CREST Newsletter | April - June 2019

As we reflect on the past three months, we’re struck by the ever-growing importance of sustainable tourism. In this era of overtourism and climate change, responsible travel is not a choice – it’s an imperative. This latest edition of our newsletter provides a snapshot of our work to transform the way the world travels, from supporting sustainable travel to Cuba to analyzing overtourism solutions to releasing a new study of cruise tourism in the Caribbean.

Happy summer from all of us at CREST, and we hope to see you at our World Tourism Day Forum in September!

CREST Responds to New Restrictions on U.S. Travel to Cuba

On June 4, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced new restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, eliminating the people-to-people category that allowed organized group tours to visit the island. This major policy change, which went into effect June 5, will have a significant impact on millions of Cubans, as well as U.S. travel companies, airlines, and cruise lines servicing Cuba.

In response to this news, CREST issued this press release and has been engaging in strategic media outreach and advocacy to highlight the importance of people-to-people exchanges for the Cuban people, for American travelers, and for U.S.-Cuban relations.

As part of these efforts, CREST is currently organizing a press trip to Cuba in partnership with Cuba Educational Travel. This trip will bring a small group of experienced journalists to the island to meet with Cuban entrepreneurs, cultural groups, and artisans, and to speak with Cuban travel experts and analysts. The trip program has been carefully designed to provide these journalists with the opportunity to explore how recent changes in U.S. travel policy are affecting everyday Cubans, to see firsthand the importance of people-to-people travel for Cuban entrepreneurs, and to discover what this destination offers to U.S. travelers.

If you would like to get involved in CREST’s Cuba policy advocacy and media work, please contact Rebekah Stewart. We are seeking U.S. tour operators involved in travel to Cuba, as well as U.S. travelers who have visited the island on a people-to-people tour, to join our network.

CREST Organizes Two Successful Sustainable Tourism Workshops in Cuba

This spring, CREST successfully co-hosted two sustainable tourism workshops in Cuba in partnership with two provincial universities. The first of these workshops was held on the eastern end of the island in Holguín from April 24-26, and the other took place in Pinar del Río province from June 18-20. CREST identified and sponsored a group of highly-regarded academics and tourism practitioners to share their insights and experiences during these conferences.

The diverse conference participants and attendees hailed from all throughout the Americas, with CREST sponsoring ten speakers from the Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the United States. The topics covered during these critical learning exchanges included tourism and climate change, small-scale tourism and ecolodges, wellness tourism, certification, impact on local economies, tourism development in protected areas, and overtourism.

While these important themes were woven throughout the workshop presentations and discussions, the conferences also took place under the shadow of major shifts in U.S-Cuba policy. At the Pinar del Río conference in June, CREST Executive Director Martha Honey gave a presentation analyzing the history and current state of U.S. travel policy toward Cuba. This generated important conversations about the future of travel to Cuba and adaptive strategies in response to U.S. policy changes.

CREST is grateful to our university partners in Holguín and Pinar del Río for the opportunity to collaborate on these sustainable tourism workshops and looks forward to continuing our work to strengthen small-scale and household-based tourism in Cuba.

Learn more about CREST’s past conferences in Cuba.

Oman: Sustainable Tourism Master Planning Project Will Soon Be Complete

CREST’s work on the development of the South Al Sharqiyah sustainable tourism master plan for the Omani Ministry of Tourism will soon be complete with publication of investment brochures for 14 high priority projects and submission of the final Tourism Development Master Plan document.

The South Al Sharqiyah (SAS) Governorate is one of the most diverse regions in Oman and in the entire Middle East. It is a region situated at the intersection of the rugged eastern Hajar Mountains, the Oman Sea and the Arabian Sea, the Sharqiyah Sands and Oman’s largest island, Masirah. It is a region steeped in rich history and culture ranging from ancient maritime trade across the Indian Ocean, to the unique Bedouin culture of the desert regions. The tourism opportunity and growth in this region has been limited to date by a lack of choice in accommodation, activities, and marketing tourism products, but with this master plan, the region is on the cusp of change centered on sustainable development.

