CREST Newsletter | July - September 2019

From the Executive Director

On August 1, I began a wonderful new adventure as CREST’s Executive Director, and I’m grateful for your fellowship and support on behalf of CREST’s important mission.

Our world is at a tipping point. Responsible, sustainable travel can no longer be a niche or a luxury. Travel is a privilege that comes with great responsibility – from destinations, companies, and travelers.

Sustainable destinations foster a resilient tourism industry. Under my leadership, CREST will take strategic action to address the top threats to securing a sustainable future:

  • Climate change: CREST will support working solutions to address climate change through destination stewardship, and Tourism in a Changing Climate will be our organizing theme in 2020.

  • Biodiversity loss: Our planet’s biodiversity is under siege, and CREST will address biodiversity loss through sustainable tourism solutions.

  • Overtourism: CREST will continue our global leadership to address the threat of overtourism, including the release in 2020 of our overtourism book.   

  • Inequitable Access to Wealth in the Tourism Economy: CREST pledges to produce data-driven solutions to address this critical issue.

CREST will utilize strategic, long-term partnerships and catalytic investments to take our responsible travel mission to scale. As we usher in the next chapter, I’d like to share with you a short video that embodies CREST’s commitment and purpose.

Yours in responsible travel,

Gregory Miller, Ph.D.
Executive Director

Travel Industry Gathered on World Tourism Day to Discuss Best Practices for Impact Tourism

On September 27, leaders in tourism and community development came together at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC to discuss how the travel industry can responsibly give back to the communities we love around the world.

Our third annual World Tourism Day Forum, Impact Tourism: Giving Time, Talent & Treasure, focused on how tourism business, travelers, and organizations are making strategic contributions of time, talent, and treasure to social and environmental projects in destinations – a concept that CREST calls impact tourism. Recognizing that “doing good” does not always mean “doing right,” the forum also used a lessons-learned approach to examine the downsides of poorly implemented travel giving programs.

Hosted in partnership with the Organization of American States, this day-long event featured panel discussions on key issues in impact tourism, including destination-wide travel giving programs, community partnerships, donor travel, corporate responsibility, voluntourism, and in-kind donations. James Thornton, CEO of Intrepid Travel, gave a keynote address on the company’s innovative responsible travel initiatives and shared lessons learned from 30 years of impact tourism. View the event program and media coverage to see the range of perspectives represented at the forum.

In her opening remarks at the World Tourism Day Forum, CREST Managing Director Samantha Bray underscored the importance of impact tourism for destinations around the world. “Impact tourism provides access to funds from travel companies, organizations, and visitors, through strategic partnerships in host destinations, that would otherwise leave a destination,” she explained. “It is an increasingly important form of development and conservation assistance at a time when funds are dwindling elsewhere.”

A carbon neutral event, sustainability played a central role in the planning and execution of the 2019 World Tourism Day Forum, and the tourism industry’s responsibility to address the climate crisis was a key topic of discussion. Among the day’s major announcements was the theme of the 2020 World Tourism Day Forum, which will be Tourism in a Changing Climate, as well as the introduction of CREST’s annual Legacy in Responsible Travel Award. CREST’s Board of Directors honored Martha Honey, CREST Co-Founder and Director Emeritus, with the inaugural Legacy in Responsible Travel Award in recognition of her pioneering work to promote responsible tourism across the globe.

CREST is grateful to our World Tourism Day Forum sponsors for making this event possible. Building on the forum’s momentum, we look forward to releasing an Impact Tourism Handbook in 2020, featuring how-to case studies from many of the World Tourism Day Forum speakers, along with other best-practice leaders. To discuss opportunities to support this project, contact Samantha Bray.

Overtourism: Dissecting the Causes, Seeking Solutions

Around the world, popular destinations have reached a tipping point. Overtourism is disrupting daily life, degrading precious natural and historic sites, and impacting the traveler experience. CREST is committed to helping destinations develop solutions to mitigate and prevent overtourism. We’ve been hard at work to address this global problem over the last three months, conducting critical research and providing thought leadership. We’ve shared our expertise in news outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and Smart Cities Dive and presented our overtourism research insights at the Smithsonian Institution.

