2019 has been off to an exciting start at CREST. Our first newsletter of the year shares a wealth of updates, from a successful press teleconference on U.S. travel to Cuba to a milestone reached in our Oman project to a new opportunity to lead the CREST team. During this time of transition and promise for CREST, we’d like to thank you – our partners and supporters – for your continued commitment to our work to promote environmentally sustainable and socially responsible tourism.
After more than 15 years of visionary leadership, CREST’s founding executive director, Martha Honey, has announced her plans to retire as executive director in mid to late 2019. We at CREST are deeply grateful for Martha's unflagging dedication to our mission to promote responsible tourism and commitment to transforming the way the world travels. View our statement to learn more about this time of transition and promise for CREST.
Martha's successor will inherit an innovative, impact-oriented organization that is poised for future success. Building on our current momentum and proven results, CREST's new executive director will have the opportunity to lead the organization to new levels of achievement in responsible tourism.
If you or someone you know might be interested in applying, we encourage you to view the job description and contact Samantha Bray, CREST’s Managing Director, with any questions. A leadership profile for the position can be viewed here. Applications are due by Sunday, April 14.
CREST has been hard at work in 2019 to correct public misconceptions about American travel to Cuba and promote educational and people-to-people travel to the island. In February 2019, CREST partnered with the Ford Foundation to successfully host a conference call for media that explained the realities of U.S. travel to Cuba and shared upcoming events planned in Cuba for 2019. During the call, CREST also released the results of our latest survey of U.S. tour operators and other service providers that offer trips to Cuba. View the survey’s key findings, which reveal that people-to-people travel, study abroad programs, and cruise bookings to Cuba are all expected to rise in 2019 after seeing declines in stayover travel in 2018
The featured speakers on the press call included CREST’s Martha Honey, attorney Robert Muse, Academic Travel Abroad President Kate Simpson, and Cuba Educational Travel President Collin Laverty. The call generated 13 published articles about how Americans can travel to the island in outlets including Miami Herald, Boston Globe, Travel Pulse, Travel Weekly, Insider Travel Report, Travel Agent Central, Travel Market Report, and NTA Courier.
Despite several concerning U.S. policy shifts toward Cuba in March, including the announcement of revised Title III restrictions on expropriated Cuban properties and a State Department decision to decrease B2 visa validity for Cuban nationals, travel to Cuba remains safe and legal for Americans. CREST will continue working with our Cuba advocacy coalition throughout 2019 to educate key stakeholders about travel to Cuba and promote policies that support small-scale Cuban entrepreneurs and their families.
In the coming months, CREST will co-host two sustainable tourism workshops in Cuba in partnership with two provincial universities. The first of these workshops will be held on the eastern end of the island in Holguín from April 24-26, and the other will take place on the western tip of the island in Pinar del Río from June 18-20. CREST has invited a group of highly-regarded academics and tourism practitioners to share their insights and experiences during the conferences.
The diverse participants and attendees will hail from all throughout the Americas, with CREST sponsoring six participants from the United States, five from Costa Rica, one from Argentina, and one from Mexico. The topics that will covered during these critical learning exchanges will include tourism and climate change, small-scale tourism and ecolodges, wellness tourism, certification, impact on local economies, tourism development in protected areas, and overtourism. We look forward to sharing learnings from these workshops later this year!
In March, CREST and our partners received word that Oman’s Ministry of Tourism had officially accepted the latest version of our Stage Two report for the South Al Sharqiyah Governorate Master Plan. This 500-page report includes detailed descriptions and landscape architectural renderings for six distinct tourism clusters or zones, 14 high priority projects, and a long list of additional projects outlined for each cluster. The plans are to be developed across three phases, running from 2020 to 2040.
The South Al Sharqiyah region, which runs south of the capital Muscat, borders the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Sea and includes Oman’s largest island, Masirah, the major maritime city of Sur, and the remains of the ancient city of Qalhat, a recently designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region also includes some of Oman’s best wadis, three national parks, the spectacular Sharqiyah Sands, extensive coral reefs and turtle nesting beaches, and the rugged eastern Hajar Mountains – making it ideal for adventure, nature-based, and cultural tourism. Much of the region is connected by a modern, multi-land road, branded by the CREST team as the “Dhows and Dunes Scenic Coastal Highway.”
