The latest data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization shows that international tourist arrivals grew by a striking 6% in the first six months of 2018 after a record year of growth in 2017. As global travel continues to boom, CREST is busier than ever supporting destination communities worldwide. This issue of CREST’s newsletter brings a wealth of updates, from a successful 2018 World Tourism Day Forum to an important development in U.S. travel to Cuba to our just-released Trends & Statistics publication.
Watch CREST’s New Video!
We are excited to share our new video about CREST’s work to transform the way the world travels. Shown for the first time at our 2018 World Tourism Day Forum, this video is a reflection of our mission and values as an organization dedicated to increasing the positive impact of responsible tourism. Watch and share to help us celebrate our 15-year anniversary!
Experts Gather on World Tourism Day to Discuss Solutions to Overtourism
Overtourism has become an epidemic that is impacting destinations around the world. Inexpensive travel options, a growing middle class, and the desire of people everywhere to see the world is leading to visitor saturation, and discussion of solutions is urgently needed.
In response to this growing global problem, CREST and The George Washington University’s International Institute of Tourism Studies co-hosted a 2018 World Tourism Day Forum focused on finding solutions. The forum, which took place on September 27 in Washington, DC, brought together industry experts working on the front lines to address overtourism in their destinations.
“We decided to focus this year on overtourism because it has rapidly emerged as a leading topic,” said CREST executive director Martha Honey in her opening remarks at the forum. “In fact, I contend that overtourism – together with climate change – are today the two most critical issues facing the travel and tourism industry.”
This day-long, interactive event featured panel discussions on overtourism in historic cities, national parks and protected areas, World Heritage Sites, coastal and beach communities, and national and regional destinations. Speakers representing destinations like Barcelona, Acadia National Park, Machu Picchu, and Iceland shared their insights on how to protect these special places. Solutions that emerged from the forum included visitor dispersal and diversification strategies, multi-stakeholder management plans, improved infrastructure and transportation, ticketing systems, and visitor education.
The World Tourism Day Forum’s audience included over 200 thought leaders and practitioners from the tourism sector, the media, NGOs, academic institutions, government organizations, and international agencies. We’re thrilled by the enthusiastic responses we’re received about the forum, including an attendee who described it as “one of the best I've ever attended.”
CREST is deeply grateful to our World Tourism Day Forum Gold Sponsor Lake Tahoe, Silver Sponsors Holbrook Travel and the National Park Service, and our Supporting and In-Kind Sponsors for making this event possible. We will soon be releasing recordings of the day’s panel discussions and a summary publication sharing the key takeaways from the forum. Media coverage of the forum has included articles by CNN and Travel Weekly.
Oman: Sustainable Tourism Planning for South Al Sharqiyah Region
CREST’s largest single project in 2018 is in Oman, where we are developing for the Ministry of Tourism the sustainable tourism master plans of South Al Sharqiyah Governorate, the region that runs south of Muscat, along the coast on the Arabian Sea and the Sea of Oman. It is a region rich in natural beauty (sand dunes, beaches, a large island, and wadis) and cultural history, including old frankincense trade routes, dhow building and sailing, and trade to East Africa, India, and elsewhere, including the colonization of Zanzibar beginning in the 19th century. It also has a recently declared UNESCO World Heritage Site (Qalhat) and three national parks including world class turtle nesting beaches. We are developing six tourism clusters and a series of circuits both within our region and linked to neighboring regions, with focuses on adventure, ecotourism, wildlife viewing, maritime heritage, culture, family vacations, wellness, and other market segments. We have dubbed the modern coastal highway running down the spine of the region as the Scenic Dunes and Dhows Coastal Road. (Above Photo: Olive Harvest in Wadi Tiwi, Oman)
CREST is part of a four-firm consortium, with a local Omani firm and an Indian engineering firm based in Muscat as the two lead firms. Although executive director Martha Honey is the head of the CREST team, Mike Robbins, CREST Board Chair, is serving as CREST’s chief consultant, handling much of the site assessment, research, report writing, and managing the other consultants. CREST’s team also includes Jeff Barrett, a landscape architect; Jill Vandal, a financial analyst; James MacGregor, a tourism planner; and CREST staff and research interns.
