CREST Newsletter | July - September 2017

Hurricanes in the Caribbean. A Cuba travel warning. A World Tourism Day forum. Ramped-up operations in Chihuahua. Yes, indeed—these past three months have been incredibly busy for CREST, and not just for the reasons mentioned. For all of the reasons, check out the articles below. Collectively, they reflect our latest work to transform the way the world travels.

Building Bridges: Sustainable Tourism Forum

“Thanks to the CREST crew for a wonderful and rewarding event. What CREST stands for is more important than ever in the world today and the foreseeable future.”

Those words, written in email a few days after the event he references, come from Chris Blackwell, owner of Island Outpost resorts in Jamaica. He was one of 10 panelists who shared their sustainable-tourism experiences Sept. 27, 2017, at the UN Foundation in Washington, D.C. Roughly 140 invited guests gathered that day for an eight-hour forum recognizing both World Tourism Day and the UN’s declaration of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Co-hosted by UN Environment – North America Office, it was not only a “rewarding event” for those present, but as Blackwell alluded, one charged with urgency.

“You only have to look at the headlines to know that, internationally, there’s a lot of uncertainty,” says Martha Honey, CREST’s executive director. “The Caribbean and parts of the U.S. were recently ravaged by hurricanes. Current U.S. administration policies have restricted travel between the U.S. and Cuba, Turkey, and several other countries. Tensions escalate, of course, when we have a lack of genuine communication. Our forum, featuring thought leaders and experts from the Americas and the Caribbean, represented an open-minded, open-armed, very communicative crossing of borders.”

It was designed to do just that, thanks, in part, to the UN World Tourism Organization. Its “pillars” for 2017—or five ways in which sustainable tourism can be used as a tool for development—served as themes for the event’s panels, ranging from poverty reduction to climate change to mutual understanding. An alternative theme, of sorts, running through much of the day’s discourse was “overtourism,” or a destination being overrun by too many tourists.

Elizabeth Becker (right), an award-winning journalist and author of Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel & Tourism, drove home that notion in her keynote address, saying, at one point: “Europe is the canary in the coal mine. If governments at all levels—local, regional, and national—fail to regulate tourism, overcrowding will continue, and more places will be loved to death.”

The rest of the day was chock-full of other highlights, including the following (listed by panel):

  • Social Inclusiveness, Employment, and Poverty Reduction: After an entertaining account of how he founded Island Records,  the professional home of artists as varied as Bob Marley and U2, Chris Blackwell shared information about his Oracabessa Foundation, the nonprofit arm of his Island Outpost resorts. Established in 1995, the Foundation works with local residents of that Jamaican region to find work; protect the bay; and engage youth, primarily through athletics.

    His co-panelist, Allison Caton, a native of Carriacou, Grenada, and owner/operator of Isle of Reefs Tours, said she actively supports local businesses and employs island residents, with an eye to empowering aspiring women entrepreneurs, in particular. She, too, helped establish a foundation aimed at engaging and educating children—the Carriacou Music Foundation.
  • Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Growth: Originally, renowned chef and TV personality José Andrés was scheduled to discuss previous efforts, via his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, to empower local chefs to fight hunger and poverty. But after Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico,Andrés acted quickly, flying there and setting up what’s now known as #ChefsforPuertoRico.

    At our forum, two of his colleagues, Michael Doneff and Brian MacNair, reported on Andrés’ heroic relief efforts and sustainable redevelopment through community kitchens. They discussed other World Central Kitchen projects as well as the work of Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup, the company behind his restaurants, hotels, food products, and philanthropic efforts. A few days later, his work in Puerto Rico was the subject of an excellent Washington Post article.
  • Lunch and Wine/Rum Reception: Usually, the food at events like these isn’t worth mentioning. But Foodhini, a D.C.-based caterer, not only served a delicious lunch; it was cooked by immigrant and refugee chefs from Laos, Syria, the Philippines, and Tibet. And, at the forum’s end, a closing reception offered attendees a truly sustainable tasting choice—biodynamic and organic wines from Bonterra Organic Vineyards in Mendocino County, California, and, straight from the island, rum from Chris Blackwell’s label, Blackwell Black Gold Fine Jamaican Rum.
  • Resource Efficiency, Environmental Protection, and Climate Change: Ewald Biemans, owner/operator of Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, a recognized leader in sustainability efforts, added to a list of already-impressive accomplishments by sharing, among other facts, that the resort: recently installed solar panels, which now produce 25 percent of its power; is working with the community on a reef restoration project; and will be carbon neutral by 2018.

    Roughly 4,000 miles northwest, in British Columbia, Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort is racking up its own awards for sustainability, in part by reducing energy waste by 72 percent with a new micro-hydro system, according to Arthur DeJong, head of sustainability. He told the audience, however, that there’s much more work to do, including collectively taking on the monumental challenge of reducing the carbon footprint left by people traveling to and from destinations.
  • Cultural Values, Diversity, and Heritage: Another British Columbian, Doug Neasloss, an elected First Nations chief councilor and a founder of the Spirit Bear Lodge, shared two inspiring stories. One was how he and his co-founders kickstarted the first indigenous-owned and -operated wildlife lodge and guiding service, which is providing good, sustainable jobs to an underemployed community. The other was how that community, helped by a CREST report, successfully campaigned to ban grizzly-bear trophy hunting in B.C.