Tourism growth in this region has been modest to date because of the limited choice in accommodation, activities, and marketing. But with this master plan, the region is on the cusp of change centered on sustainable development.
CREST is working together with two Oman-based engineering firms in the South Al Sharqiyah Master Plan project which officially began in early 2018 and is scheduled to conclude in June 2019. Other international and national consulting teams are simultaneously undertaking master plans for three additional governorates in Oman. Oman, whose economy is heavily dependent on oil, is striving to diversify by significantly expanding its international tourism sector as its oil reverses begin to be depleted.
While international tourism in the Gulf States are typified by large scale, artificial, and glitzy theme parks, water parks, ski lifts and ice rinks, as well as upscale shopping malls and large brand hotels, the CREST consortium’s plans are distinguished by an emphasis on sustainable types of tourism that reflect the local culture and showcase the region’s striking landscapes. The plans feature smaller scale accommodations including coastal eco-resorts, boutique 4- and 5-star hotels, converted merchant ‘heritage’ houses, mountain lodges and huts, B&Bs, farm stays, and camping, including luxury camp sites (glamping). The emphasis is on “silent sports” such as hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, canoeing, and kiteboarding. According to the Vision Statement developed for the region, it seeks to create tourism that is “high-touch, rather than high-tech,” “authentic, rather than artificial.” The goal is to “strengthen Omani culture, rather than compromise it.”
The CREST consortium is currently completing the Stage Three report, which includes financial analysis of the high priority projects for both private investors and government investment. The final two components include a Stage Four report, which will include creation of investment promotional brochures for the key projects, and the final summary report. Each report is accompanied by a formal in-person presentation to key Ministry of Tourism officials.
As the Copper Canyon, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, moves into its high tourism season, the two indigenous communities that are part of CREST’s Raramuri Experiences project are continuing to receive more reservations and to expand their outreach and marketing at the national and regional level. During the first three months of 2019, the project leaders in the communities of Bacajipare and Huetosachi worked on refining their interpretive signage and to translate it into English.
In addition, staff running the popular Adventure Park tramway – which takes visitors from the Canyon’s rim down into the crater – are now promoting the interpretative hikes led by CREST trained guides from Bacajipare. Communication has increased with the Adventure Park Management, who have also agreed to display more new signage promoting the Raramuri Experiences. New promotional materials, including shirts for the guides, tickets, and trail signs are currently being designed and printed.
The kitchen and handicraft experience group in Huetosachi was invited to join Mexico’s “Alianza para la Tortilla” network as well as to contribute handicraft products to be displayed by FODARCH, a demonstration indigenous kitchen in Chihuahua. Community leader Isabel Monarca was interviewed on a San Miguel de Allende radio station about the kitchen and Raramuri culture, and she will also participate in a tourism conference sponsored by Fundemex in Mexico City in April.
Both communities are also looking forward to designing a workshop, supported by CREST’s local NGO partner, CONTEC, on accounting and project administration.
The communities had also hoped to be able to obtain additional funding and support for their tourism endeavors from the local government, but so far no new funds have been granted. The communities continue to feel that the government’s interests in development are very different from the vision and goals of the region’s indigenous peoples.
Cruise Tourism in the Caribbean: Selling Sunshine
CREST looks forward to the English-language release of our study of 50 years of lessons learned from cruise tourism in the Caribbean on June 27, 2019. This book, which will be published by Routledge Press in hard copy and paperback, outlines how Cuba’s burgeoning cruise tourism industry can be developed more sustainably and shares important learnings from the region. Stay tuned for more information on how to order this exciting new CREST resource!
CREST is also currently working on a book of essays and case studies on overtourism, to be distributed by leading U.S. environmental publisher Island Press. The book, which will cover overtourism in historic cities, national parks and protected areas, World Heritage Sites, coastal and beach communities, and national and regional destinations, will examine the causes of the problem, efforts at reforms, as well as the necessary ingredients for long-term solutions. The goal of this comprehensive study of overtourism is to drive solutions in destinations around the world and serve as a seminal resource on preventing and combating this global problem.
