CREST Newsletter | October - December 2018

As we reflect on 2018 – CREST’s 15-year anniversary – we are inspired and humbled by the connections we’ve made through travel. We are so grateful for your support of our mission and look forward to continuing to promote environmentally sustainable and socially responsible tourism in the year ahead. This final CREST newsletter of 2018 provides a range of exciting updates on our work to transform the way the world travels.

As a nonprofit, CREST’s programming is made possible by people like you. We hope you will select CREST as a worthy organization to support as this year comes to a close. Make your tax-deductible donation today to invest in travel that protects the environment and helps destination communities thrive.

CREST Sponsors Cubans on South-South Ecotourism Study Tour to Costa Rica

CREST’s project in Cuba is focused on strengthening small-scale, household-based tourism in Cuba, including the growth of casas particulares (B&Bs) and paladares (home restaurants). These businesses, which have become the backbone of European and U.S. land-based travel to Cuba, are the country’s most innovative, dynamic, and socially significant forms of tourism.

As part of this project, in mid-November CREST organized and hosted an Ecotourism Study Tour to Costa Rica for six Cubans from Pinar del Rio province. The group included four tourism professors from the University of Pinar del Rio, a provincial official, and the director of an agroforestry institute. Two CREST consultants in Costa Rica, Jannelle Wilkins and Ronald Sanabria, designed the tour to explore the history and growth of ecotourism, Costa Rica’s exemplary sustainable tourism certification programs (CST), government policies supporting sustainable tourism, the costs and benefits of different models of tourism (cruise, rural, wellness, community-based), among other topics.

The program began and ended in the capital, San José, with lectures by key academics, tourism ministry officials, national parks experts, and tourism specialists who have been part of Costa Rica’s world renowned, four decades long ecotourism experiment. Then the Cubans spent a week visiting a range of tourism businesses and attractions, with a focus on small scale, community-based tourism centered around the mountain community of Monteverde. The group also learned about some of the challenges Costa Rica has faced from, for instance, cruise tourism and large scale, all-inclusive resorts to the difficulties of building viable community-based tourism businesses and dealing with slow-moving government bureaucracies.

The itinerary was designed to resonate with issues Cuba is facing in developing its tourism sector to be both economically successful and environmentally and socially responsible. In addition, the Cuban academics shared their own research projects with their Costa Rica colleagues, thus ensuring a two-way dialogue and learning exchange. Based on evaluations by the Cuban participants and reports from the two local organizers, the study tour was an overwhelming success. The Cubans have invited several of those they met in Costa Rica to participate in two sustainable tourism workshops that will be held in the first half of 2019. CREST is supporting the participation of international experts at these workshops, which will be hosted by the University of Holguín in April and the University of Pinar del Rio in June.

CREST’s Cuba Advocacy: Raising Our Voices in Support of Educational and People-to-People Travel

CREST has continued to engage in critically-needed policy advocacy on U.S. travel to Cuba this fall. In November, members of the CREST-led coalition of tour operators and Cuba experts met with State Department officials to express our concerns regarding the expansion of the Department’s Cuba Restricted List and to share our expertise on educational and people-to-people travel to Cuba and the vital support it provides to small-scale Cuban entrepreneurs. This month, CREST and coalition members sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton urging the administration not to impose new OFAC restrictions on travel to Cuba that would reduce the revenue lawful travelers from the U.S. provide to Cuba’s emergent household businesses. Read the letter here, which was delivered to Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Bolton on December 17.

Oman: Sustainable Tourism Master Planning Project

Over the last three months, CREST has continued to work hard on its largest and most complex current project, the development of a sustainable tourism master plan for South Al Sharqiyah region in Oman.

The South Al Sharqiyah Governorate is one of the most, if not the most, diverse regions in the country, and it is also one of the most diverse regions in the 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. The region steeped in rich history and culture ranging from ancient maritime trade to the unique Bedouin culture of the desert regions. The Sharqiyah Sands and the turtle nesting beaches of Ras Al Jinz/Ras Al Hadd are already well established as stops on the Grand Tour of Oman. As identified in the Oman Tourism Strategy, the region also contains many other “Jewels of Oman.” The tourism opportunity in this region is only just beginning to be appreciated and realized. The South Al Sharqiyah Master Plan is intended to provide the blueprint for developing the region’s tourism opportunities in a manner that helps to differentiate the region from other parts of Oman, and from other competitive Middle Eastern destinations, while protecting and preserving the very qualities and resources that will draw domestic and international visitors.

