Expedia is signing a multi-year renewal of its partnership with the United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation) to continue the work of the World Heritage Alliance (WHA). The announcement was made at the Society of American Travel Writers Annual Convention in Santiago, Chile. The WHA is an industry-leading initiative that was jointly formed by Expedia(R) and the UN Foundation in 2005 to promote sustainable tourism and awareness of World Heritage sites and communities around the world.
“Expedia is dedicated to positively impacting global tourism through the promotion of sustainable tourism, an endeavor of which our partnership with the United Nations Foundation is a cornerstone,” said Paul Brown, president, Expedia North America and Global Partner Services Group, Expedia, Inc. “We are committed to making a positive impact on the travel industry, and we’re proud of all that we’ve accomplished with the World Heritage Alliance in our first year of partnership.”
Expedia and the UN Foundation have also developed a successful model to engage the industry and official tourism offices in the World Heritage Alliance. Among the industry partners who have joined in supporting the WHA are the Secretary of Tourism for Mexico and the Mexican Tourism Board. The WHA has plans to continue building upon the work already in progress in Mexico by continuing its support to the region and expanding its efforts to the Caribbean in 2007.
“Through the World Heritage Alliance, Expedia and the UN Foundation are making a significant impact, both within the travel industry and in communities in and around World Heritage sites,” said UN Foundation President, Timothy E. Wirth. “Our hope is by stimulating positive changes in communities around World Heritage sites, presenting new tourism suppliers and products, and ensuring the long-term conservation of important travel destinations, the world’s treasures will be protected for years to come.”
In the first year of the program:
—Expedia and the UN Foundation supported local economic development work by launching the Expedia(R) Employee Program in the Yucatan Peninsula to help meet the complex business needs of Community Tours Sian Ka’an (CTSK), a local, predominantly Mayan-owned tourism cooperative working to ensure protection of the delicate mix of coral reefs, mangroves, clear deep-water pools and forests, which are increasingly drawing tourists southward from nearby Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
—The WHA launched five training programs and an online course for local travel industry suppliers and partners in the Yucatan Peninsula, which drew over 500 participants from 137 travel-related companies and organizations in the region.
—As part of Expedia’s call to action to help preserve and sustain World Heritage sites around the world, the company engaged its own employees for its annual Community Service Day to volunteer at Olympic National Park, the nearest World Heritage site to the Expedia, Inc. corporate headquarters in Bellevue, Wash. Nearly 100 Expedia employee volunteers helped to sustain the park’s beauty by cleaning and repaving its historic trails.
The Alliance is also educating travelers about the preservation of World Heritage sites through their joint initiative, www.friendsofworldheritage.org , which encourages individuals to learn more about responsible travel and World Heritage sites, and directly support those sites. Additionally, Expedia is offering special package trips to some of the world’s most cherished sites, donating all profits to the Friends of World Heritage Fund to support communities in and around World Heritage sites. To date, more than 525,000 unique visitors have come to the Expedia.com(R) World Heritage trip pages.
Expedia’s Commitment to Sustainable Tourism
Expedia continues to enhance its sustainable travel offerings by delivering new “green” travel options for its travelers. Just weeks ago, Expedia.com became the first online travel agency to offer travelers the ability to purchase carbon offsets, carbon dioxide reduction measures used to help cancel out the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming. In just the first month since launching the offering, Expedia.com customers have offset eight million pounds of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 20 million air passenger-miles. Expedia is offering the service through TerraPass, the leading retailer of greenhouse gas reduction projects in the U.S. With airline travel currently accounting for about 13 percent of U.S. transportation-based global warming emissions(1), environmentally conscious flyers can now become carbon-balanced flyers by purchasing a special TerraPass along with their ticket from Expedia.
“We aim to inspire travelers to explore and experience more of the world’s treasures,” said Laura Pinones, director of emerging markets for Expedia. “Expedia demonstrates its dedication to protecting the globe, whether by offering travelers green travel choices or building awareness of World Heritage sites and educating about sustainable tourism.”
This year, Expedia marks its 10th anniversary as the world’s leading online travel company, and continues to deliver personalized service, the latest technology and the widest selection of travel options available. Expedia is dedicated to positively impacting the travel and tourism industry and the geographies to which its travelers visit. This is achieved through industry advocacy, the promotion of responsible tourism through the World Heritage Alliance, environmentally conscious options such as Terrapass and hybrid rental cars, and destination support such as charitable donations by Expedia, Inc. to hurricane relief efforts in Cancun and New Orleans. These important efforts transform travel, rebuild cultures and protect world treasures.