CREST will once again release its annual Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics report to coincide with World Tourism Day on September 27. This will mark the seventh edition of the meta-analysis, which synthesizes the latest surveys, reports, and data available on the topic of responsible travel. As usual, this year’s report will cover consumer, business, and destination trends. In addition, the report will focus in on impact tourism, defined by CREST as the tourism industry and travelers working together with local organizations to contribute time, talent, and treasure to community projects beyond what is generated through the normal tourism business.Categories covered in the publication will include destination-wide impact programs, boutique company-based impact programs, donor travel, corporate sustainability and social impact, and voluntourism. If you would like to share any data, surveys, reports, or examples for consideration, please email them to Ellen Rugh by Thursday, June 27.
In July 2018, Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Aruba began implementing a food waste reduction pilot program based on the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Hotel|Kitchen platform. Hotel|Kitchen, developed in partnership with the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, is a toolkit providing the background and resources hotel properties can use to prevent, donate, and divert food waste from landfills. Bucuti & Tara was already a major leader in sustainability, including already having a successful food waste program in place and being the first CarbonNeutral® certified resort in the Caribbean. With this new toolkit, the resort’s Green Team was pleased to learn they could further reduce food waste.
The new food waste reduction initiative began with Bucuti & Tara introducing bins for sorting and tracking food waste. This allowed staff to monitor where food waste was going and ensure appropriate food waste was being donated to a local pig farmer. They then used the Hotel|Kitchen video series to conduct training with staff in English and Spanish. Veteran and new staff alike easily adopted the new system. Tracking revealed almost 30% of food waste before and during service to guests was eliminated, even while Bucuti & Tara maintained a 97% year-round occupancy rate. Most food is imported in Aruba, landfill space is limited on the small island and tourism is 92% of Aruba’s GDP making it crucial for the hospitality sector to prevent and divert food waste.
As part of CREST and WWF’s food waste project to understand the landscape of food waste in the Caribbean, Bucuti & Tara shows how a resort can implement responsible food management policies, save time and money in the process, and simultaneously deliver a memorable vacation experience. For more information on this initiative and others that have successfully implemented the Hotel|Kitchen toolkit, please read more about the case studies here.
CREST recently released our 2018 Milestones report, highlighting our responsible tourism projects around the world. This special 15th anniversary edition of Milestones showcases not only the innovative projects and publications we've undertaken over the last year, but also throughout our 15-year history. We invite you to read our latest Milestones report to learn more about how we've worked to transform the way the world travels since 2003.
CREST is thrilled to share that Andy Austin has won a trip to CREST Platinum Sponsor Bodhi Surf + Yoga in Costa Rica through our Positive Impact Trip Contest. Andy was selected as the contest winner for his inspiring story of delivering bikes to rural communities in Jordan, which can be viewed on the Steller social media platform.
We at CREST are deeply grateful to contest supporters Steller, Bodhi Surf + Yoga, Clif Bar & Company, and adidas Outdoor for making this contest possible, and to all the participants for sharing your travel stories with us!
CREST is excited to welcome our newest interns for the Spring, who are working on programs, research, and communications.
Kaitie Worobec recently completed her Masters of Science in Responsible Tourism Management from Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom. Prior to her internship with CREST, Kaitie worked with Travel Alberta, a leading Canadian destination marketing organization.
Ellen Rugh is a current master’s student, rejoining the CREST team after spending a year studying in Costa Rica. She is in her final semester of a dual MA degree in International Affairs from American University in Washington, DC and in Natural Resources & Sustainable Development from the University for Peace in Costa Rica.
Taylor Ruoff is pursuing a Master of Tourism Administration degree from The George Washington University’s School of Business with a focus in Sustainable Destination Management. She is currently a Graduate Research Assistant for the International Institute of Tourism Studies at GWU.
Anam Khan is pursuing her master’s degree in International Sustainable Tourism Management from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Through her internship with CREST, Anam is supporting both our program and research work and our communications initiatives.
To learn more about our interns, visit our team page.
Through her participation in the Korean government internship program Korea WEST, CREST program & research intern Da-hye Youn has spent the past nine months in large U.S. cities such as New York and Washington, DC. In this essay, Da-hye shares her thoughts on the importance of cultural preservation in urban areas and discusses the problem of gentrification in Seoul, South Korea, New York City, and Washington. In her discussion of development that displaces residents, Da-hye asserts that “local people make the culture that tourists want to experience.” Read her full essay here.
CREST’s internship program provides real-life sustainable tourism and nonprofit management experiences to outstanding students from around the world. We are currently seeking a Program & Research Intern to join our team in Washington, DC starting in May 2019. Applications are due by Thursday, April 11. Visit our website to learn more and apply today.