The SAS Master Plan is intended to provide the blueprint for developing the region’s tourism opportunities in a manner that prioritizes the implementation of tourism infrastructure that is long overdue at specific sites. In addition, the blueprint has specific strategies to differentiate the region from other regions in Oman, and from other competitive Middle Eastern destinations, while protecting and preserving the very qualities and resources that will draw domestic and international visitors.

An overall marketing name for the region – Ishq Al Sharq region, meaning “Love of the East” – is proposed to brand the region in the minds of travelers and reflect the strategic intent of this plan.

A total of 14 high priority projects have been identified in the master plan. These are designed as catalysts and demonstration projects to point the way for appropriate tourism development in the region, creating opportunities and bringing benefits to each corner of the Governorate.

To ensure the local communities throughout the region fully benefit from tourism, attention is paid to small and medium enterprise (SME) opportunities. A new typology for commercial accommodations is being recommended to ensure that regional tourism accommodations:

  • Are sustainable in their design and operations;

  • Contribute to the sense of community/place;

  • Are designed to have local character and soul;

  • Incorporate experiential elements and programs;

  • Accommodate multiple generations and families;

  • Feature traditional dance, music, and culinary programs; and

  • Offer curated retail experiences featuring local artists, artisans, and agricultural products.

The South Al Sharqiyah Governorate can become the leading region in Oman for environmentally and culturally sustainable tourism and ecotourism, resulting in low impact, high yield tourism that protects the “jewels of Oman,” including its sensitive coastal resources and its wildlife for the enjoyment of future generations and at the same time, stimulates the development of a strong sustainable local tourism economy.

New Developments for CREST's Raramuri Experiences Project in Chihuahua

During the first half of 2019, CREST’s Raramuri Experiences project with two indigenous communities in Chihuahua, Mexico continued to grow and develop in the areas of promotion, training, operations, and equipment.

The kitchen experience group in Huetosachi recently rehabilitated an old well near the kitchen so that it is now connected to the kitchen water system and is fully functional. The community of Huetosachi feels a strong sense of pride about their kitchen project and hosted a traditional Tarahumara fiesta in May, the second of four fiestas they will host this year.

The trails and legends group in Bacajipare has submitted interpretive signage in Spanish and English to the park management at Barrancas del Cobre Adventure Park in Chihuahua’s Copper Canyon. In addition, temporary signage was constructed by the park to enhance the visitor experience.

CREST’s local project team in Chihuahua had various meetings with both the Bacajipare and Huetosachi groups to address operational issues and make decisions on priorities around operations as the communities are working with larger and larger groups.

Raramuri Experiences won the best cultural tourism product in Mexico in 2018 by Mexico Desconocido readers. This month, two representatives were presented with a certificate by the State of Chihuahua’s director of tourism. The project has applied for grants from various Mexican funders to support the relocation of a community museum for the community of Bacajipare and for a Chiapas exchange learning trip. Raramuri Experiences is also planning to produce a new promotional video for potential placement in the El Chepe train and Barrancas del Cobre Adventure Park.

New CREST Book to Be Released July 3! 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 July 3, 2019. The book, entitled Cruise Tourism in the Caribbean: Selling Sunshine, will be published by Routledge Press in hard copy and paperback.

This new CREST book considers the economic, environmental, and social impacts of cruise tourism and shares important learnings from throughout the region. Based on this analysis and case studies of key Caribbean and Mediterranean destinations, it cautions against overdependence on cruise tourism and outlines reforms needed to bring more benefits and equity to Caribbean countries. It will be a valuable resource for professionals, businesses, development agencies, NGOs, and academics interested in a sustainable cruise industry and the economic well-being of Caribbean island nations.

Pre-order your copy today!

World Tourism Day Forum Registration Coming Soon

Exciting news: registration for the third annual World Tourism Day Forum, Impact Tourism: Giving Time, Talent, and Treasure, will go live this Thursday, June 27! Visit to learn more and get tickets for this day-long event, which will take place on September 27 in Washington, DC. Both in-person and livestream tickets will be available.

