By Jeff Chu
Mar 22, 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.
In order to ensure a broad spectrum of innovations were represented in the Global Vision Awards, Travel + Leisure editors assembled a panel of experts across the travel, hospitality, and retail industries, as well as the non-profit sector. These thought-leaders have each made concerted efforts to support more eco-friendly and responsible initiatives in their personal and professional lives. Each person submitted a list of nominations, along with a short explanation for each pick. Panelists were prohibited from nominating themselves or their own projects. Some panelists are affiliated with honorees on this year’s list; these nominations came from others on the panel, and were vetted by the editors without regard to the makeup of the panel.
All nominations were vetted by editor at large Jeff Chu and the editors of Travel + Leisure.
Ronald Akili is the founder of Potato Head, an Indonesia-based boutique hospitality group.
Ewald Biemans is the founder of Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort in Aruba.
Jessica Blotter is the cofounder of Kind Traveler, a socially conscious booking platform.
Denise Bober is the senior vice president of human resources at the Breakers Palm Beach.
Charles Carlow is the founder of Australian hospitality company Wild Bush Luxury.
Susie Ellis is the chairman and CEO of the Global Wellness Institute.
Daniela Fernandez is the founder of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance.
Julia Jackson is the founder of Grounded, an organization and annual summit focused on addressing climate change.
Neil Jacobs is the CEO of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas.
Natalie Kidd is the chief people and purpose officer at tour operator Intrepid Travel.
José Koechlin is the founder of Peruvian hotel group and eco-tourism company Inkaterra.
Jeninne Lee-St. John is the editor in chief of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia.
Martinique Lewis is the president of the Black Travel Alliance.
Sven-Olof Lindblad is the CEO of expedition-cruise operator Lindblad Expeditions.
Alyssa London is the founder of Culture Story, a media company focusing on Indigenous stories.
Henrietta Loyd is the founder of luxury tour operator Cazenove & Loyd.
Andrea Meza Murillo is the environment and energy minister of Costa Rica.
Hernán Mladinic is the Latin America representative for the International Land Conservation Network.
Nate Mook is the CEO of World Central Kitchen, a non-governmental not-for-profit organization providing food relief after natural disasters.
Bruce Poon Tip is the founder of tour operator G Adventures.
Shalmali Rao Paterson is a senior travel consultant at luxury tour operator Wild Frontiers.
Thomas E. Remengesau Jr. is the former president of Palau.
Nozipho Sasha Thorne is the director of programs for BoMake Rural Projects, an economic development nonprofit in Eswatini.
Rebecca Van Bergen is the founder of Nest, a nonprofit organization focused on the social and economic advancement of homeworkers and artisans.
Austin Whitman is the CEO of Climate Neutral, a certification for brands that reach zero-net-carbon status.
Gisela Williams is a Travel + Leisure special correspondent.
We’re kicking off this year’s Global Vision Awards with shouts-out to travel destinations helping us reconceive of how we think about exploration.
Places around the world — especially those at risk for overtourism and those whose economies are largely tied to tourist dollars — must straddle a difficult line. How do you welcome visitors while preserving your natural resources and communities? These destinations are taking measures to protect their land and communities for generations of visitors (and residents) to come.
3 Destinations Leading the Charge for Sustainable Tourism
By Jeff Chu
Venice paved the way by tracking tourist data and limiting the number of large cruise ships in its ports, and now other places around the world are creating their own initiatives to ensure long-term sustainability.
Among them: three of our Global Vision Awards honorees. Aruba is deeply focused on environmental protections and innovations. New Zealand is working to deepen foreigners’ appreciation for local customs and traditions, creating guidelines for expected conduct and best practices while exploring the country. And Visit Faroe Islands is trying to mitigate the effects of the archipelago’s newfound, Instagram-driven popularity with a clever voluntourism campaign. Regardless of their specific approach, these places are setting an example in the fight for a more sustainable future.
Tourism drives a massive 90 percent of the economy of Aruba, which, though home to just 110,000 people, welcomes more than 1.8 million tourists annually. “Those who choose to visit Aruba are a vital part of our community,” says Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority. “But there are real dangers to overtourism.” The very industry driving the small Caribbean island’s economy also threatened to strain its social fabric by inflating real-estate prices and to overwhelm its environment, increasing pollution and straining natural resources.
So the government pivoted, becoming a global leader in sustainable travel. It prohibited single-use plastics. It banned octinoxate and oxybenzone, common sunscreen ingredients that may harm marine life. It committed to ambitious clean-energy goals; the airport’s parking lot now doubles as Aruba’s largest solar-power plant. And it developed a nationwide sustainable-development plan, identifying areas of the island that can’t handle more tourism growth and creating strategies for those that can. “Without planning, everything would have continued the way it had been,” says Asjoe-Croes, “and that was not an option.”
In recent years, interest among New Zealanders has grown in the traditional Maori concept of kaitiakitanga — good stewardship and holistic protection of the environment, a way of paying heed to humanity’s connection to nature. To the Maori peoples, kaitiakitanga means both honoring one’s ancestors and making a commitment to one’s descendants — a philosophy that is increasingly making its way into government policy. Tourism contributes about a fifth of New Zealand‘s export earnings and accounts for one in seven jobs. But last spring, New Zealand made a significant sacrifice, banning all international travelers in an effort to protect the country from COVID-19.
As travel-sector income evaporated, the government poured millions of dollars into grants as well as interest-free and low-interest loans to support the industry. The government also saw an opportunity for bold reform: in June 2020, it launched the New Zealand Tourism Futures Taskforce, which one could understand in the spirit of kaitiakitanga. This independent public-private commission was instructed “to create a shift in the tourism system,” according to its founding documents, and in early April will propose a slate of creative changes and imaginative initiatives to reposition travel in New Zealand, eventually ensuring “that tourism will contribute more than it consumes.”
Visit Faroe Islands
What’s the story you want to tell about your homeland? Visit Faroe Islands, the tourism board for the North Atlantic archipelago, has answered that question in remarkably innovative ways over the past couple of years. In 2019, it gained attention for announcing that the islands were “Closed for Maintenance,” an initiative that shut down tourism for a weekend and invited a small number of volunteers to come help fix the place up. (More than 3,500 people applied for 100 slots.) “We wanted to maintain and preserve some locations that were starting to feel the effects of an increase in tourism,” says Levi Hanssen, a manager at the tourism board. “We wanted to reassure Faroe Islanders that Visit Faroe Islands is considerate of the environment, despite our efforts to increase tourism. And we wanted to raise awareness of the Faroe Islands as a destination.” Much of the work involved rehabbing old hiking paths, building new ones, and adding wayfinding markers.
The venture was so successful that Visit Faroe Islands planned a 2020 sequel. Then the pandemic hit. With foreigners unable to visit in person, the tourism board recruited locals to provide live virtual tours. It created a first-of-its-kind “remote tourism tool” that allowed armchair travelers to interact online with guides as they explored the islands’ villages, farms, and sweeping ocean vistas. Twenty-three tours were conducted during 2020, including four by boat, one by helicopter, and one on horseback; recordings can be screened on the Visit Faroe Islands website. All of this is meant to contribute to a more sustainable, more imaginative future for tourism, one that according to the tourism board’s vision, has “the needs, desires and lifestyle of the Faroese people as its focal point.”