Getting to Know Ivory Vogt

We are thrilled to welcome Ivory Vogt as the newest member of our Sustainable Travel International team. Born in Palau and currently living in Germany, Ivory possesses a love for travel and feels strongly about our need to protect the places we visit. In her role as a Program Manager, Climate & Resilience, Ivory will translate her enthusiasm into action by encouraging climate-friendly travel. 

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ivory to learn a little more about her own story and her passion for sustainable tourism.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself

A: I’ve loved traveling ever since I can remember. I started flying at four years old as an unaccompanied minor. I’m half Palauan and half German, and I grew up with my mom in the islands of Palau. Every summer I would fly alone from Palau to Germany to spend time with my dad’s side of the family. Through my travels I learned early on to navigate between cultures and languages, and what I considered to be normal has truly shaped who I am today.

My first experience working in the tourism industry was at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in Bangkok. My role at PATA focused on sustainability and social responsibility, so I got to work on impactful projects like environmental audits, a community-based tourism workshop, and a plastics toolkit.

When COVID-19 began, I went back home to Palau and worked as a Sustainable Tourism Consultant for the Palau Visitors Authority, the Palau Chamber of Commerce, and the Bureau of Tourism. Besides working on COVID-related projects for Palau’s tourism industry, I also began working with Sustainable Travel International on a project to make Palau a carbon neutral tourism destination.

Q: What led you to develop a passion for sustainable tourism?

A: I always knew that tourism was an important part of Palau’s economy. But as I learned more about the industry, I realized that not many locals owned tourism businesses or were involved in management. I was proud of our environmental initiatives such as creating the world’s first shark sanctuary, a national marine sanctuary, and the Palau Pledge passport stamp, but I wondered how tourism could be done better to provide equitable benefits to the community. 

So it was during grad school that I was inspired to research and write my dissertation on land and tourism in Palau. Land is crucial to many Pacific Island nations and unsustainable development can negatively impact families and communities. That is why it is important to have policies and measures in place to protect both the environment and people. 

As a Pacific Islander, I recognize that the environment is the source of our livelihood. Climate change and tourism are important issues in island destinations, which is why it is crucial to focus our efforts on mitigating the impacts and transforming the way tourism is usually done. We can combine traditional knowledge systems with modern technologies to find solutions to the problems we are facing. I believe that done right, tourism can be a tool for sustainable development, with the potential to create livelihoods, celebrate cultural heritage, and conserve life on our planet. 

Q: What is the most memorable trip you’ve gone on?

A: When I was 19 years old, I went to Rwanda with a group of students from my university. During the trip, we learned about the lives of refugees escaping the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I visited refugee camps and interviewed kids about why their families fled, what it was like living in the camps, and how our university could help. 

After that trip, I spent my senior year running our university’s Global Service program. Our team raised $75,000 to sponsor the education of several hundred of the students we had met. 

After graduating college, I ended up going back to Rwanda to assist in a vocational training school program. I learned to do permaculture and taught guitar classes to the same students we had sponsored. My trips to Rwanda taught me about the complexities of poverty alleviation and how to positively impact someone’s life.

Q: What are your top tips for climate-friendly travel?

A: I’m currently living in Germany and I enjoy taking the train to visit friends or family in neighbouring places. Trains use less CO2 than planes and are a great way to spend time reading or working while getting to where I want to go. My tip is to order a coffee and sit in the restaurant cabin, to feel like you are getting a first-class travel experience. When I do take a plane, I use Sustainable Travel International’s Carbon Calculator to measure my carbon footprint and offset the emissions of my travels. It’s super affordable and an easy way to make a difference. 

Besides my carbon footprint, I am becoming a lot more conscious of my plastic footprint as well. I always leave my house with a refillable water bottle and a reusable grocery bag. I am currently using up all my packaged toiletries and afterwards I plan to buy only what I need, plastic-free if possible. When I was in Palau, I was shocked to see the massive amount of plastic waste washing up on our beaches. In one island there is so much plastic waste, that some people are even turning trash into art.  

One of the reasons that I’m so excited about my new role with Sustainable Travel International is that it allows me to expand my impact beyond my own personal actions. I’m really looking forward to supporting businesses in measuring, reducing, and offsetting their carbon footprint. I’m also excited to work with island destinations on their sustainability initiatives.

Q: What else makes you tick?

A: My parents were really adventurous and I think they have inspired my love for travel and adventure. They used to heli-ski and paraglide, as well as ski and scuba dive in different parts of the world. I learned to ski when I was three years old in Switzerland and to scuba dive in Palau when I was a teenager. My most magical underwater moment was probably the time I dove with a school of manta rays.

Almost two years ago, I had the opportunity to go to India where I took a month-long Ashtanga Yoga course. I didn’t know much about this type of yoga before going, but it was one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had. Yoga taught me the importance of having a routine and taking care of our bodies as well as our minds.

In the next few years I plan on visiting Raja Ampat and Bali in Indonesia to experience the beautiful culture and villa architectures that I’ve only seen online. I remember once seeing a documentary on Raja Ampat and being mind-blown that there was another place on this globe that looked like Palau with it’s rock islands and jellyfish lakes. 

In my lifetime, I dream of visiting the other island nations in the Pacific. From Micronesia to Polynesia, we all have our own language and beautiful culture. What binds us all together is our love and respect for the ocean and all life in it. I feel honored to come from such a beautiful part of our world and have been blessed to experience so much already on this planet we call home. 

Talk Climate Action With Ivory

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