Presented by CREST and the Organization of American States, the 2019 World Tourism Day Forum will focus on how tourism business, travelers, and organizations are successfully making strategic contributions of time, talent, and treasure to social and environmental projects in destinations, in partnership with host communities. Recognizing that "doing good" does not always mean "doing right," the forum will also examine the downsides of inappropriately implemented travel giving and voluntourism programs, examining lessons learned throughout the years.

The forum will bring together industry leaders from around the world and feature a keynote address from Intrepid Group CEO James Thornton. We hope you’ll join us for this important conversation on World Tourism Day!

Sponsors will receive complimentary tickets and other promotional opportunities through the event. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, contact Kelsey Frenkiel.

Invitation to Support CREST's Upcoming Book on Overtourism

What do Barcelona, the Great Wall of China, Acadia National Park, Thailand’s Maya Bay, and Reykjavik, Iceland have in common? They are among the growing number of popular tourist destinations around the world that have reached their tipping points.  While tourists have flocked to popular destinations for decades, the recent emergence of the term “overtourism” demonstrates just how pressing this issue has become.

CREST is seeking support for an edited volume that will critique the causes and impacts of overtourism, as well as assess experiments underway to mitigate it in mature destinations and prevent it in emerging ones. The book will feature an overview by Martha Honey, executive director of CREST, 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 others. It will be published by Island Press, the leading publisher on environmental issues, both as a print book and e-book in early 2020.

On September 27, 2018, CREST co-hosted, together with George Washington University’s International Institute of Tourism Studies, an international forum entitled Overtourism: Seeking Solutions to bring together thought leaders from all over the globe who are addressing these challenges in their home destinations. This issue of overtourism and the event itself were covered in CNN, Travel Weekly, Travel Pulse, and others. CREST now has a growing database of case studies that could help to drive solutions in other locations. To support or contribute to this project, please contact Kelsey Frenkiel.

Information Request for Trends & Statistics 2019

CREST will once again release its annual report, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics, 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 tourism businesses, travelers, and organizations making strategic contributions of time, talent, and treasure to social and environmental projects in destinations. 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 July 7.

Thank You to Our Spring Auction Supporters – Join Us This Fall!

CREST’s Spring Travel Auction via featured a record number of hotel and tour operator participants, including 10 Platinum Sponsors (committed to supporting CREST for five years) and 16 new donors. The proceeds of these auctions are an integral part of making sure we can continue our various programs for responsible travel, and support our research, impact tourism program, and daily operations as a nonprofit. We owe tremendous thanks to the following companies for supporting our work to transform the way the world travels.

Platinum Sponsors:
Assam Bengal Navigation, Bodhi Surf + Yoga, Hacienda Jimenita Wildlife Reserve, Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort, Hotel El Ganzo, Island Outpost, Kasbah du Toubkal, Limalimo Lodge, Micato Safaris, and Playa Viva.

New Sponsors:
Andean Lodges, Baccarat Hotel, The Broadmoor, Copal Tee Lodge, Grand Hotel, Inn at Perry Cabin, InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, Las Terrazas de Dana, Loews Hotels, Mashpi Lodge, Red Rocks Rwanda, St. Regis Washington, DC, St. Regis New York, Sticky Rice Travel, Terranea, The Breakers, and The Wauwinet.

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 Fall Travel Auction, which will take place September 17 – October 8. For more information, please contact Samantha Bray by July 15.

Welcome, Summer Interns!

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

Chris Gillespie is pursuing his master’s degree in Global Environmental Policy at American University’s School of International Service and will be interning with CREST through the end of September. Through this program, he works to understand the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in the developing world. He hopes to further explore how responsible travel can be used to ameliorate the rampant destruction of the world’s bio-diverse forest habitats while providing sustainable livelihoods for forest dwelling communities.