The project was launched in April, and we are currently in stage two of the project, which must be completed by mid-December. On October 25, Mike Robbins will present the stage two report to the Ministry of Tourism in Muscat.
State Department Reclassifies Cuba Travel Advisory to Level 2, Meets With Cuba Coalition
In August, the U.S. State Department updated its Cuba travel advisory from “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” to “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution.” This move was applauded by a CREST-led coalition of tour operators, educational travel companies, NGOs, and Cuba experts that have seen educational exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba deeply hurt by the State Department’s level 3 classification.
Ahead of the State Department’s decision, our coalition sent a letter to the State Department advocating for this change to Cuba’s travel advisory, arguing that the “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” rating was unwarranted and providing research and data points to support the coalition’s recommendation. With its new level 2 travel advisory rating, Cuba is now in the same category as most of Europe.
On August 29, members of the Cuba coalition attended a CREST-organized meeting at the State Department to express thanks for the positive changes being made, learn more about the decision to change Cuba’s travel advisory, and share the coalition’s recommendations for further steps to take on U.S. travel to Cuba. In the meeting, the coalition advocated for additional improvements to the travel advisory language and will continue to press for progress in the months ahead.
To learn more about the State Department’s change to the Cuba travel advisory rating, check out CREST’s press release.
CREST is undertaking a two-year project to analyze and help to strengthen small scale, boutique hotel and household-based tourism businesses in Cuba and to compare their economic, social, and environmental impacts to large-scale cruise tourism. This project involves research studies and field work together with universities in Pinar del Rio and Holguin provinces as well as in Havana. The project is directed by CREST executive director Martha Honey and coordinated in Havana by Rafael Betancourt, who is working with teams of academic in the two provinces and in Havana. The activities include supporting sustainable tourism workshops in the respective Congresses that both universities will be holding in spring and summer 2019 and organizing learning exchanges/study tours for academics from both universities.
A delegation of eight professors from Pinar del Rio will visit Costa Rica in November; then a team of Holguin professors will take a study tour in early 2019, likely to either Costa Rica or Belize. At both universities and in Havana, studies are underway to assess the impacts of small-scale tourism including boutique hotels, casas particulares (B&Bs) and paladares (home restaurants), which have been used by European, Canadian, and U.S. travelers on people to people tours to Cuba. This type of tourism was very negatively hurt by the Trump administration’s listing of Cuba with a level 3 travel advisory, the downsizing of the U.S. and Cuban embassies, and other measures beginning in 2017. However, the State Department decision in August 2018 to move Cuba to a level 2 is expected to help reverse this trend, with U.S. people to people travel to Cuba increasing over the coming months. Our partners in Cuba are studying these trends, and CREST is also planning to undertake a study that documents the history and impact of U.S. travel policies on small scale, people to people tourism to Cuba.
Chihuahua, Mexico: Developing Rarámuri Tourism Experiences at Copper Canyon
Now in its fourth year, CREST’s unique “Rarámuri Tourism Experiences” project is open for business. CREST’s local project coordinator, Daniela Ramirez, and her assistant, Perla Sylvestre, are working with two indigenous communities, Huetosachi and Bacajipare, to offer tourism experiences in their communities. The communities are located in or on the rim of the spectacular Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre), an outstanding tourism attraction in the state of Chihuahua. The experiences offered to tourists include participating in cooking and handicraft demonstrations with the women in Huetosachi and a variety of hikes and storytelling in the Canyon led by licensed guides from Bacajipare. In recent years, CREST oversaw the building of the kitchen and handicraft workshop, training of ten women in Huetosachi, and the building of trails and training of guides in Bacajipare. Future projects include building a museum in Bacajipare and installing solar panels and preparing a booklet describing the food growing and cooking processes in Huetosachi. This booklet will be available for tourists to review while they are taking part in the cooking experience.