    Tackling the same topic from a very different vantage point, Melinda Allen, president of the Savannah Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA), offered more of a cautionary tale. While cruise ships have been prohibited from accessing that city’s port, overcrowding in the historic downtown is a huge issue, especially in the form of short-term vacation rental properties, which are impacting many of the city’s neighborhoods in negative ways.
  • Mutual Understanding, Peace, and Security: Current events placed the emphasis squarely on “mutual understanding” with this panel. Jon Barela, CEO of The Borderplex Alliance, a nonprofit focused on promoting economic development, including tourism, and strengthening ties in the Mexico-Texas-New Mexico border region, said his biggest challenge, especially after last year’s presidential election, is convincing people the border is not the Wild West portrayed in the media. A video promoting Juarez, Mexico’s many attractions, certainly helped, as did a graph showing violence in Juarez ranking far behind Baltimore, New Orleans, St. Louis, and other highly visited American cities.

    Barela was followed by Collin Laverty, founder and president of Cuba Educational Travel, one of the largest US tour operators taking groups to Cuba. Collin had just put the finishing touches on a video showing that, post-Hurricane Irma, Cuba is back in business. He also discussed the wide range of positive impacts people-to-people tourism has had on visitors from the United States and their Cuban hosts.

Two days after the forum, however, the U.S. government announced it was ordering home 60 percent of its embassy staff from Havana and issued an official State Department Travel Warning urging Americans not to travel to Cuba. The reason, the U.S. stated, was that some 20 of its embassy employees “have been targeted in specific attacks” of unknown origin which have affected hearing and caused other physical symptoms.

Then, a few days later, Washington announced it was also expelling 60 percent of the Cuban Embassy staff in the U.S. Immediately, Americans began cancelling planned trips to Cuba. However, despite the warning, many tourism companies, convinced that travelers will be safe, said they are determined to continue facilitating trips to Cuba. You can read about the response of CREST and its partners to the administration’s latest actions here.

Those interested in building upon the relationships forged at the event, and/or capitalizing on the information shared, are encouraged to visit the forum’s website, to which we will add materials as they come in. And without giving too much away, CREST is also making plans for an event that will take place next World Tourism Day, Sept. 27, 2018. Stay tuned, as they say, for more.

Meantime, we’ll leave you with another Chris Blackwell quote, this one part of a PowerPoint presentation covering his resort and foundation: “I believe in building bridges rather than building walls.”

CREST would like to thank its forum partner, UN Environment – North America Office, as well as the UN Foundation for its support in providing the venue. We also thank the following sponsors, without whom the forum would not have been a success: Gold Level—Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, Golden Door, Holbrook Travel, Hotel El Ganzo, World Wildlife Fund; Silver Level—Alice Marshall Public Relations, National Audubon Society, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, DC Urban Adventures, National Park Service, Patagonia, the Tourism Company, VanDam Maps; Supporting Level—International Institute of Tourism Studies, Whole Foods, REI.

We’d also like to thank WWF’s food-waste management program for helping to make this a low-waste event.

After the Storms: Facilitating Caribbean Relief & Recovery

Following the devastation reeked in the Caribbean by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the same question is on everyone’s mind – How can I help? We offer a variety of answers.

Hurricane damage on Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands. Source: MOD/DFID


2017 seems set to go on record for the number of extreme weather-related disasters around the world. In September, Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, noted, “There can be little doubt that 2017 is turning into a year of historic significance in the struggle against climate change and all the other risks that put human life in danger and threaten the peace and security of exposed and vulnerable communities around the world who find themselves in harm's way from hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.”

The hurricane-prone islands of the Caribbean have been especially vulnerable this hurricane season, recording two Category 5 hurricanes – Irma and Maria, which ripped through some of the islands, leaving billions of dollars in damages, loss of lives, displaced communities, and ruined livelihoods.

We place the emphasis on “some” because certainly not every Caribbean island was hit, and many, in fact, are doing just fine. An extremely useful web page posted by the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association and Tourism Cares—which have also partnered to provide a relief fund (see below)—offers a running update of those islands “open for business” and those “on the road to recovery.” 

Still, many in the region need both immediate and long-term assistance. So the question on many people’s minds is, “How can I help?” One of the easiest ways is to make a monetary donation, either to a reputable humanitarian organization working in disaster relief and recovery or the national disaster recovery funds established on some islands.

To ensure that your donation goes towards relief and/or recovery, it is important to research the organizations. If you’re considering U.S.-based organizations in particular, Charity Navigator is a good place to start for vetting. But be sure to also do due diligence to understand where specific funds are going for hurricane relief.

Secondly, if you prefer to donate in-kind items, immediate needs include temporary roofing materials (like tarpaulins), toiletries, first aid items, feminine hygiene products, clothing, footwear, batteries, flashlights, food, and water.

Of course, if you have the time and resources, you may also want to consider volunteering in areas where you can assist and are needed most. Organizations looking for volunteers include, but are not limited to, Habitat for Humanity, Team Rubicon, and All Hands.

Below, you’ll find resources for all of these categories, keeping in mind that relief and recovery efforts in the affected areas are ongoing.

Hurricane damage on Dominica. Source: Russell Watkins/UK Department for International Development


Organizations assisting with disaster relief efforts in the Caribbean include (in alphabetical order):

The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association and Tourism Cares have teamed up to create a Caribbean Tourism Recovery Fund, which enlists tourism industry stakeholders and global allies to pool resources in support of the islands directly affected by the hurricanes. You’ll find more information and a way to donate on its website.