As part of CREST’s commitment to combating overtourism, we will release a book in 2020 that will critique the causes of overtourism and assess experiments underway to address it. The book will feature essays by Elizabeth Becker, author of Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism, Albert Arias Sans, Head of Barcelona’s Strategic Plan for Tourism 2020, and other leading experts. To learn more about opportunities to support this project, contact Kelsey Frenkiel.

The Case for Responsible Travel: New Trends & Statistics Report Coming Soon

CREST’s annual report on the business, consumer, and destination case for responsible travel will soon be released! Our 2019 meta-analysis will include impact tourism data and examples as this year’s signature theme. The report was prepared in collaboration with over two dozen leading organizations and institutions, reflecting the importance of impact tourism and the wide range of innovative examples that exist. Look for this exciting resource in your inboxes and at on Thursday, October 31.

CREST's Fall Auction Offers Travel With Purpose

Are you in search of your next adventure? Take the trip of a lifetime while supporting CREST’s work to further the practice and promotion of responsible travel! CREST’s Fall Travel Auction is live on through October 17. The auction features packages from responsible travel leaders Adventure Access, Amantica Lodge, Argonaut Hotel, Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo, Curio Collection by Hilton (a Kind Hotel), Basecamp Explorer Kenya*, Bisma Eight, Cardamom Tented Camp, CGH Earth*, Chablé Yucatán, Hotel El Ganzo*, Intrepid Travel, Katikies Garden, Large Minority, Montfair Resort Farm*, Nihi Sumba, Pavilions Himalayas*, Rancho La Puerta, RED Travel México, Thatch Caye, a Muy’Ono Resort*, and Wilderness Safaris.

Thank you to our donors: CREST’s work is made possible by those in the industry who believe in our mission and are living it every day. Can’t get enough travel? You’ll have one more chance in 2019 to get great travel through CREST. Stay tuned for exciting information about CREST’s Holiday Travel Auction, which will take place December 4 – 18.

*Denotes Platinum Sponsorship, which means that the donor has committed to supporting CREST auctions for a period of five years to fund responsible travel research and development.

Welcome, Fall Interns!

CREST is pleased to welcome our newest interns for the fall, who are working on communications, programs, and research.

Ariel Klein is a Program & Research Intern at CREST. Prior to CREST, Ariel worked for three years in Guadeloupe and Mongolia in the field of education. She also spent time in Ghana, Peru, and Costa Rica leading service learning trips for high school students. Ariel is currently pursuing a Masters degree in International Education and Training at American University. Her studies focus on tourists’ cross-cultural experiences and how the industry can meet tourists’ expectations in a culturally and environmentally responsible manner.

Emily Ganem is a Communications Intern at CREST and an undergraduate student at American University. She is currently pursuing degrees in Communications, Law, Economics, and Government (CLEG) and Environmental Studies. This past summer, Emily was a community scientist at Cape Cod’s Buzzards Bay Coalition, tracking the effects of nitrogen use in local waterways. She hopes to one day to work on giving justice and opportunities to local and indigenous communities that are often overlooked in urban planning and travel.

Cassie McCabe Cassie McCabe is a Program and Research Intern at CREST. After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Florida, Cassie traveled abroad for nearly a decade, witnessing both the many joys tourism has to offer as well as the detrimental effects it can have on local communities and the environment. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts at the University of South Florida's Patel College of Global Sustainability, with a concentration in Sustainable Tourism.

Interested in joining our team? We'll soon be announcing opportunities to intern with us in Spring 2020. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter for details.

Destination Stewardship Center Catalogues Holistic Managment Best Practices

The Destination Stewardship Center, a fiscally sponsored project of CREST, continues its work on identifying and profiling those rare destinations that have developed holistic management. Two are now posted on British Columbia’s Thompson Okanagan region and Mexico’s town of Tequila, renowned for – you guessed it. The need for better management is urgent; the Destination Monitor news watch shows ever increasing stories about overtourism.

Also posted is a report on tourism do’s and don’ts made by the World’s Inspiring Places video team on the Adriatic coast of the Balkans. For several weeks, National Geographic’s Open Explorer hosted a longer version of that report, as well as DSC Director Jonathan Tourtellot’s look at conservation tourism in Africa. Unfortunately, NatGeo closed the Open Explorer platform in September, but the DSC plans to republish these stories elsewhere.

Finally, attention, restless retirees! The DSC now seeks a business-savvy executive volunteer to take the DSC organization to the next stage. Read here for more information.