CREST’s Oman project team is led by Mike Robbins, a partner with The Tourism Company and CREST board chair. In late October, Robbins presented the Stage Two draft report to the Omani Ministry of Tourism on behalf of CREST and our four-firm consortium. The team is now working to finalize the Stage Two report. All four stages of the tourism master plan are to be completed by June 2019.

CREST’s Raramuri Experiences Project Completes Successful First Year of Operation

With tourism expanding in the Copper Canyon region of Chihuahua, Mexico, CREST’s Raramuri Experiences project with two indigenous communities is providing a unique addition to the typical adventure tourism and sightseeing activities at the Barrancas del Cobre Adventure Park.

The communities of Bacajipare and Huetosachi are successfully completing their first year of offering indigenous-led tours to visitors. Hundreds of tourists have taken part in cooking and handicraft experiences with women in Huetosachi and in hikes and storytelling with trained guides from Bacajipare. The project has also attracted media, won several awards, and been chosen by the Chihuahua State Tourism Department as an outstanding example of responsible cultural tourism.

CREST’s field director Daniela Ramirez and her assistant Perla Silvestre meet regularly with the Raramuri community leaders. In monthly meetings and frequent visits to each community, the CREST team has assisted them in their daily operations, advertising and marketing, creating and strengthening relationships with tour operators and state government, and planning for the near future. In addition, each community and their project has had specific needs that we were able to quickly address, from practical tips and guidance to reservations to hands on physical and moral support. This has set a great foundation for year two.

In the past few months, the Huetosachi and Bacajipare communities have made many infrastructural improvements, including setting up a farm to grow greens, installing cultural artifacts in the Huetosachi kitchens, bringing in new hygiene equipment, and improving the roads and signage to access the sites. Their accomplishments have included presenting in the first annual Sustainable Tourism Forum in Chihuahua City, the Huetosachi community being a semi-finalist in the Ven a Comer contest for food experiences in Mexico, and participating in a radio program to be aired both in Chihuahua and the United States.

With new signage coming next year and significant experience gained this past year, the two communities in Chihuahua look forward to doubling their visits as well as implementing strategies and projects that will assist with each group’s goals.

New Directions for CREST’s Academic Affiliates Program

CREST’s Academic Affiliates program, launched in 2016 with 18 members, now includes 33 leading tourism academics from all over the world. Through this program, CREST actively engages professors in CREST studies, projects, conferences, workshops, and publications, with the purpose of encouraging policy-oriented and academically rigorous responsible travel research. Over the years, this network has fostered vital connections across the tourism industry and initiated advancements and studies around coastal tourism and climate change, overtourism, cruise tourism, voluntourism, food waste in the tourism industry, and more. Due to the program’s success, CREST has enacted a structured application process for new members and is looking to add value to the program through varied benefits for tourism academics. For more information on the program and the application process, please contact Kelsey Frenkiel and view the program description on our website.

CREST and Steller Launch Positive Impact Trip Contest

Exciting news! CREST has partnered with social media community to launch a Positive Impact Trip storytelling contest. By telling us your story of making a difference through travel using the Steller app, you can enter to win a one-week trip to Bodhi Surf + Yoga in Costa Rica!

A leader in sustainability, CREST Platinum Sponsor Bodhi Surf + Yoga is a certified B Corporation and carbon neutral lodge offering one-of-a-kind surf and yoga adventures. The contest winner and his or her guest will spend a week in paradise learning to surf, practicing yoga, rejuvenating in nature, and engaging with the local community. Organic nutrition industry leader Clif Bar & Company will provide each traveler with products to feed and inspire adventure, and adidas Outdoor will supply each traveler with $1,000 of its award-winning gear. Air travel to Costa Rica from major U.S. cities is also included.

To enter the contest, download the Steller app at or search for Steller in your App store. Then, build your story about a positive impact travel experience using photos, videos, and/or text and publish it using the hashtag #CRESTContest. Sharing a story on Steller is quick and easy – just a few minutes from concept to publication – and the results serve as an evergreen memory of a positive impact trip.

Visit to learn more about this contest, which encourages a wide range of stories about traveling sustainably, giving back to local communities, engaging with local cultures. Entries will be accepted until February 28, 2019.