Alaska: Strengthening Sustainable Tourism
Between March and August 2018, CREST conducted two studies designed to identify obstacles and potentials for strengthening sustainable tourism in Alaska. These studies were for the Edgerton Foundation, a family-run foundation that is seeking to expand its grants for responsible tourism in Alaska. The two white papers were researched and written by a small team of Alaska- and CREST-based researchers, including Darrin Kelly, a Juneau-based tourism consultant, and CREST interns Gabriela Cicenia, Emma-Louise Sargeant, and Nicole Whiting. The first white paper examined responsible tourism opportunities in Southeast Alaska, including the Tongass National Forest. The paper looked in part at the growth in the Southeast Alaska of large-scale cruise tourism and some of the issues this is posing for smaller, independent nature-based and cultural tourism companies, as well as for towns hosting increasingly large numbers of cruise passengers and ships. We concluded with a set of recommendations for the foundation. The second study examined ways to increase infrastructure and access to federal and state public lands in Alaska, consistent with responsible tourism practices. Again, it concluded with a set of recommendations and suggestions for further research and projects the Edgerton Foundation could consider funding.
CREST Undertakes Economic Impact Assessment of St. Kitts Music Festival
CREST is currently working to complete a direct economic impact assessment of the St. Kitts Music Festival, a project for the St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism. The St. Kitts Music Festival is a three-day annual event, typically held at the end of June, that features international, regional, and local acts. Now in its 22nd year, the objective of the event is to bring outside spending into the economy during the tourism low-season and to be a source of local pride. Typically, the festival has about 10,000 attendees.
The CREST team worked with four professors and 14 outstanding students from Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College in St. Kitts from June 28 – July 2 to conduct attendee surveying over the three days of the festival, at hotels, at the local ferry port, at a large fringe event, and in the departure lounge of the airport. Through tablet surveying, the team collected valid responses from 11% of attendees. Local stakeholders were also interviewed. The goal of the assessment is to provide the Ministry of Tourism insights to assist with future planning, and it is scheduled to conclude in mid-October.
CREST Examines Overtourism in New Report on Tourism Industry Trends
On October 9, CREST released the sixth annual edition of The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics 2018. This year’s report considers overtourism trends in five distinct types of destinations and concludes that the principles of responsible travel and visitor education provide a vital framework for effectively addressing the issue. In the report, CREST defines overtourism as “tourism that has moved beyond the limits of acceptable change in a destination due to quantity of visitors, resulting in degradation of the environment and infrastructure, diminished travel experience, wear and tear on built heritage, and/or negative impacts on residents.”
The report also highlights growing consumer demand for authentic and meaningful travel experiences and analyzes the role of tourism businesses in mainstreaming responsible travel. Through its illustrative case studies, Trends & Statistics 2018 provides the travel industry with a wealth of examples and best practices for responsible travel and addressing overtourism.
The 2018 report was prepared in collaboration with 30 leading organizations and institutions involved in sustainable tourism: Aalborg University, Adventure Travel Trade Association, Boston University, California State University Monterey Bay, Caribbean Tourism Organization, Colorado State University, Destination Stewardship Center, East Carolina University, EcoClub.com, Gender Responsible Tourism, Global Sustainable Tourism Council, Global Wellness Institute, Impact Travel Alliance, Instituto Tecnologico de Cancun, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Kind Traveler, Michigan State University, National Tour Association, The Ocean Foundation, Purdue University, Rainforest Alliance, Skåll International, Tourism Cares, The Travel Foundation, UN Environment Programme, Universidad Autonoma de Occidente, Virginia Tech, Western Sydney University, World Travel & Tourism Council, and World Wildlife Fund.
