By Jeff Chu
Mar 23, 2021
TRAVEL + LEISURE’S GLOBAL VISION AWARDS aims to identify and honor companies, individuals, destinations, and organizations taking strides to develop more sustainable and responsible travel products, practices, and experiences. Not only are they demonstrating thought leadership and creative problem-solving, they are taking actionable, quantifiable steps to protect communities and environments around the world. What’s more, they are inspiring their industry colleagues and travelers to do their part.
There’s strength in numbers. It’s a lesson these Global Vision Awards honorees have rallied behind in order to raise awareness about issues in the travel industry and take impactful action toward accomplishing their sustainability and social justice goals. For one organization, the mission is rectifying the ways in which Black travelers are represented, engaged with, and employed across the travel and media industries. For another, it’s forming an international coalition to address how Earth’s most populous cities deal with climate change, sharing both knowledge and solutions. The third honoree is working with some of the world’s top boutique hotels to create baseline standards within the hospitality industry — guidelines that don’t just mitigate negative impact on the environment, but actively protect the destinations and surrounding communities for the future. We are truly better when we work together.
The Black Travel Alliance
Black leisure travelers from the U.S. spent nearly US$130 billion worldwide in 2019, according to research from tourism marketing agency MMGY Global — yet the Black perspective has been vastly underrepresented in the travel media. To remedy this discrepancy, 18 photographers, writers, and social-media influencers partnered last year to launch the Black Travel Alliance, which offers training sessions on topics such as brand-building and pitching. The alliance has since grown significantly. Members share contacts and job opportunities, host events, engage directly with companies, and amplify one another’s voices. BTA also gathers and analyzes data about representation within the industry, not just in advertising and editorial but also on trade show panels and in travel-sector employment.
Recognizing that global problems need global solutions, the leaders of nearly 100 of the world’s most populous cities — from Singapore to San Francisco — have signed on to the C40 collective, which seeks systemic ways to address climate change. Together, these urban areas are home to more than 700 million citizens and about a quarter of the world’s economy. And together, they have committed to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, improving environmental health, sharing knowledge, and pooling resources. That includes collaboratively financing bold projects in the Global South, a tacit recognition of global inequality: 17 cities, including Mexico City; Bogotá, Colombia; and the Philippines’ Quezon City, have received funding for projects related to mass transit, renewable energy, and ecological resilience.
For Amanda Ho and David Leventhal, sustainability doesn’t end with the mantra “do no harm” — it also means actively improving the environment and society. That’s why they founded Regenerative Travel, a collective of small, luxurious, independent hotels committed to that mission. “We’re using whole-systems thinking and getting to the root of the problem,” Ho says. All member properties — among them the Datai Langkawi, in Malaysia; the Ranch Malibu, in California; GoldenEye, in Jamaica; and Fogo Island Inn, in Canada — adhere to six principles, which include minimizing ecological impact and respecting the destination’s culture. Playa Viva, a resort in Zihuatanejo, Mexico (shown here and on our April 2021 cover), has an organic garden and charges guests a 2 percent fee, which funds a trust benefiting the local community. Knowledge sharing is another key tenet, so experts from member resorts conduct online master classes: Steven Farrell, founder of Finca Luna Nueva Lodge, in Costa Rica, led one on incorporating regenerative agricultural practices into hotel operations, while a wellness specialist from Hamanasi, a resort in Belize, shared advice for supporting staff well-being. And because accurate information helps guard against greenwashing, Ho says, Regenerative Resorts is collecting and analyzing reams of data to show what’s actually making an impact; its first white paper, published in December, uses case studies from member properties to establish the industry’s first set of principles for regenerative hospitality.