Grace Klopp currently lives in Florida, where she is pursuing a master's degree in International Community Development from Southeastern University and working as a writer and website editor for a boutique travel company. She will be interning with CREST through August with a focus on communications, media, and outreach. Through her education and experience working abroad, Grace has developed a strong belief that responsible tourism provides individuals, businesses, and countries with the unique opportunity to be forces of positive change in the world.

Muhamad Rifki is a postgraduate student of international sustainable tourism management at Monash University in Australia. He is a travel and tourism professional, and he hopes to pursue a career as a tourism consultant and sustainable tourism researcher. His focus is on the intersection of sustainable tourism and poverty alleviation, cultural heritage protection, and sustainable tourism in emerging economies. Rifki will be interning with CREST through July.


Arturo Silva is a graduate sociologist from the University of Costa Rica. His research thesis was a case study of the environmental impacts caused by aggressive tourism development in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. His areas of interest are local responses to global processes of accumulation in developing countries, with tourism as a mode of livelihood for local communities in peripheral regions of the world. He hopes to bring attention to the social movements in defense of local culture and public natural resources. Arturo will be interning with CREST through August.

To learn more about our interns, visit our team page.

CREST Seeks Fall 2019 Interns

CREST’s internship program provides real-life sustainable tourism and nonprofit management experiences to outstanding students from around the world. We are currently seeking Communications and Program & Research Interns to join our team in Washington, DC starting in mid-August 2019. Applications are due by Wednesday, July 10. Visit our website to learn more and apply today.

CARE for the Cape & Islands Update

CARE for the Cape and Islands, an impact tourism program fiscally sponsored by CREST, held its sixth annual CARE for the Cape and Islands Day on May 10 at MA Audubon Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary under beautiful sunny skies. Approximately fifty volunteers from the community spent the morning preparing the property for the summer season and installing the new Food Forest Exhibit, funded by a grant from CARE. Development of the exhibit was a collaborative effort between the Sanctuary and the Food Forest Initiative of Cape Cod. Visitors to the sanctuary will be able to learn about a variety of native plantings used in the exhibit, how they will benefit the local environment through enhanced bio-diversity, and how one might create their own food forest at home or in their community.

CARE for the Cape and Islands is pleased to announce the launch of a new anti-litter campaign, Take Care Cape Cod, modeled after Take Care Tahoe, an environmental stewardship campaign that was created in 2014 by an interagency effort in the Lake Tahoe region. Jill Talladay, director of CARE for the Cape and Islands, first encountered the Take Care campaign last year at CREST’s World Tourism Day Forum in Washington, DC. The Lake Tahoe Outreach Committee (LTOC) has given CARE for the Cape and Islands permission to use and adapt the assets and intellectual property from its Take Care campaign. This generous offer presents an ideal opportunity to accelerate CARE’s recent decision to implement a unified environmental messaging campaign across the local region.

“We look forward to building on the success the campaign has achieved on the West Coast and seeing positive results throughout the Cape. Take Care was created to address key impacts humans are having on our environment and remind people in a fun and friendly way about the behaviors we’d like to encourage,” said Jill Talladay about the campaign.

CARE hosted a soft launch of the Take Care Cape Cod campaign on June 20 at Barnstable Municipal Airport. The Take Care Team, along with representations from Barnstable Municipal Airport, Cape Air, and JetBlue greeted one of JetBlue’s first arrivals of the season to Cape Cod from JFK. In addition, local residents and representatives from the business community attended the soft launch to learn more about how they can become involved in the Take Care initiative and to view the first Take Care messages on Cape Cod displayed at the airport. The messages are only part of the campaign, which will include raising funding to install cigarette butt collectors and water filling stations to help reduce waste throughout the region. The Take Care campaign is raising funds via Indiegogo over the next month. Check out the campaign!

Welcome to CREST's Newest Platinum Sponsors

CREST’s latest fundraising travel auction featured packages from four of our newest Platinum Sponsors: Assam Bengal Navigation, Hacienda Jimenita, Limalimo Lodge, and Playa Viva.