Support from responsibly-minded hotels and tour operators through our quarterly travel auctions remains vital to meeting CREST’s annual budget. We also love the opportunity our auctions provide to learn more about the incredible initiatives the tourism industry is undertaking to support local people and the planet.
The following companies donated packages for our Summer Travel Auction, August 7 - 23, hosted via Charitybuzz: Adventure Access, Basecamp Explorer Kenya*, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort*, CGH Earth Experience Hotels*, Ecoventura, Eden Roc at Cap Cana, Fond Doux Plantation & Resort, Golden Door, Hamilton Princess, Holbrook Travel, Hotel El Ganzo*, InterContinental New York Barclay, Montfair Resort Farm, SeaTrek Sailing Adventures, The Explorer’s Passage, Villa Serena Hotel, and White Elephant. We are tremendously grateful for their support!
*Included on this list are four Platinum Sponsors, which means they have committed to supporting CREST’s work for a total of five years. THANK YOU!
In exchange for donated travel packages, we share with our audience information about what makes the companies and packages unique and how they are giving back. Our next auction will be the Holiday Auction, November 29 - December 13, and we are working hard to put together a full slate of top-notch trips. Will your company join us? Contact Kelsey Frenkiel for more information by November 2.
Platinum Sponsor Q&A: CGH Earth
CREST Platinum Sponsor CGH Earth conceives and organizes truly unique travel experiences over multiple destinations in southern India. We had a chance to catch up with CGH Earth staff about their commitment to promoting sustainability and providing authentic local experiences.
What is CGH Earth’s Origin Story?
CGH Earth was founded by a father and his six sons. Coming from a family of spice and rubber planters in the Malabar Mountains, respect for the earth was their key driver in founding the resort group. CGH Earth’s core values have remained the same since then, and “responsible, sustainable, authentic” are the guidelines for any new resort.
One of CGH Earth’s core values is working with local communities. What are some examples of your engagement with local people?
After the recent floods in Kerala that polluted the groundwater in many areas, we distributed drinking water filters to local houses and schools. We also create awareness campaigns against Monsanto, plastic, and overuse of chemicals in farming. And, we assist with plastic recycling, village water supplies, and renovation of historic buildings. Each CGH Earth resort is a center of learning, and we are committed to recruiting local people. We encourage farmers to produce for us by giving a guarantee of sale of their products. This adds wealth to local communities and creates goodwill towards tourism.
CGH Earth’s Spice Village was the first resort in India to receive the PATA Grand Award for the Environment. How is sustainability woven into the fabric of Spice Village?
Everything about Spice Village is about the environment. The rooms are off the grid and powered solely by the sun. Drinking water is produced via a reverse osmosis plant that also cleans the pool. The resort is completely chemical free. Half of the cooking gas is from a bio gas plant, powered by garden waste. The roofs are thatched by elephant grass, giving employment to 70 families. Because of the temperature-balancing quality of the roof, we do not need air conditioning.
Since we are off the grid, we have no walk-in freezers and have established a supply chain that is very short. This experiment was started 10 years ago by our 50 Mile restaurant, where we only serve food that is grown within a 50 kilometer radius. We are able to source almost all food at Spice Village from within this radius.
No tree has been cut down for Spice Village. The wood is either from naturally dried out trees or waste wood from cargo shipping. We also have a worm culture area to create soil from meat waste. All the food and garden waste at Spice Village is either used in the biogas plant or the worm culture facility. And because of the drinking water facility, the resort is plastic free.
Local cuisine is an important component of the experiences you offer. What can food lovers expect on a CGH Earth trip?
CGH Earth is now spread out like a necklace across South India. The food you experience will range from the french influence in Pondicherry, a former french colony, to the local cuisines of Chettinad, to the mountain cuisine of Periyar, the home of pepper. Then you have the fisherman’s cuisines of the backwater and the coast. In Kochi, you have the Syrian Christian cuisines, as well as Dutch, Portuguese, and Chinese influences. So you will have a tour not only across South India, but also through the history of it.