The Destination Stewardship Center, a fiscally sponsored program of CREST dedicated to promoting long-range sustainability in destinations globally, is currently seeking an intern or volunteer editorial apprentice. The position is suitable for journalism or English majors, graduate students, or post-graduates with an interest in travel and protection of places. This is a chance to stake out some professional accomplishments and get acquainted with a global network of people and organizations in the sustainable-tourism field. Work with the director, former National Geographic editor and program director Jonathan Tourtellot, in these areas:
Best for self-starters. Fluency in idiomatic English is a must, along with excellent writing and editing skills. Experience with Microsoft Word and PowerPoint are required, and Mac platform is preferred; also helpful are WordPress, Excel, MailChimp.
This opportunity involves remote work with weekly meetings. The Washington, DC area is preferred but not essential. Sorry, token pay only. Internships are 10 to 20 hours per week, two months minimum. Apprenticeships are 20-40 hours per week for several months with full credit on the DSC website and bylines where appropriate. Shared apprenticeship with a compatible partner organization will also be considered. To apply, please send your resume and at least two writing samples to email@example.com.
The Destination Stewardship Center, an all-volunteer program, is also inviting graduate students in fields related to tourism, conservation, or governance to consider making creating a capstone project within our ongoing “Destination Councils” research program. Our goal: To identify, analyze and profile exemplary cases of collaborative destination stewardship. The world does not have enough of these places, and we want to showcase them and their methods for the benefit of proactive advocates in less fortunate destinations, not mention our own edification! This cutting-edge research has the potential for significant impact. Contact Jonathan Tourtellot to learn more about this opportunity.
CREST’s work would not be possible without support from those in the industry who believe in our vision to transform the way the world travels and are living it every day. Our latest fundraising travel auction – the Valentine’s Day Travel Auction - featured packages donated by Cape Ann Foodie Tours, Diamond M Ranch Resort, Emerson Inn, Global Himalayan Expedition, Hotel El Ganzo*, Hostelling International USA, Hotel Mama Cuchara by Art Hotels Ecuador, Ka’ana Resort*, Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort & Nature Reserve*, La Selva Amazon Ecolodge & Spa*, Marine Dynamics Shark Tours, Panthera Africa, Caiman Ecological Refuge, Shik Shack Backpackers, Soneva*, Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, Sungate Tours, Tierra Chiloé Adventure and Spa Hotel, and Yacutinga Lodge.
*Included on this list are five Platinum Sponsors, which means they have committed to supporting the organization through the hallmark travel auctions for a total of five years. We are tremendously grateful for their commitment.
Should your company be on the list? Have you had a wonderful travel experience with a company that fits the bill? We are currently organizing contributions for our Spring Travel Auction, which will take place May 21 – June 4. For more information, please contact Samantha Bray by May 1.
CREST’s latest fundraising travel auction featured packages from three of CREST’s newest Platinum Sponsors: Hostelling International USA (HI USA), Ka’ana Resort, and La Selva Amazon Ecolodge & Spa.
CREST is proud to have the support of these travel businesses, dedicated to using tourism as a force for good. Their commitments to support CREST for a period of five years provides a mechanism for us to continue to grow and pursue our mission. Would your business like to become a Platinum Sponsor? Contact Samantha Bray for details.
Mahogany Springs Lodge is one of the premiere destinations for tracking the magical Mountain Gorillas of Uganda. We had a chance to catch up with Managing Director Barrie Gotch about the lodge’s breathtaking natural environment and its inspiring work to support the local community.
Mahogany Springs is located on the Munyaga river and faces the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Can you tell us more about this special region?
We are located in Buhoma village, Bwindi, which is the home of the Mountain Gorillas. There is a wonderful community of people who live in the area, and they enjoy sharing their culture and traditions with the many visitors to the region. Apart from the gorilla tracking, there are lots of excursions which involve interacting with locals and learning about their culture. Due to the location of Mahogany Springs, we are the perfect accommodation for birdwatchers, and we enjoy many species of birdlife within the property. We are located around two minutes away from the gorilla tracking starting point.
Mahogany Springs is committed to giving back to Ugandan communities and the environment. What types of causes does Mahogany Springs support through your give back program?
We support various causes and contribute to many local projects, but there are two projects in particular that we fully support: the Bwindi Plus Nursery and Primary School and the Ride4AWoman community project.