Caribbean Tourism Organization collects donations through its CTO Relief Fund for relief efforts in its member countries affected by hurricanes, and to assist other Caribbean countries affected by natural disasters. Donations can be made via its GoFundMe webpage.

Catholic Relief Services uses donations to help provide shelter, water, and critical supplies, like hygiene kits, to storm victims in the Caribbean. Donate through its website or by calling 877-435-7277.

Direct Relief provides emergency medical supplies and resources to communities affected by Irma. Make a donation via website or phone at 1-805-964-4767.

GlobalGiving, a crowdfunding site for charitable giving, offers a relief fund dedicated to Irma and Maria victims. You can donate through its website or text IRMA or MARIA to 80100 to donate $10 to the Caribbean Hurricane Maria & Irma Relief Fund.

GoFundMe, another crowdfunding site, has a dedicated area on its website for Irma-related fundraising campaigns. You can choose from one of the hundreds of individual campaigns on the web page or donate to the Direct Impact Fund, from which donations are distributed to vetted campaigns helping victims of Irma. GoFundMe donations are guaranteed to end up in the right place, or donors get their money back.

Habitat for Humanity International will help with post-disaster recovery efforts, including the repair of damaged homes and the construction of new, affordable houses. It is currently helping families affected by Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Donations can be made on its website or by calling 1-800-HABITAT.

Sandals Foundation is providing first-response relief of food to those housed in shelters in the Turks & Caicos, and is promoting an international online fundraising drive to collect donations for ongoing disaster relief work in Turks & Caicos, Antigua & Barbuda, and the Bahamas. 

Save The Children is deploying teams and supplies to Florida geared toward children and families affected by the storm. Donations are accepted on its website, or you can text "IRMA" to 20222 to make a $10 donation.

World Hope International accepts donations on its website. The money is used to purchase emergency supplies and equipment for the storm recovery.

For direct assistance to Caribbean countries: Money can be wired to Emergency Assistance Fund (EAF) of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in Barbados. Donation details are available on the website.

Hurricane damage on St. Thomas. Source: National Museum of the U.S. Navy


To make donations to specific islands:

Antigua and Barbuda:

  • The Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross is responding to Irma's passage through the Isle of Barbuda by moving volunteers and supplies to where they are needed most. Its operational priority is to keep people safe while providing shelter, food, and comfort.
  • In addition, the Antigua and Barbuda Consulate has approved a number of drop-off areas for people in the New York and wider Northeastern areas (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut) who would like to donate non-perishables items.

British Virgin Islands:

  • BVI Irma Relief
    Organized by concerned BVIslanders living abroad, this group has direct contact with the BVI Government and BVI Department of Disaster Management to provide the most up-to-date information on recovery operations. All donation sites listed on the donation page have been personally vetted to ensure funds and supplies donated to any relief effort go directly to the people of the BVI.
  • BVI Community Support Appeal: Virgin Unite
    The Virgin Group—through Virgin Unite, Unite BVI, and Virgin Limited Edition—works with local organizations to identify the ongoing needs of affected individuals, families and communities impacted by the hurricanes. Virgin Unite’s overheads are covered by Richard Branson and the Virgin Group, meaning 100 percent of donations received go directly to supporting local BVI communities.

Cuba:

  • Global Giving
    All donations support recovery and relief efforts post-Hurricane Irma. Initially, the fund will help first responders meet survivors' immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter. Once initial relief work is complete, the fund will transition to support longer-term recovery efforts run by local, vetted organizations responding to the disaster.
  • Friends of Caritas
    The Caritas International network is coordinating a relief effort with the initial focus on providing emergency items, such as food, shelter, hygiene kits, and livelihood support. Long-term support will follow.  

Dominica:

  • Dominica Hurricane Maria Relief Fund
    Established by the Dominica High Commission, this fund accepts large and corporate donations as well as individual donations and provides information on giving in kind.

Puerto Rico:

  • ConPRmetidos
    All donations support the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and provide relief and aid to the communities affected. This fund is managed by the nonprofit ConPRmetidos in alliance with Professional Insurance Agents of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean (PIA).

St. Martin and St. Barts:

  • GoFundMe
    Donate to the Direct Impact Fund, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that has partnered with GoFundMe.

US Virgin Islands (St. John and St. Thomas):

  • 21 US Virgin Island Relief Fund was organized by retired NBA player Tim Duncan. When he was 13, Hurricane Hugo ripped through his hometown in the Virgin Islands, forever changing his life and community. Duncan will match financial donations up to $1 million for relief efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition, he is hoping to raise an additional $1 million.
  • Donations to St John may also be sent to the St. John’s Rescue.

CREST Study Presented in Cuba: "Lessons Learned from Cruise Tourism"

CREST is in the final stages of completing its year-plus study Cruise Tourism: Lessons Learned from Other Destinations, which will be published in book form, in Spanish and English editions. CREST’s study,based on research conducted by a team of Cuban and international researchers, is designed most immediately to be useful to Cuba as it develops its cruise tourism sector.

In July, CREST presented the key findings at a workshop in Havana hosted by Temas, Cuba’s leading magazine on cultural and social issues. The study’s four key authors—CREST Executive Director Martha Honey; Jannelle Wilkins, a CREST consultant based in Costa Rica; Rafael Betancourt, professor of economics at the Colegio Universitario San Geronimo de La Habana; and Jose Luis Perelló, a distinguished professor of tourism at the University of Havana—gave presentations on the economic, social, and environmental impacts of cruise tourism. Case studies with concrete examples focused on Venice, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Bermuda, among others.