CREST is pleased to welcome program and research intern Maureen Wyse to the team this fall. Maureen is currently a Master in Tourism Administration candidate at The George Washington University with a focus on Sustainable Destination Management. Prior to her studies at George Washington, Maureen managed a small bicycle tourism social enterprise in Battambang, Cambodia.
To learn more about our interns, visit our team page.
CREST Seeks Spring 2019 Interns
CREST’s internship program provides real-life sustainable tourism and nonprofit management experiences to outstanding students from around the world. Within in the next week, we’ll be sharing new communications and research internship opportunities for spring 2019. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for more information on the application process!
CARE Five-Year Anniversary Grant A Success
CARE for the Cape and Islands, a travelers’ philanthropy program fiscally sponsored by CREST, held a 5-Year Anniversary celebration this past November, where they announced a special $5,000 grant award. The grant was awarded to Island Grown Initiative, an organization established to help create a resilient and equitable food system on Martha's Vineyard.
The selected project was to develop centralized waste stations for the annual Agricultural Fair that typically draws more than 20,000 visitors each year over a four-day period. It was a collaborative effort between IGI, the Agricultural Society, and Sail Martha’s Vineyard. CARE selected this project for the grant because of the significant opportunity to replicate it all over the Cape, Islands, and beyond. Given the number of events that take place each year, using this system could have a huge positive impact upon event-based waste reduction. In addition, it provides a significant attendee educational component, engages volunteers, including 10- to 12-year-olds, and provides a direct measurable outcome.
The Waste Station Project came to fruition in August 2018 during the 157th Annual Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair. Four pop-up tents were used as central waste stations to capture and sort attendee waste into compostable, recycling, and landfill. For this new method to be successful, no other trash cans were placed around the fairgrounds.
Previous years generated 25,000 pounds of trash. This year with the new system, only 17,220 pounds of trash went to the landfill, a 31% reduction over last year’s numbers. This was especially significant given that there was record-breaking attendance, with over 40,000 people recorded for the four-day event. Three full single-stream recycling dumpsters were collected, as well as two full cardboard dumpsters.
The moveable waste stations have already been used for two other events on the island. Visit CARE’s website for a copy of the “how-to” guide.
Skål DC August Reception and Dinner
This August, CREST program associate Kelsey Frenkiel and communications & outreach manager Rebekah Stewart attended the Skål International Club of Washington, DC’s monthly reception and dinner, which brings together tourism professionals and hoteliers from across the Washington region. At the event, Skål DC generously gave us the opportunity to share information about our projects, opportunities for collaboration with CREST, and the 2018 World Tourism Day Forum. Thanks again for hosting us, Skål DC!
CREST Co-Hosts Blue Heart Film Screening
Also in August, CREST co-hosted a special screening of the film Blue Heart with Patagonia, the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD), and the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (DCEFF). The film focuses on how communities in the Balkan region have preserved the last wild rivers on the European continent and shows the impact of hydropower on ecosystems and the people who live within them. Communications & outreach manager Rebekah Stewart gave opening remarks at the screening, which took place at Patagonia’s Washington, DC store.
Ecorismo 2018: Ottawa, Canada
This September, CREST executive director Martha Honey attended and spoke at the Ecorismo 2018 conference in Ottawa, Canada. The conference, organized by the Ontario Economic Society, was an opportunity for sustainable service providers and tourism industry professionals to come together and share ideas for building a more sustainable tourism industry. Martha’s presentation, “Threats to Sustainable Tourism: Cruise Tourism and Overtourism” focused on key findings from CREST’s recently completed study of cruise tourism and from its World Tourism Day Forum on overtourism. Ecorismo 2018, a bilingual English and French conference, was attended mainly by tourism practitioners, academics, and government officials from Ontario and Quebec provinces. It emphasized the strong role the Canadian government is playing in supporting and fostering sustainable tourism.