CREST Becomes a Nonprofit Partner of 1% for the Planet

We’re thrilled to share that CREST has become a nonprofit partner of 1% for the Planet, a global organization that connects dollars and doers to accelerate smart environmental giving. As a nonprofit partner, CREST has joined an inspiring global movement of organizations working together for a healthy planet. Started in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, founder of Blue Ribbon Flies, 1% for the Planet connects thoughtful businesses and individuals to its network of vetted, trusted nonprofits around the world. To learn more about 1% for the Planet, and to get involved, visit

Responsible Travel Companies Make CREST Holiday Auction Resounding Success

Support from 22 hotels and tour operators helped CREST end 2018 on a high note with a diverse and impressive Holiday Travel Auction offering. Net proceeds from the auction will support CREST’s work to transform the way the world travels as we kick off our 2019 programming with plans for our third annual World Tourism Day Forum, production of several educational publications, and research for “The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics 2019.”

Participating companies in CREST’s auction represented a wide range of unique experiences and included 250 Main Hotel, Alaska Wildland Adventures, Andaman Discoveries, The Betsy Hotel, Cottar's 1920s Camp, Coyaba Beach Resort, Fairmont Kea Lani, G Adventures, *Green Roof Inn, Hamadryade Lodge, Hilton, *Hotel El Ganzo, Inn by the Sea, *Isle of Reefs Tours, LimaTours, *Mahogany Springs Safari Lodge, Maui Eco Retreat, MT Sobek, The Palms Hotel & Spa, Six Senses Laamu, *VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, and Yachana Lodge.

*Included on this list are five Platinum Sponsors, which means they are dedicated to supporting CREST’s work for a total of five years. We are tremendously grateful for their commitment.

Each company listed above is working to support the people and environment of their communities, harnessing the power of tourism to make meaningful difference. Do you know of a company that should be on this list next year? Our Valentine’s Day Travel Auction will take place January 29 – February 12, and we would love to share details about how to get involved! Contact Samantha Bray for more information by January 9.

Three Long-Time Supporters Become Platinum Sponsors

CREST warmly welcomes three long-time supporters of our work as Platinum Sponsors: Green Roof Inn, Isle of Reefs Tours, and VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations.

Green Roof Inn is a romantic, intimate inn located on the island of Carriacou, 20 minutes off Grenada. The ocean front hotel has five charming guest rooms, two private cottages in lush gardens, and an internationally renowned restaurant on the upstairs veranda with panoramic ocean views. Green Roof Inn has a vision that extends beyond the commercial, linking business success with the wellbeing of the local community and its environment. The goal is to make profits with principles, without undermining passion, in the pursuit of professionalism. Green Roof Inn strives to be a resilient, determined, humanizing advocate for Carriacou as a destination and has a comprehensive Plan of Action for Sustainable Tourism.

Isle of Reefs Tours is a soft adventure tour company, also based in Carriacou. It offers guided hiking, turtle watching, boat excursions, snorkeling trips, offshore camping, island tours, home stay accommodations, and carbon offsets. Isle of Reefs Tours’ mission is to offer the visitors of Carriacou an authentic Caribbean experience by taking them in small groups and involving them in the richness of the island. Guests will get their moment of relaxation and quality time, while making a sustainable contribution to the island by really getting to know it and its people. Don’t miss our tour with Isle of Reefs Tours in our documentary Caribbean ‘Green’ Travel: Your Choices Make a Difference.

Founded in 1971, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations offers over 50 deluxe, small group bicycling, walking, and waterways vacations at unsurpassed value throughout the world. Each trip includes all accommodations, most meals, two expert local trip leaders, unique sightseeing and cultural activities, and full vehicle support. Unlike other companies, VBT also includes round-trip international airfare from over 30 U.S. cities and select Canadian cities for all overseas vacations. VBT has been rated among the “World’s Best Tour Operators” by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine for eight years. In addition, VBT recently created the VBT Travelers’ Fund, an initiative to help preserve the local cultures, communities, and environment in the regions the company visits.

CREST is impressed by the passionate work these companies are doing to be good stewards of their destinations and grateful for their invaluable assistance to CREST as we continue to pursue our mission. Interested in becoming a CREST Platinum Sponsor? Find out how.

Welcome, Dahye!

CREST is excited to welcome program and research intern Dahye Youn to our team through June. Dahye currently studies social sciences at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, Korea. She comes to CREST through an exchange program called KOREA WEST. Prior to her internship at CREST, she worked in fundraising with Save the Children and Amnesty International.

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

Impact all’Italiana

Having spent almost two years in Italy, CREST intern Shelby Luzzi had plenty of time to learn about Renaissance ideals. In this piece, she reflects on the linkages between Bocaccio’s Decameron and creating an impact through tourism.

Updates from CARE for the Cape & Islands

It’s been a busy fall for CARE for the Cape and Islands, a fiscally sponsored program of CREST.