The authors concluded with a set of recommendations to be considered by Cuban policy makers. Among them were: large cruise ships should not be permitted to dock near the entrance to Old Havana; Cuba should set limits on the size of ships and number of passengers disembarking per day; and cruise policies should be designed to protect the quality of life of residents in Havana and other Cuban cities.

The workshop precipitated a lively discussion among the 35 invited attendees. Rafael Hernandez, Temas’ editor, called the workshop “a game changer” in the discussions of cruise tourism in Cuba. Cuba’s leading daily, Granma, ran an article summarizing findings from the study.

Afterwards, the Cuba chapter and the study’s recommendations were circulated to key Cuban policy makers, academics, journalists, and NGOs who were asked to provide written comments. A former adviser to various tourism ministers wrote, “A thoughtful and well-documented analysis that should be taken into account by the Ministry of Economics and Planning (MEP), Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR), Gaviota (Tours) and everyone that has to do with tourism and its development immediately and beyond.”  A former Minister of Economics declared, “I studied the paper on cruise ships that you sent me. It is the best thing that I have read on the subject of cruising in Cuba.”

Temas will publish the study as an e-book later this year, for release at Cuba’s national book fair. CREST is working with a U.S. publisher to produce an edition in English tailored to a broader audience. The study has been supported with grants from the Ford and Christopher Reynolds foundations.

Response Grows to New U.S. Restrictions Concerning Cuba

CREST is working with a group of tourism companies, NGOs, and universities involved in travel and educational activities in Cuba to make the case for why the Trump administration’s announced rollbacks of President Obama’s historic opening with the island is unwarranted and potentially harmful to both U.S. and Cuban tourism businesses. CREST will convene a meeting October 16 to discuss how to most effectively respond to the administration’s new actions on U.S. travel to Cuba.
In addition, CREST is working with RESPECT (Responsible and Ethical Cuba Travel) to conduct a survey of U.S. tour operators and other service providers to measure any impacts of these new restrictions. CREST is a member of RESPECT, a 150-member U.S. professional association dedicated to practicing and promoting ethical and socially responsible travel to Cuba.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump pledged to reverse the Obama-era liberalizations. In June, President Trump, following up on his pledge, announced his intention to issue new regulations to ban “individual people-to-people exchange travel” to Cuba and to bar U.S. citizens from any direct dealings with military-affiliated hotels and other entities on the island. Then, in late September, the administration, citing the bizarre “sonic attacks” on some 20 US diplomats in Cuba, took a series of steps, including the withdrawal of key U.S. embassy personnel, the expulsion of Cuban diplomats from Washington, and issuing of a State Department Travel Warning advising U.S. citizens against travel to Cuba. His administration is now reportedly in the final stages of preparing new written regulations to codify these changes.

While CREST recognizes that U.S. diplomats have been injured, and that it’s vital to determine the source of these “sonic attacks,” CREST Executive Director Martha Honey says “The Trump administration’s punishment doesn’t fit the crime. There is no evidence the Cuban government is responsible for these incidents, no U.S. tourists have been similarly affected, and Cuba remains a safe destination to visit. Rather, both U.S. and Cuba tourism businesses are being unfairly targeted for punishment.” Of particular concern is the serious impact of Cuba’s burgeoning small-scale B&Bs, or casas particulares, and its home restaurants, or paladares, which are creating jobs and putting income directly into local households.

Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel and a speaker at CREST's World Tourism Day forum, noted that the U.S. State Department has issued numerous alerts and advisories against travel by Americans to places like Mexico, Kenya, and Lebanon because of crime, terrorism and other dangers. In contrast, in Cuba, "they have no evidence to indicate that U.S. travelers are at risk during their visits to Cuba." Laverty called the warning "absolutely unnecesssary and counterproductive."

Given this tense and fluid political situation, CREST and its partners believe it is more important than ever to proceed with travel and educational projects in Cuba. As CREST’s field coordinator in Cuba, Rafael Betancourt, noted to CREST, “While this is a terrible political and financial blow for Cuba, it is also a situation to which we are accustomed. The last two years of a more open relationship with the U.S. may turn out to be a blip in the half century of hostility. But now, more than ever, it is important to find ways for U.S. citizens of goodwill to remain engaged in Cuba. In addition, because of the vital importance of tourism to the Cuban economy, it is imperative to help strengthen community-based sustainable tourism, particularly in our small towns and provinces.”

Launch of SIFT 2.0 Network and Fund

CREST has embarked on an initiative to launch a “2.0” version of the SIFT (Sustainable Investment and Finance in Tourism) Network, a good idea which lay dormant for almost a decade. The goal is to establish mechanisms to channel financial support into sustainable tourism projects by creating a “one-stop shop” network of public and private institutions interested in investing in sustainable tourism. We also plan to create a special fund with the capacity to invest in energy and water efficiency upgrades for accommodations.

CREST is currently developing a business plan for the SIFT enterprise and systematically exploring financial and operational partners as well as potential clients, with a primary focus on the hotel sector in the Caribbean.

