Sustainability is undeniably one of the most, if not the
most, important transformations happening in travel today. Decades ago, conversations about “sustainable tourism” revolved almost entirely around nature-based travel – primarily African safari lodges and camps, along with a handful of small tour operators. From there, it spread to the Americas, in particular, Costa Rica
The moment that really sparked the larger movement came in 2002, when the United Nations hosted the first World Ecotourism Summit in Québec City. It became clear that we needed to take the ideas that started with ecotourism – protecting the environment and ensuring economic benefits from tourism to local communities – and paint them across the entire travel industry, from airlines and cruise ships to city hotels, holiday resorts, and so on. In 2005, the United Nations Foundation
asked me to help define a global set of sustainable-tourism criteria. Together with about a dozen other experts, I worked to create the Global Sustainable Tourism Council Criteria
. Today, those criteria falls under three pillars: environmentally friendly practices, protecting natural and cultural heritage, and social and economic benefits to local people.
It was incredibly inspiring when the luxury travel industry and large organizations such as Virtuoso and the World Travel & Tourism Council
also embraced these principles. Virtuoso launched the Sustainable Tourism Leadership Awards in 2011 and now hosts an annual Sustainability Summit with industry executives and travel advisors to help chart the path forward. Virtuoso Life
was one of the early travel magazines that featured regular coverage of sustainable tourism to show travelers how they can have the vacation of a lifetime while also helping protect the planet for future generations.