring us and supporting us for many years now. For their work in the tourism industry, and having to do with coastal tourism in particular, makes them undoubted Ocean Guardians. We want to thank them for all they do to drive our industry forward, and for their unwavering support of Bodhi Surf in our mission to do the same. Learn more about them, in their own words…
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.”
~ Hans Christian Andersen, The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography
At the Center for Responsible Travel, this is one of our favorite quotes. For us as travelers, exploring the natural and authentic offerings of a new place, growing in ourselves as we give back, and acting as good stewards of Mother Earth and her people are what drive us, and are what have made us passionate about using tourism in our professional lives as a tool for sustainable development. Did you know that tourism generates 1 in 11 jobs in the world? In 2015, that equates 284 million jobs created through travel and tourism. Considering this and the other numbers that the United Nations World Tourism Organization just published in their 2016 Tourism Highlights report, it doesn’t seem as if the tourism industry has any intention of slowing down: it grows and grows and has without interruption for over 50 years, with 1.186 billion international tourist arrivals in 2015. While the economic growth is critical for our world, this high volume of travelers does not come without impact.
Just imagine how powerful an industry is that reaches so many people in every corner of the world! What could be achieved, if every traveler, every airline executive, and every hotel receptionist, would work towards the same goals? And what if these goals were noble ones such as to fight poverty, foster education and peace, and minimize the effects of climate change, all while still making an economic impact?
At CREST we are convinced that, if managed responsibly, tourism can be a force for good and achieve all those goals. Responsible tourism doesn’t mean avoiding traveling, but to engage with the destination in an environmentally and culturally responsible way and to create experiences that leave a positive footprint. This is why for 13 years our small NGO has worked side by side with local communities to promote responsible tourism policies and practices so that they may thrive and steward their cultural resources and biodiversity.
A focus on coastlines
Recently, our main focus has been on coastal and marine tourism. This is not only the fastest growing sector in tourism; there is also an urgent necessity to introduce sustainable practices in times where climate change has huge effects on life in our oceans and on land. Who doesn’t like spending their vacation at the beach, becoming immersed by the Pura Vida culture, experiencing coral reefs or other coastal draws, and enjoying fresh seafood? We certainly do. Unfortunately, extensive and poorly developed tourism infrastructure on the coastlines, inefficient use of resources, waste creation and mismanagement, overfishing, and direct impacts from tourists themselves can bring irretrievable damages to coastal ecosystems, threatening the very tourism product a destination has come to depend upon. CREST engages in raising awareness and developing/implementing sustainable paths forward in partnership with local communities and travelers to enable all stakeholders involved in coastal and marine tourism to prevent such damages and to maintain the beauty, health, and longevity of their destination.
How we take action
The best way to spread the word is to directly address those who influence the development of tourism. One way we do this is by hosting international conferences on sustainable tourism development. Close to 400 participants have taken part in our symposia for Innovators in Coastal Tourism that included notable speakers, workshops, and plenary sessions to allow for best-practice sharing of social and environmental sustainability in the Americas. Most recently at an Innovators Think Tank for Climate Change and Coastal & Marine Tourism in 2015, we invited a much smaller number of experts and practitioners to the Dominican Republic in order to focus on tangible, hands-on solutions for a responsible development and management of coastal and marine tourism. The expertise shared at this conference is currently being compiled into a 2-volume book set, which will be chock-full of case studies and expert-essays on how the coastal tourism industry can move forward with best practices to adapt to and mitigate climate change impacts.
In order to introduce a broader audience to the impacts of coastal and marine tourism, CREST also produced two documentaries. The Goose with the Golden Eggs: Tourism on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast and Caribbean ‘Green’ Travel: Your Choice makes a Difference. These two films portray the challenges that local communities are facing through coastal tourism development and present positive examples of how tourism businesses can practice environmental stewardship and generate social and economic benefits for the destinations. A free Teacher’s Guide for Caribbean ‘Green’ Travel makes sure that students of all ages can learn about their impact and power as a traveler.
But one of the most important steps in raising awareness about the challenges created by tourism and finding solutions that can bring changes in the long term is to work with the local communities, who are the stewards and recipients of their natural and cultural environment. We often engage with and act as a bridge between governments, non-profits, the private sector, and civil society to help to develop sustainable tourism plans and policies that are culturally respectful and encourage local people and visitors to preserve their environment. We have done this in places such as Sinaloa, Mexico; Agrigento, Italy; Costa Rica; and currently as a supporting organization for the Initiative for a Sustainable Cuba. Project details are all available on our website.
This is how we meet our vision to transform the way the world travels – one traveller, one business owner, one destination at a time. And with a lot of work and a little luck, there will still be remote roads to roam and unique places to visit through the continued growth of sustainable tourism development and management. Our world is at stake, and sustainable tourism is no longer an option; it is an imperative.
Written by Samantha Hogenson and Helena Servé
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