Platinum Sponsor Q&A: Laguna Lodge

CREST Platinum Sponsor Laguna Lodge is located on the lakeshore of Guatemala’s legendary Lake Atitlan, exclusively nestled in its own nature reserve. We had a chance to catch up with Laguna Lodge staff about their commitment to sustainability and giving back to the local community.

Conservation and environmental stewardship are central to Laguna Lodge’s mission. Can you tell us about some of your efforts to conserve energy and water?

Laguna Lodge is committed to conserving water, and our outdoor water conservation activities include rainy season planting and watering in the early morning or late afternoon. The lodge is landscaped with edible plants, bananas, papayas, coffee, and large hardy succulents. Our grey water goes to the garden, and rainwater is collected in rainy season. In guest rooms, toilets are set at low water levels with a half flush option, and we have low-flow shower heads. Rain and lake waters are cleansed through filters, ultraviolet light, and reverse osmosis. We use water meters and water calculators for measuring and monitoring. We also have complimentary filtered water in suites and common areas to help eliminate plastic bottles.

Energy conservation is core component of our operations. We have renewable energy from 180 solar panels producing 20kW of power, and we use energy-saving LED and compact fluorescent/low wattage bulbs, as well as solar garden security lights. Electric meters monitor our consumption. Our website is hosted on a carbon neutral server, and we have solar hot water heating as well as solar pumps for the water supply. WiFi is provided by a solar powered tower on top of Laguna Nature Reserve. Our clocks are water powered, and lawns are cut with manual mowers. In terms of transportation, our employees arrive by foot or public boat, and our lodge boats use efficient four-stroke motors. We source from local providers and small sustainable suppliers, and our staff receives information on ecologically sustainable concepts.

Your lakefront restaurant, Zotz, also focuses on sustainability. What can guests expect when they dine at Zotz, and how do you define “low carbon cuisine?”

As part of our comprehensive best practice initiatives, Laguna Lodge has further lowered our carbon footprint by offering exclusively plant-based menus. Zotz restaurant serves modern sustainable plant-based cuisine. The award-winning culinary team present satisfying gourmet meals, and guests learn that sustainable plant-based food choices are uniquely effective in reducing greenhouse gas emission and pollution while preserving biodiversity and water.

Produce is predominantly local, natural, and organic. Gourmet menus use local ingredients and traditional recipes. Organic and carbon neutral wines are included in wine choices. Ordering fixed dinner ahead of time and a la carte breakfast menu reduces wastage over a traditional buffet breakfast. Laguna Lodge is motivating a shift in perceptions away from traditional eating patterns by providing guests with flavorful meat-free and plant-based cuisine. Guests take home an understanding of the benefits of a sustainable lifestyle and how they can reduce personal impacts on climate change through plant-based food consumption. We convey that it is not only organic produce and local provenance that matters in the food supply chain, but our food choices themselves. Incorporating plant-based food choices is an effective mitigation strategy with measurable results and is economical to implement. Laguna Lodge is at the forefront of this largely overlooked ecological initiative and is dedicated to promoting plant-based foods as a new benchmark within sustainable tourism.

What types of employment opportunities does the lodge offer to the local community?

The lodge employs 100% indigenous Kaqchikel hotel staff from the local villages, and more than half are woman. We provide long-term employment with opportunities for personal and professional development in the fields of managerial, secretarial, culinary, hospitality, construction, organic gardening, and reserve management. The lodge provides hospitality training for those without formal education.

What is Laguna Community Care, and how can guests support the local community during their stay at Laguna Lodge?

Laguna Community Care, or LCC, has a mission is to provide medical aid to reduce suffering and poverty and to promote basic education, gender equality, and empowerment. It is funded by the lodge and by guests wishing to donate in a professional capacity, monetarily, or with donated items such as medicines, educational books, and school supplies. LCC ask skilled professionals to donate or reduce rates for appointments and treatments. We facilitate the meetings and coordinate between the medical provider and those being treated. We arrange family involvement, explain the options available, and provide transportation and after care. Meals are sent to the village from the lodge for the very ill and elderly. We provide funds after sudden illness or death, home repairs, and information on family planning and HIV/AIDS education. We also donate stays at Laguna Lodge for health professionals who in return donate consultations and treatments. The lodge coordinates between the local indigenous people and the medical provider.

