It’s a viscous circle. Tourists seek unspoiled destinations but then threaten the very places they enjoy. Sustainable tourism is more than a public relations buzz-word, it’s industry survival. Celebrated actor, director and environmentalist Robert Redford, brought star power to this important issue at the recent Word Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Americas Summit.
“Tourism is a wonderful business, and it brings great adventure and experiences to people all over the world,” he said, noting that, historically, “there’s been a separation between tourism and sustainability, [a mentality to] just develop wherever you can, as much as you can, without any concern to what you’re doing to the environment.”
He also noted that, “the dialogue is changing to a more positive [notion] that you can have both sustainability and tourism.” Striking a balance between economic development and protecting the environment, without sacrificing either, is crucial for government agencies and tourism organizations, he explained.
Over the years, Redford has demonstrated long-term commitment to environmental conservation including building a solar-powered home in the 1970s and his ongoing support of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
An additional panel title “Succeeding with Sustainability,” moderated by Shannon Stowell, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, continued the discussion. “It’s about using your resources wisely. Small changes have a huge impact not only on the environment, but on the bottom line,” noted Chris Brophy, vice president of corporate sustainability for MGM Resorts International. “We are trying to shift our way of thinking, and it had to start with how we develop and how we build in Las Vegas.”
Overall, the consensus seemed to be that sustainable tourism is rapidly becoming mandatory for the travel industry to survive, good news for all of us who love wild and beautiful places.