  • Assam Bengal Navigation, India: Cruising on Indian Rivers since 2003, Assam Bengal Navigation (ABN) was the first to open the doors to luxury river expeditions on two of the greatest Himalayan rivers of the Indian Sub-continent. They have expanded their portfolio with four specially-designed river cruise ships as well as safari eco-lodges and houseboats. ABN creates unique, authentic community-engaged expeditions experienced in relative luxury on India’s greatest yet remote rivers. The experience is designed to reflect a sense of homecoming to the regions that is brought to life by the local staff. ABN Foundation supports projects in education, environment, and community development. 
  • Hacienda Jimenita, Ecuador: Hacienda Jimenita Wildlife Reserve is a 109-year-old Spanish Style Hacienda that is a small luxury boutique resort located in Quito. It has been in the Cruz Lopez family for four generations and is, the owners call it, their little piece of heaven, away from all the noise of the city and closer to all the main attractions of the Ecuadorian highlands. Hacienda Jimenita supports conservation and social projects in the Ecuadorian highlands and the Amazon and preserves over 700 hectares of primary forest in the Ecuadorian Amazon from being logged.
  • Limalimo Lodge, Ethiopia: Perched on the edge of the escarpment, Limalimo Lodge is a beautiful place to experience Ethiopia's Simien Mountains National Park. Combining simple luxury and elegant design in a stunning setting, the lodge promotes sustainable tourism with minimal environmental impact, and provides new opportunities to the local community. The bar, restaurant, and two new “Superior View” rooms (13 and 14), face east and overlook the staggering cliff edges of the Simien Mountains. The 12 standard rooms face the lush countryside to the west. Limalimo Lodge contributes $10 per night to the Africa Wildlife Foundation for each guest that stays with there. This supports a range of conservation efforts in/near the park, including the Adisge Village Conservation school. The lodge also has an extensive local procurement program, supporting local farmers and villagers. Limalimo employs more than 40 people from the local community.
  • Playa Viva, Mexico: A unique yoga retreat destination, Playa Viva has something for everyone. Visitors enjoy the rugged, unspoiled beauty of Mexico in the guilt-free luxury of an environmentally-conscious resort. Become immersed in nature, volunteer in the turtle sanctuary, give back to the local community, engage in a workshop, or just relax completely. Playa Viva is "Where Your Vacation Meets Your Values." The resort is regenerative, based in Whole Systems Thinking, taking into consideration the ecology/ecosystem/environmental impact, the community/cultural/social impact, as well as design and architecture.

CREST is proud to have the support of these exemplary travel businesses, dedicated to using tourism as tool for environmental conservation and community well-being. 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.

CREST Shares Its Experience

  • Discussing U.S. Travel Policy and Overtourism in Havana: In June, CREST executive director Martha Honey gave the keynote address at a convening of journalists at the José Martí International Institute of Journalism in Havana, Cuba. Martha’s presentation covered the history and current state of U.S.-Cuba travel policy as well as emerging solutions to the global problem of overtourism.
  • Traveling to India and Nepal with G Adventures: In May, CREST communications & outreach manager Rebekah Stewart visited India and Nepal on the G for Good tour, a social impact-focused trip hosted by G Adventures. Designed to show firsthand the positive impact that tourism can have on local people when travel companies operate in a responsible way, the G for Good trip brought together global media and tourism professionals to meet G Adventures’ inspiring local partners in Delhi and Agra, India and Kathmandu and Panauti, Nepal.

  • Talking Sustainable Tourism at Endicott College: On May 2, CREST managing director Samantha Bray spoke to Academic Affiliate Dr. Todd Comen’s sustainable tourism class about the concept of sustainable tourism and CREST’s work towards this end. Topics discussed included destination-level programs, current happenings from overtourism to impact tourism, certification as a tool for hotels and tour operators, and event-based sustainability. Interested in our Academic Affiliates program or having a CREST staff member speak to your tourism or hospitality class? Contact Kelsey Frenkiel for details. CREST also offers books and films as excellent tools for classroom instruction.

CREST in the News

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