The SIFT Network was originally conceived in about 2008 by UN Environment’s Economy Division, based in Paris. The UN agency assembled an impressive advisory committee, including representatives of public and private banks, and hired CREST to prepare the concept paper and business plan. However, the global economic recession and lack of sufficient start-up funds derailed its launch. Since then, it has remained, on paper, as a non-operational but critical component in the toolbox of sustainable tourism.

Hoping to re-launch SIFT in 2017, the UN’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism, CREST reached out to UN Environment to discuss the possibility of officially turning the project over to CREST. Fortunately, UN Environment endorsed this request, stating, in a letter, that, because of our past collaboration on SIFT, CREST “is a logical organization to take it over. We further believe there is considerable merit in having the SIFT Network based in Washington, D.C., since many of the public and private banking institutions which were part of its original advisory board are based in or near” the city.

CREST has assembled the professional team, including Martin Silber, MPA, who has expertise in renewable energy, and Dan Berrien, who wrote the original business plan and has raised a seed grant from a private investor. CREST is currently meeting with potential U.S. investors and conducting research to determine demand among independent, non-branded hotels and resorts on specific islands. We are also in discussions about partnering with an energy efficiency project in the Caribbean. For more information, contact Martha Honey at mhoney@responsibletravel.org.

CREST's Annual "Trends & Statistics" Publication Released

On September 27, World Tourism Day, CREST released its annual meta-analysis, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics. The report is a compilation of surveys, polls, and market studies over the past few years, looking at consumer, business, and destination support for responsible travel. This year's special edition is structured around the UNWTO's five pillars of the UN's International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development: 1) inclusive and sustainable economic growth; 2) social inclusiveness, employment, and poverty reduction; 3) resource efficiency, environmental protection, and climate change adaptation and mitigation; 4) respect for cultural values, diversity, and heritage; and 5) mutual understanding, peace, and security.

The report emphasizes that success in the sustainable tourism industry should be measured by increased retention in tourism revenue and a distribution of that revenue, which improves the economic, social, and environmental conditions of a destination. The report was prepared in collaboration with 25 leading tourism organizations and institutions, the most partners CREST has ever had in the five years we have produced this publication.

CREST Releases New Directory of Sustainable Tourism Resources

As part of its commitment to support the UN’s 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development (IY2017), CREST has compiled “A Directory of Sustainable Tourism Initiatives & Resources.” The directory, officially released at the September 27 CREST/UN Environment – North America Office forum, includes information on more than a dozen campaigns aimed at strengthening sustainable tourism practices by businesses and travelers. Prepared in collaboration with UN Environment, the fact sheets focus on: sustainable wildlife viewing; overfishing; marine, shoreline, and beach litter; gender equity; and climate change, among other topics.

CREST invites tourism businesses and organizations to add the publication link to your websites and to share this resource directory with your networks. We also welcome your input for additional topics and content. Please send your suggestions to staff@responsibletravel.org.

Project Update: Chihuahua Community Tourism Development

Led by Ximena Alvis, CREST continues its third year of work to develop community-based indigenous tourism in Chihuahua, Mexico. In June, Mauricio Miramontes, representing one of CREST’s Mexican partners, La Mano del Mono, provided training to certify tour guides in the two communities where we are working, Bacajipare and Huetosachi. The guides are trained for nature-based guiding in the Copper Canyon area as well as in first aid and rescue techniques.

In addition to guiding, preparations continue for two other community-based tourism experiences: a community kitchen which will provide interactive cooking demonstrations and samples of traditional dishes; and an artisan center where visitors learn to make traditional crafts and purchase handicrafts from community members. The kitchen and artisan facilities have been built in Huetosachi, while two hiking trails have been constructed in Bacajipare. 

The next steps from CREST and La Mano del Mono will be to finalize the details of each of the three experiences offered. The community is currently overseeing decoration and organization of the kitchen and handicraft center. A familiarization trip for local tour guides will take place on October 23rd to test the hiking trails and the kitchen and handicraft offerings. Another familiarization trip is planned for December, for local authorities and the media, so that the communities may showcase their potential and receive feedback.

Job Opportunity with CREST's Chihuahua Project

CREST is seeking a replacement for Ximena Alvis who has ably led our Chihuahua, Mexico, project and will be moving to Australia in early 2018. We are seeking a part time consultant to fill Ximena's shoes, with the following skills:

  • Excellent written and spoken Spanish required
  • Ability to work as part of a team with local organizations
  • Field experience with indigenous communities, preferably in tourism  
  • Creative, flexible, and well-organized
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
  • Preferably have Native American or indigenous heritage and/or background in Indigenous Tourism studies

If interested, contact Samantha Hogenson (shogenson@responsibletravel.org) for a full job description and application form.

CREST Welcomes Four New Board Members

During its most recent meeting, on Sept. 28, 2017, CREST’s Board of Directors welcomed four new Board members, upping its number from eight to 12—a 50 percent increase, which reflects the expanding nature of the sustainable tourism industry and CREST’s increasingly important role in it.

In August, the CREST Board voted unanimously to accept the following members (listed alphabetically), each of whom will contribute valuable insights and resources to strengthen CREST’s mission.

Richard Bangs
Often called "the father of modern adventure travel," Richard Bangs has spent decades as an explorer and communicator, pioneering “virtual expeditions” on the internet and leading first descents of 35 rivers around the world, including the Yangtze in China and the Zambezi in Southern Africa. He also founded Sobek Expeditions, the first multinational river-running company, and the pioneering outfitter for active wilderness travel.

