2021 Highlights: 12 ways you helped us transform travel this year
We came into 2021 full of hope and aspiration. Though it was another year of uncertainty, we’re closing out the year with a smile on our face and a full heart thanks to your unwavering support.
Over the past 12 months, you helped us create meaningful change for people and places around the world. Together, we strengthened local communities, safeguarded our planet, and protected destinations that we love and care about.
As we ring in the new year, here’s a look back at 12 of the ways that you helped us transform travel in 2021.
Promoting Sustainable Tourism Practices
- To promote a responsible restart of tourism on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, we supported the relaunch of the Heart of St. Kitts Sustainability Charter program. The refreshed program engages local tourism businesses in adopting responsible practices. Along with updating the framework of best practices, our team developed a Participant Handbook which offers step-by-step guidance on implementing the practices, as well as a Marketing & Communications Toolkit that aids businesses in sharing their unique sustainability story.
- In February, we wrapped up a multi-year carrying capacity study in Seychelles. This study assessed the potential impacts of tourism growth in Seychelles and provided a series of policy recommendations to ensure sustainable development. One of these recommendations has already been adopted, resulting in a moratorium on the construction of new tourism accommodations on La Digue island.
- We continued to raise awareness of sustainable travel practices by growing our audience and producing informative content. Over the past year, more than 160,000 users visited our website where we published blogs on important topics like Top 10 Tips for Sustainable Travel and What Is Blue Carbon and Why Does It Matter. We also provided our network of 50 members with access to educational resources and shared our expert insight with Condé Nast Traveler, The Washington Post, and other media outlets.
- Beyond our own audience, we continued to drive change at scale as a founding member of the Future of Tourism Coalition. Over the past year, the Coalition expanded its reach, growing to more than 600 signatories and educating nearly 1,000 tourism stakeholders through our “Reset Tourism” webinar series. To facilitate peer-to-peer exchange, the Coalition also launched an interactive Community Platform that allows our signatories to learn from one another as they progress along their sustainability journey.
- We recently began work on a pilot project in Palau and the Marshall Islands to facilitate the development of a sustainable ocean economy in the Asia-Pacific region. Led by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the project is employing an integrated development approach that combines marine aquaculture, reefs, renewable energy, and ecotourism for ecosystem services (the MARES approach). Our team will contribute to this approach by identifying potential ecotourism projects that preserve, regenerate, and enhance marine ecosystem services in the region.
Stimulating Climate Action
- As travel returned, we helped 676 travelers and 54 companies measure and offset the carbon footprint of their flights, hotel stays, shipping, and other carbon-intensive activities. In 2021, our network offset 12,781 metric tons of carbon and we channeled funding to projects that are conserving vital forest ecosystems and supporting waste diversion.
- In addition to carbon measurement and offsetting, we also educated tourism professionals and travelers on climate-friendly practices. We were privileged to deliver presentations on climate action at conferences such as the Tourism Innovation Summit and RESHAPE 2021, and to participate in webinars hosted by Impact Travel Alliance and WeTravel. We also published articles like Does Tree Planting Actually Fight Climate Change and Three Steps to Decarbonize Your Hotel.
- We were proud to be a launch partner and signatory of the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism which was launched in November at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). We look forward to supporting destinations and tourism businesses in preparing their climate action strategies and taking action in line with the five pathways of the Declaration: Measure, Decarbonize, Regenerate, Collaborate, Finance.
Fostering Community Inclusion & Engagement
- To reduce tourism’s dependence on imported foods and improve local economic opportunities, we worked with Slow Foods to understand the issues of local food production and build the capacity of Palauan fishers and farmers to market their food products to the tourism industry. Twenty-six local food producers attended a training workshop focused on developing their basic business skills to meet the needs of the tourism market. During the workshops, the participants also learned about the importance of sustainable food systems.
- We once again facilitated our annual Destination Guardian Training in St. Kitts. Through this workshop, we empowered 14 more community members to safeguard the island’s natural and cultural resources and act as stewards of their island home.
- We recently joined the Panama Alliance for Community Tourism (PACT). We look forward to collaborating with the PACT partners in the new year to build community tourism products that strengthen resident well-being, while protecting and celebrating Panama’s biodiversity and cultural heritage.
- We’re currently conducting a Resident Sentiment Survey in St. Kitts to measure community attitudes towards tourism and identify perceived positive and negative impacts. The findings will be compared to the past survey results to discover any changes in resident sentiments and will be used by the Ministry of Tourism to inform future destination management strategies.
As we close out the year, we can’t thank you enough for your continued generosity and support. You are the reason why all of this is possible.