By Deby Stabler
The inaugural North American Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference successfully brought together an international community during the last week of January 2016 at the University of South Florida, Tampa. Presentations by industry leaders including Dr. Kelly Bricker and Dr. David Randle engaged, inspired, and called the 200+ participants to action. Additionally, numerous intimate break-out sessions enabled interactive presentations and discussions.
There’s much excitement as 2017 has been named the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. This “is a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability… while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued” said UNWTO Secretary-General Rifai.
Personal insights include:
- The power of responsible tourism in eliminating poverty and furthering the Sustainable Development Goals (including the important role of women, and using community-based tourism to unlock location specific tourism benefits) as the tourism industry continues to grow.
- The role of certifications and standards in continuing to move the tourism industry forward (such as GSTC).
- A need for formal, structured, or scientifically based methods to improve success of eco and sustainable tourism efforts (including EMS, TQM, system dynamics, etc).
- Innovation is key to increasing possibilities (such as GIS-based interpretation accessible with cell phone apps, HomeBiogas to turn waste into energy, and a dog trained to detect threatened turtle nests with 100% accuracy).
See you at next year’s North American conference, as well as the International conference in Korea.