Bangs has published 19 books and more than 1,000 magazine articles. He’s also produced a score of documentaries and all manner of digital media. He has lectured at the Smithsonian, the National Geographic Society, the Explorers Club, and other notable venues. He writes a semi-regular feature for HuffingtonPost.com, freelances for other print and online publications, and produces and hosts Richard Bangs’ Adventures with Purpose, as seen on National Public Television.

In the early 1990s, Sobek merged with Mountain Travel to become Mountain Travel-Sobek, a leader in international adventure and eco-travel. Bangs also began TerraQuest, one of the first online travel projects, and was part of the founding executive team of Expedia.com. He also served as president of Outward Bound; created the “Well Traveled” series for Slate.com; and was founding editor and executive producer of MSNBC’s “Great Escapes.” He lives in Venice, California, with his family.

Denaye Hinds
K. Denaye Hinds, a native of Bermuda, is an engineer and project manager at OBM International, a leading global architecture and master planning design firm specializing in hospitality and high-end residential design. She has experience in sustainability planning at the tourism-destination and operations levels, working with governments to produce sustainability plans and guide sustainable development in various island-nations. Hinds’ role in the tourism industry involves sustainability infrastructure, planning, and resource forecasting of islands as means to preparing for the future. With resilience and sustainable investment as a focus, she has provided guidance and developed tourism plans to ensure longevity of industries with the goal of improving and implementing sustainable development and policy.

Hinds is also director of corporate development for OBM International with responsibility for leading the company’s development goals for corporate structure, business development, and culture. Hinds also serves as chairwoman for the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism(CAST) and sits on the executive committee for the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA). She is active in the U.S. Green Building Council for South Florida and the Caribbean.

Andrea Holbrook
Andrea Holbrook is president of Holbrook Travel, Inc., which is based in Gainesville, Florida. Since 1998, she has led the company, which specializes in natural history, educational programs, and the promotion of sustainable travel. She is also part of a family operation that owns and oversees Selva Verde Lodge and Private Reserve in the lowland rainforests of Costa Rica. Andrea helped establish, and is currently president of the board of, the Sarapiquí Conservation Learning Center (SCLC), a community-driven outreach initiative located on the grounds of Selva Verde Lodge. The center’s mission is to empower local communities through learning, providing access to knowledge and promoting sustainable development. 

At Holbrook Travel, Andrea directs a team that works with diverse clients, from nature and conservation organizations to high schools and universities to individual specialists. Her company offers programs that support and help carry out their missions in more than 30 countries, mostly in Latin America and East Africa. Through Holbrook, Andrea has also supported three industry associations focused on sustainable development in specific regions: the International Galápagos Tour Operators Association; Friends of the Serengeti; and RESPECT in Cuba. She graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and enjoys spending time, and exploring the world, with her husband, Robert, and teenage daughter, Aggie.

Andrea Pinabell
Andrea Pinabell, LEED AP, joined Southface as the organization’s president in January 2017. A dynamic, purpose-driven, and experienced leader, Pinabell has demonstrated consistent success in developing and leading multi-level and international organizations in both for-profit and nonprofit environments. Most recently, she was vice president for sustainability and global citizenship with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

Previously, Pinabell was with The Home Depot Foundation as director of the Sustainable Cities Institute and Sustainable Community Development Program manager. A chemical engineer by education, she brings wide-ranging expertise to Southface, from water to energy to sustainable business, communities, and development. In addition, Pinabell has won several awards, including SmartCEO Magazine’s award (2015) honoring visionary leadership in the commercial real estate industry.

UN Environment Assembly on Pollution

CREST is collaborating with UN Environment to promote the next UN Environment Assembly 2017, which will convene environmental ministers and leaders from around the world to address the global pollution threat. The assembly, taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, December 4-6, 2017, will be the world's highest-level, decision-making body on the environment. It is designed to deliver tangible commitments to minimize the pollution of air, land, fresh water, and oceans from chemicals, waste and other sources of pollution.

In the lead-up to this assembly, UN Environment is inviting voluntary commitments from businesses, governments, and the public to address pollution. CREST encourages tourism businesses within our network that are involved in innovative pollution-reduction initiatives to go to the Beat Pollution business page and describe your commitment to pollution reduction.  

In addition, we encourage members of the public to sign the #BeatPollution pledge to reduce their pollution footprint.

The UN Environment Assembly has also released a keynote report, Towards a Pollution-Free Planet, which provides the latest scientific information on how pollution impacts ecosystems and human health and well-being. It also identifies key transformative actions and solutions.

Thank You to Our Fall Travel Auction Donors | Join Us This Holiday Season!

From September 12 – 26, we hosted our biggest responsible travel auction yet at CREST. These auctions provide critical funding to supplement the project-based grants we receive, and we have the following inspiring travel companies to thank:
Basecamp Explorer Kenya*, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts*, Bulldog Tours, CGH Earth*, Ecoventura, Hotel El Ganzo*, The Explorer's Passage*, Fond Doux Plantation & Resort, Golden Door, Grand Bohemian Hotel Charleston, h2hotel, Half Moon Resort, SPaventura Ecolodge, InterContinental New York Barclay, Belle Mont Farm, Legendary Expeditions, The Pavilions Himalayas*, Poogan's Hospitality Group, Pousada Rio Claro, Royal Mansour, Secret Bay**, Costa Navarino, Traverse Journeys, and White Elephant.