A member of our housekeeping team, a young man called Moses, was an orphan at the age of two, and it was his dream and vision to build a school and give back to the community. We fully supported him, and then in 2015 the Bwindi Plus Nursery and Primary school opened. It now has over 220 children and is rapidly becoming one of the best schools in the region. It has won funding, grants, and awards from philanthropy projects worldwide and recently received a donation of six flush toilets. It is now the only school in the entire region that has flush toilets. Clients can visit the school for free, as it is located only two minutes away from Mahogany Springs.
The Ride4AWoman community project, located just two minutes away from Mahogany Springs, was set up to provide local widows (of which there are many) with the skills to earn a living. They sew amazing colourful items with sewing machines that were donated, and they weave beautiful baskets and other items. Clients can visit the project and watch the women at work while learning all about the project and the local community.
Gorilla tracking is a central part of the Mahogany Springs experience. What can guests expect to see when they track these peaceful creatures?
When tracking the gorillas, you will begin with your briefing at the Ugandan Wildlife Authority headquarters and from there, you will head out on foot. The time it takes to reach the Gorillas can vary a lot, and generally the group of gorillas you are allocated can be based on your fitness levels and how long you wish to walk. Once you find the gorillas, your life will never be the same again as this experience will live with you forever. You will spend around 60 minutes watching them interact and going about their daily basis. You will then walk back for your debrief and certificate. You are walking in groups of up to a maximum of eight clients per group with porters and rangers.
What does responsible tourism mean to Mahogany Springs?
Responsible tourism to us means – GIVING BACK. It is vital to our company ethos and vision that we give back to the community, environment, and the wildlife. With this in mind, we support projects covering all these areas. We also feel it is beneficial to educate people on all of these aspects.
The Pavilions Himalayas
Nestled in a lush valley and set against the backdrop of the Himalayan mountain range, The Pavilions Himalayas is an eco-resort that gives back to surrounding villages. General Manager Rajiv Desraj Shrestha recently discussed resort’s sustainability initiatives and shared how guests can connect to the natural world during their stay.
The Pavilions Himalayas’ mission is to be an example for your team, your guests, and the local community. What are some of the sustainability initiatives you’ve created to protect the surrounding area and benefit the local community?
We make sure that we employ local people from our village and surrounding villages as a priority regardless of whether they are immediately qualified for the job, as we train them up as time goes along. Over 80% of our staff are from our community. We have an active organic farm which is a model in the area. Before this, local people did not have kitchen gardens, but now most people have started a kitchen garden to support their family’s nutrition. Recently, we started our rubbish awareness and collection programs with the aim of bringing a cleaner environment to our village and communities so as to create an eventual ripple effect to reduce plastic waste.
The Pavilions Himalayas’ ultimate objective is to be a social business that supports a variety of community initiatives. Could you tell us more about your charitable work?
We fund and run a primary health clinic that serves the whole community, providing quality health care on the doorstep of the village people. We support the local community school with our in-house charity Right4Children, and we also support a hospitality vocational training school, The FAB School, which is owned by Right4Children and is a 15-minute walk away from The Pavilions Himalayas. The Pavilions Himalayas’ scholarship program for disadvantaged young has been set up for those who need an opportunity to study at FAB. The power of the program is not just the skills they learn but the guarantee of a job upon graduation.
What types of experiences do guests have access to when staying at The Pavilions Himalayas? Our guests experience a feeling of harmony with nature, with organic food grown in front of their villa. They see how it is all farmed, an experience that most people nowadays are so far detached from in the fast, modern-day lifestyle. Fresh buffalo milk from the farm is brought to their doorstep by the milkman every day. Guests can step out of their villa and start trekking with no need to get in a car and drive somewhere first. That freedom of guests being able to wander in the nature that surrounds them and be part of the local community and culture is exactly the reason people come to Nepal.
Last month, you introduced new Lake View Tented Villas at the resort. What makes these villas unique?
These Octagon-shaped villa tents, with glass wall panels and a few wood panels with a tent cover, are the first of their kind in Nepal. They feel safe and secure, and are luxurious and rustic – not tents, not villas, something special in between! The location of each of the villa tents has wonderful views or a feeling of being right in the jungle with troops of monkeys swinging through the trees from time to time. Wildlife and views are in abundance, with the lake in front of you and the Annapurna Himalayas panorama beyond.