In addition to supporting environmental stewardship, CARE works to help preserve the cultural heritage and historic places of the region. Two such CARE-funded projects were recently completed and unveiled:

  • Cape Cod Collaborative Arts Network (CapeCodCAN), an organization providing inclusive programs in the performing and visual arts for teens and adults of all abilities, unveiled an original public art installation at the B singarnstable Municipal Airport on Tuesday, September 18. “The Victura” is a 6’x4’, multi-media bas relief of John F Kennedy’s beloved sailboat, recently restored and on exhibit at the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The Victura is an homage to the past with a nod to Kennedy outreach programs that continue to thrive and grow. The exhibit is expected to be on display at the Barnstable Airport indefinitely.
  • Hands on History: The Cahoons and the Crocker House is a newly created interpretive display at the Cahoon Museum of American Art. The display is composed of eight educational elements that offer a fun, self-guided tour throughout the building’s historic rooms and highlight some of its unique features, including how the Cahoon family lovingly adapted it for their use as a gallery, home, and studio. The Museum preserves the building and the Cahoon legacy, owns a notable collection of American art, and displays historical and contemporary rotating art exhibitions. By interweaving and highlighting this historical and artistic history, the Hands on History display uncovers some of the fascinating stories hidden in the building’s interior.

Martha and Ralph Cahoon Exhibit

In a continued effort to reduce single-use plastic, CARE also provided a grant to the annual Yarmouth Library Cookie Stroll to replace 7,000 individual plastic baggies and twist ties with compostable bakery-style paper bags. Each year ticket holders can stroll along the Bass River area and tour a select group of historic homes decorated for the holidays, learning about their historical significance. A different homemade cookie is collected at the conclusion of each house tour. Both cookie bakers and participants were delighted by this simple change that significantly reduced their environmental footprint.

On November 1, CARE convened the first “CARE About a Clean Cape and Islands Summit: Protecting our Environment from Plastic Pollution and Litter.” More than fifty participants, representing environmental organizations, municipalities, and local businesses, spent the morning sharing best practices, challenges, and setting goals to develop solutions to plastic pollution and litter issues. Moving forward, CARE will lead working groups to focus on five key areas that will include unified messaging to influence behavior and cooperative purchasing of eco-friendly products. By purchasing in bulk, the attendees hope to pass along reduced costs to many small business owners.

At the conclusion of the summit, CARE presented their 2018 Stewardship Awards. This year’s award went to RideAway Adventures, nominated by the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce for their commitment to educating their clients on methods of sustainability and conservation, working with a variety of local nonprofits, and employing teachers and students to give them additional income that allowed them to be able to live year-round on Cape Cod.

In addition, CARE awarded its first Youth Stewardship Award to 14-year-old Lucy Swain, a Cape student who has been actively working to educate the community about the dangers of plastic in the ocean. She was inspired by her family’s trip last year, where she conducted research and saw firsthand the impact of ocean plastic. To learn more about CARE for the Cape & Islands, please contact director Jill Talladay.

Marianne Swain, Lucy Swain (Stewardship Winner), and Jill Talladay (CARE Director)

CREST Shares Its Experience

  • Georgetown University: On October 17, CREST program coordinator Kelsey Frenkiel and communications & outreach manager Rebekah Stewart spoke at the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies as part of a Master of Professional Studies in Global Hospitality Leadership course. Kelsey and Rebekah’s remarks focused on solutions to overtourism, sharing insights from CREST’s research and from the 2018 World Tourism Day Forum, co-hosted with The George Washington University’s International Institute of Tourism Studies. Their presentation was followed by a robust discussion of overtourism and the role of the hospitality industry in addressing this global problem.
  • Penn State University: On October 19, CREST executive director Martha Honey spoke at Penn State University as part of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management’s fall seminar series. Her late afternoon presentation to some 80 faculty and students in the department was entitled “Overtourism: Threats to Sustainable Tourism.” Drawing upon CREST’s recent research and publications, Martha focused her remarks on a range of environmental, social, and economic issues being created by large-scale cruise tourism. The talk generated much discussion, as did her talk to an undergraduate class earlier in the day.
  • The Phocuswright Conference: CREST executive director Martha Honey was an invited speaker at this year’s PhocusWright Conference held November 13-15 in Los Angeles. Martha participated in a Center Stage Executive Roundtable on “Travel and the Future of Cities.” The panel looked at how travel’s “disruptive new ideas” from Airbnb to ride sharing are impacting the urban landscape. The other panelists in the roundtable discussion, moderated by CNBC’s Seema Mody, were Matt Curtis, founder of the Smart City Policy Group, Troy Flanagan from American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), and Dan Christian of The Travel Corporation (TTC). Martha focused her remarks on the causes of overtourism and its impacts on the quality of life for residents in historic cities like Barcelona and Charleston, SC, bringing a unique perspective on sustainable tourism practices to this mammoth conference focused on the latest trends and innovations in travel technology.