Our next auction will take place December 5 – 19, via www.charitybuzz.com. Businesses that take part can share their community and sustainability initiatives with the CREST social media audiences and their package offerings with the CREST and Charitybuzz networks. It's a win-win-win: travelers get a great vacation, CREST's work is funded, and responsible businesses get extra exposure with socially and environmentally conscious consumers! Contact Samantha Hogenson if your business would like to take part in the December auction.

*Denotes CREST Platinum Sponsorship, meaning the company has committed to long-term support of CREST. We are thrilled to welcome CGH Earth and The Pavilions Himalayas as Platinum Sponsors. Stay tuned for more info on these changemakers.

**Secret Bay Dominica, a very generous donor in our Fall Travel Auction, experienced significant damage from Hurricane Maria on September 18th. Thankfully, Secret Bay was closed for regular maintenance at the time, and therefore no guests were on the property. All staff members have been confirmed safe, but many have lost essential belongings or their homes entirely. If you have visited Secret Bay or simply would like to help, the hotel's management team has set up an Indiegogo campaign to support the Secret Bay staff as they work to put their lives back together. Even small amounts help.

In addition, many Costa Rican communities were recently devastated by Tropical Storm Nate. CREST Platinum Sponsor Bodhi Surf + Yoga shares the following update and donation request: "There many communities in our area that are inaccessible and people who have lost everything. If you can donate, even a little bit, the funds will be dispersed via our friends at GEOPORTers, a nonprofit organization operating out of Bahia Ballena whose members are currently working tirelessly and "with local emergency committees to get resources to priority areas in the communities of Ciudad Cortes, Palmar Norte & Sur, Rey Curre, Sierpe, and others located in the Osa and Golfito counties."

In the Spotlight: Traverse Journeys

CREST was thrilled to include Traverse Journeys in its fall fundraising auction, during which one lucky lady put up the winning bid for an adventure to the Amazon in Ecuador this coming February. Offering accommodations in a community-run eco-lodge in Yasuní National Park, the trip will focus on the natural beauty of the rainforest, a cultural exchange with the local women’s project, and daily excursions highlighting the region’s flora and fauna and efforts to preserve them.

A partner in that effort, and sponsor of the Ecuador trip, is Peaceful Fruits, an organic acai fruit snack company sourcing from the Amazon and the subject of a recent Traverse blog post. And for those interested, there are still a few 2018 spots left for this unique adventure. Groups and families are welcome.

A cornerstone to the Traverse model is community partnerships. For the upcoming Yoga + Surf Nicaragua retreat, taking place Nov. 5-10, 2017, it has partnered with Alex’s Surf Shop, a local provider and active community member which hosts surfing competitions for local kids. Also on the trip is a cultural exchange with Barrio Planta Project, a nonprofit offering supplementary education for kids in San Juan del Sur. Those attending the retreat will spend an afternoon doing yoga, art and Spanish-English exchange, and 5 percent of trip sales—as is the case with all Traverse trips—will be donated directly to the program.

For those interested in cycling, Traverse just launched Cycle SE Asia, three different trips in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, where visitors stay at guesthouses, boutique hotels, and homestays while riding through incredibly beautiful, complex countries. The trips include visits to numerous nonprofits and social enterprises, including Dorsu, an ethical fashion brand. You’ll learn about social issues, see sites such as Angkor Wat and make a positive difference with your travels.

Interested in joining a Traverse trip? Traverse is offering a $200 discount on Nicaragua or Ecuador packages booked by Oct. 22, 2017. Just use CREST200 on booking.

Platinum Sponsor Q&A: Basecamp Explorer Kenya

Basecamp Explorer Kenya is not only a CREST Platinum Sponsor, or generous, five-year-committed auction donor; it’s a premiere tourism company in eastern Africa known for operating in a responsible, enlightened way. We recently asked Petronilla Gichimu and Mercy Kakoro, members of Basecamp Explorer’s marketing team, to talk about the company’s relationship with the local Maasai community and its many sustainability initiatives.

Why, from the beginning, was it important for Basecamp to form a relationship with the Maasai people and become a part of the community?
Basecamp Explorer’s approach to tourism is encapsulated in the concept of “tourism for people, planet, and profit.” The principle behind this approach is that businesses in tourism must respond to, and invest in, the people and environment of the destination they are in. This is done by empowering local people through training, education, and employment. By working closely with the local Masai community, we aim to create an enabling environment for wealth creation for the benefit of the community.

Basecamp co-operated with the Maasai community to form the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. What have been the outcomes of that cooperation?
We have had successes in using sustainable technologies, conserving the environment, promoting and conserving culture, and enhancing quality of life of the local people. We have also created a unique tourism experience while sustaining and restoring esthetics at our destinations. The revenue generated from guests ensures direct economic benefits to the Maasai families in Naboisho.

How does tourism help to achieve the goals of the conservancy?
Mara Naboisho Conservancy is an innovative and effective project that benefits over 500 local Maasai families through revenue generated as land-lease fees. Naboisho has successfully integrated tourism with traditional Maasai practices, providing employment opportunities and a secure source of income for more than 500 families, with an estimated 300 new jobs and indirect financial benefits to about 10,000 local people. Another big benefit is the education it provides for the local Maasai community. And the revenue generated by guest-bed fees, guest activity fees, and camp land-lease fees helps fund conservation efforts.