Responsible Travel Companies Commit to Supporting CREST

CREST is pleased to welcome Montfair Resort Farm and Muy’Ono Resorts as our newest Platinum Sponsors. Though their generous commitment, both companies provide vital support to our work to advance responsible travel policy and practice. Get to know them even better:

  • Montfair Resort Farm, Virginia: An eco-friendly and relaxed destination for vacations, weddings, and events. Located on 129 acres at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia minutes from Shenandoah National Park, 15 miles from Charlottesville, UVA, and 40 minutes from Monticello. Enjoy comfortable vacation cottages with Wi-Fi, onsite hiking and biking trails, canoes, and fishing on our spring-fed lake. The small cottages are air conditioned and heated and provide everything you need. Each cottage features a self-catering kitchen and a private covered porch. Events Lodge is a versatile space ideal for small meetings, retreats, conferences, and weddings. Pets welcome! 

  • Muy’Ono Resorts, Belize: Travel Better with Muy’Ono Resorts, the largest collection of independent resorts in Belize. Muy’Ono Resorts hand selects each resort to provide unique experiences in the most beautiful locations in the country: from jungles to beaches to private islands. Guests can expect unforgettable vacations while helping to preserve Belize for generations to come through the Muy’Ono Travel Better program. Each Muy’Ono Resort is committed to preserving the beautiful and fragile natural environment of Belize, serving others through philanthropy programs, and celebrating the diverse local cultures with guests.

CREST Shares Our Experience

  • Smithsonian Institution: CREST Co-Founder & Director Emeritus Martha Honey participated on a panel on overtourism at the Smithsonian Institution in August, joining Washington Post travel writer Andrea Sachs and Kate Simpson of Academic Travel Abroad. At the event, Martha shared insights from CREST’s research on overtourism and discussed how travelers can avoid contributing to this global problem.

  • The George Washington University: In August, CREST Managing Director Samantha Bray spoke to a tourism policy and planning certificate course at The George Washington University about conducting tourism-based project work. Topics discussed included the process for starting projects, conducting research and/or field work, and monitoring and evaluation.

Industry Announcements

  • Join the Impact Travel Alliance on World Food Day: simple decisions about what we eat can have a significant impact on our planet. On October 16, join the Impact Travel Alliance to celebrate and learn about sustainable eating in cities around the world, from NYC to Melbourne and beyond. View details and find an event near you.

  • Basecamp Explorer's Enjoolata Awareness Centre: The Enjoolata Awareness Centre is an innovative and unique differentiator in the heart of Kenya’s Masai Mara that aims to encourage the community spirit and inspire people to come together. Located at the Basecamp Explorer Masai Mara grounds, the Centre will tell the story of the iconic wildlife of Masai Mara as well as the story of the Maasai people and culture.

    The soon-to-be-open Centre will include two exhibition rooms displaying various Maasai artifact and the Basecamp Maasai Brand art and craft workshop – where together with local Maasai women, you can create unique beaded items as you experience authentic cultural interactions. In addition, the Centre will include a library with books and videos, a telecommunication room, an editing room where you can transform your images and videos into lasting memories, and a movie square for you to watch classic movies such as Out of Africa.

  • Recycling Organic Waste Into Environmental and Social Good in Jamaica: In this article, CaribShare’s Carol Lue discusses her company’s work to collect and recycle food waste daily from eight hotels in Montego Bay, Jamaica, highlighting key lessons learned over nearly three years.

  • Support CREST During Your Stay at the Inn at Horn Point: The Inn at Horn Point in Annapolis, Maryland, is a Maryland Green Registry 2019 Leadership Award Winner. Located downtown and one block from Restaurant Row, the INN practices a variety of methods to reduce their impact on the environment, including composting, electric vehicle charging stations, and specialized rainwater landscaping. To confirm your reservation, call (410) 268-1126 and mention the offer code CREST2019, and 15% of your stay's proceeds will support CREST’s work to transform the way the world travels.

CREST in the News: Talking U.S. Travel to Cuba, Overtourism, and Impact Tourism

CREST engaged in robust media outreach this summer, raising awareness on topics including U.S. travel to Cuba, overtourism, and impact tourism. Check out our media appearances from the last three months:

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