    CREST’s Martha Honey with Phocuswright panelists Matt Curtis, Troy Flanagan, Dan Christian, and moderator Seema Mody
  • Washington University in St. Louis: The power of technology allows CREST to join tourism classroom discussions both near and far. On November 27, CREST managing director Samantha Bray Skyped to present during an “Ecotourism and Sustainability” seminar class at WashU, taught by Dr. Andrea Murray. Topics of Samantha’s presentation included overtourism and impact tourism and were met with lively discussion. CREST has a range of educational resources to share, and team members are often available for in-person or remote presentations. To find out how CREST can provide resources to your tourism or development class, please contact Samantha.

Industry Announcements

  • Basecamp Explorer: Building a Sustainable Future: In Mid-November, CREST Platinum Sponsor Basecamp Explorer celebrated 20 years of welcoming guests to Masai Mara, Kenya. For Basecamp, the past 20 years represent a growing partnership with the local Maasai community that has helped in the development of sustainable tourism models. Since 1998, Basecamp Explorer Kenya has grown to incorporate unique tourist destinations in the breathtaking Masai Mara National Reserve and Mara Naboisho Conservancy, providing guests with exclusive wildlife safari experiences in the most authentic and responsible way. Today, Basecamp contributes to 16 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, and they are committed to tourism that minimizes environmental impacts and maximizes social, economic, and cultural benefits for the destination and its inhabitants. To ensure they spearhead sustainable development, Basecamp partners with key sustainable organizations, the local Maasai community, and other like-minded stakeholders to establish various sustainable initiatives, the most important ones being poverty eradication, climate action, and life on land. Visit Basecamp’s website to learn more about their community projects.
  • GRAYL Water Purifiers: Safe Water + Sustainable Travel: If you are a frequent backpacker or outdoor enthusiast and want to reduce your plastic waste, CREST has an exciting offer! Our friends at GRAYL help make sustainable water fast and easy on your next trip abroad. GRAYL purifiers remove all pathogens (including virus, bacteria, and protozoa), microplastics and chemicals. You can fill from a hotel sink or jungle stream. One press, and water is safe to drink immediately. Use code CREST10 during checkout at, and GRAYL will donate $10 to CREST with every purchase.
  • MilkCrate Helps Sustainable Tourists Take Lessons Home: CREST Platinum Sponsor Bodhi Surf + Yoga was looking for a way to help its visitors take what they learned in Costa Rica back home and provide them with ideas and opportunities to live more compassionately toward the planet. At the beginning of this past summer, Bodhi met MilkCrate, an app developer for mission-driven organizations, and together they created an app that fulfilled Bodhi's vision. They then turned to the University of Surrey to create a study to measure the impact of the Bodhi Surf + Yoga app, which will be administered to guests before they arrive at Bodhi this season and again about three months after their Bodhi experience. MilkCrate and Bodhi are thrilled to see this research commence at the start of the new year to gauge how mobile apps and travel experiences can change the way people feel and behave towards their environment and community.
  • Tides Canada Convenes Indigenous Ecotourism Summit: On November 6-7, Tides Canada convened a select number of stakeholders from across Canada’s north at the Kwa’lilas Hotel in Port Hardy, British Columbia for a joint discussion and co-design process focused on indigenous ecotourism in northern Canada. Participants came from a variety of fields, including economic development, government, philanthropy, impact investing, entrepreneurship, and the tourism sector. CREST board chair Mike Robbins attended the summit, which was facilitated by skilled community planner Jessie Hemphill. After discussing the challenges and potential for indigenous-led ecotourism, participants worked together to design proposals focused on addressing barriers to ecotourism operations and promoting ecotourism’s positive community impact. Copies of the full report from the Indigenous Ecotourism Summit can be obtained by contacting Orit Sarfaty, Director of Strategic Programs at Tides Canada. Learn more about Tides Canada, a national charity dedicated to providing uncommon solutions for the common good, at
  • G Adventures Launches Child Welfare Campaign: G Adventures and partners Planeterra Foundation and ChildSafe Movement have developed a comprehensive set of guidelines to help travel businesses and their clients ensure that their activities are child safe and child friendly. Visit G Adventures’ website to learn more about their Child Welfare Policy and Guidelines.

CREST in the News

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