Tell us about the Basecamp Maasai Brand.
The Basecamp Maasai Brand (BMB) is a flagship economic empowerment program which started in 2003. The BMB initiative has about 158 women who use their traditional skills and talents to make beaded jewelry items for sale, which earns them a direct income, enabling the women to provide for their families. The rewards are visible in the form of purchasing livestock, building more functional homes, and educating their children.

Why is it important for Basecamp to get travelers involved with philanthropy?
Tourists and tourism play a fundamental role in the protection of the environment. The participation of all stakeholders ensures the sustainability of the environment and best cultural practices for destination communities. In partnership with the local Maasai community, Basecamp engages in responsible tourism, which helps local economies while creating positive environmental and cultural impacts. 

Tell us about the sustainability initiatives employed by Basecamp Explorer Kenya.
We aim to provide sustainable development through capacity-building for the local community. We also provide training and education opportunities, which result in economic and social benefits for the local Maasai community.

We already mentioned the Mara Naboisho Conservancy. In addition, 95 percent of the employees at Basecamp are members of the local Maasai community. We also provide educational support through a sponsorship at Koiyaki Guiding School, an initiative that trains young men and women in professional and responsible guiding skills. To date, about 200 students have graduated from the school, 20 percent of whom are young Maasai women.

Dr. Scott Curtis, a CREST Academic Affiliate, Awarded High Honor

The timing was, perhaps, fortuitous. Back in April, Dr. Scott Curtis, a professor of atmospheric science at East Carolina University, received a rare honor. The university awarded him the title of Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Advancement Council Distinguished Professorship in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He’s only the second ECU professor to receive such an honor.

Dr. Curtis also focuses his research on climate change, with an emphasis, in part, on the impacts of coastal storms on the southeastern United States and the Caribbean. Since April, as we all know, those regions have weathered three major hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, and Maria—which, collectively, have devastated many destination communities.

So Dr. Curtis’ work, which has already been featured in two of three climate change-related books recently published by CREST, is needed now more than ever. An ECU professor for 14 years, he continues to share his knowledge of climate change and its effects with generations of students. During his five-year term as a distinguished professor, he plans to promote, in various ways, the link between natural science, mathematics, and everyday life. He’ll do so through research and community outreach, including hosting speakers at ECU whose messages appeal to a wide range of audiences.

We congratulate Dr. Curtis and look forward to our continued collaboration.

Welcome to Our Newest Intern, Ellen Ray!

Just in time for our UN sustainable tourism forum, Ellen Ray joined us as a fall intern from California Polytechnic State University. She will graduate in December with an undergraduate degree in recreation, parks, and tourism administration. Throughout her four years at university, she has worked on an organic produce farm and as an outdoor adventure guide. Ellen supplemented her studies by traveling independently throughout Southeast Asia and South America for a total of a year. She traveled primarily through work-trade programs, which allowed her to engage in locally-run projects emphasizing the significance of cultural and environmental preservation. She says that the time spent traveling altered her perception of the tourism industry, opening her eyes to the negative impact of tourism as well as to ways in which tourism can benefit host communities.

Students like Ellen are the future of the sustainable tourism industry, and we are thrilled to have her join us for her final semester. Welcome, Ellen!

Speaking of interns, read about summer intern Santi Zindel's experience with strategic travelers' philanthropy in Rwanda in May.

Call for Internship Applications for Spring

It's hard to believe we're already planning for Spring 2018, but CREST is excited to announce we have three internship positions available in our Washington, D.C., office for January – May: two in Program & Research and one in Communications & Marketing. Ideal candidates are enthusiastic, creative individuals with an interest in responsible and sustainable travel, who'd like to gain experience working in the non-profit sector. Graduate students are preferred, though consideration will be given to exceptional undergraduates. Read the internship descriptions here. Applicants should submit a cover letter, résumé, two references (name, position, and contact information), and a short writing sample to Samantha Hogenson by Monday, November 6.

CREST in the News

  • September 24, 2017: “Fierce Debate Roars to Life Over Grizzly Bear Hunt.” Even though the British Columbia government announced, in August, that it will permanently ban grizzly bear trophy hunting, the debate over trophy hunting continues to rage, as this comprehensive theinertia.com article attests. Some feel trophy hunting is a great source of revenue that also keeps the grizzly population in check. Others, however, consider it immoral, against First Nations’ values and culture, damaging to the eco-system, and in harmful competition with bear viewing. Among the studies cited is one published by CREST which found that, in the Great Bear Rainforest, far more revenue is generated by bear-viewing than trophy hunting.
  • August 29, 2017: Ecotourism Investment Begins to Flourish.” Financial investments in mainstream tourism have always made sense because travel is big business. But when it comes to sustainable tourism, funding remains a stumbling block to growth, according to CREST’s Martha Honey in this Conservation Finance Network piece. There are signs, however, that investors are starting to show interest in putting money into sustainable tourism projects.
  • August 15, 2017: Canada Province to End Grizzly Bear Trophy Hunt.” Making good on a campaign promise, the British Columbia government announced, this summer, that the current trophy hunting season for grizzly bears would be the last. This was 16 years after previous government leaders reinstated trophy hunting, prompting an outcry from conservationists, according to BBC News. One of their tools in campaigning for a reversal was a 2014 CREST study favoring bear-viewing over bear-hunting as a revenue generator.

CREST is a licensed 501(c)3 in the District of Columbia. Want to help us to transform the way the world travels? Support our work here.