How the travel industry Will save the world
(Editor’s Note: The following blog post was first published on Tnooz.com. This is the author’s original post.)
When approached to become one of the initial contributors to Tnooz I was understandably flattered and naturally began thinking about my first post. What is my agenda for the site, what do I say, what is my voice, my goal, my cause, what will I write about? Those of you who know me well are already aware of what drives my personal ambition as well as my writing: travel, technology and the environment.
And while future posts, articles and theoretical ramblings will present a stronger focus on tourism technology, I felt it appropriate to address a larger subject. Global, if you will.
At present, while you sit at your desk or check in on your various RSS feeds via the ubiquitous Blackberry, the world is changing. At grassroots gatherings and worldwide summits, such as the recent Climate Week in New York City, thousands of our peers are addressing the issue of our time…climate change.
I submit to you that climate change is not simply an issue for Greenpeace and the United Nations; it is now an issue for you, for us and for our industry. The time has arrived to lend our voice to the congregation and become a part of the solution. The travel industry…utilizing technology…can help lead the way.
Sounds good you say, but how? And furthermore, why? Why us? Why me?
All of us love (or should love) to travel. We travel to see the world, to experience different cultures and to embrace the variety of natural wonders that exist on our wide-ranging planet. Beyond that wonderful and sugar-coated fact, we sell destinations and, for the most part, we sell the natural surroundings that exist in these destinations.
Our budgets, profits, local taxes, salaries, families, friends and bankers depend on the revenues that are generated due to the splendors of these amazing sites. On top of that, our jobs depend on the environment that we sell so eagerly to willing travelers. That fact alone should be enough cause for you to read on, regardless of personal opinion.
But, as quickly as these wonders of the world are being discovered by the masses, they are at risk of being destroyed due to a changing climate.
The crumbling and deteriorating ruins throughout Greece and Egypt are under attack by the acid rain produced, in part, by exhaust of the rental cars and buses that bring thousands of tourists to these marvels in the first place.
Or, take the first 90 degree day in the Valley of the Sun… Phoenix…a location from which I speak with experience. According to yearly reading from NOAA, the first 90 degree day in Phoenix over the past 25 years is, on average, April 1st, however when isolating the last 10 years, that date jumps to March 29th. On paper, only a two day difference, but in terms of evolutionary time, those two days (over such a short period) represent a large shift in climate patterns.
As you can imagine, it becomes difficult to sell the idea of a lovely alfresco lunch when the temperature reaches 120 degrees. Trust me; all the misting systems in the world will not cool you down.
Perhaps the most startling and troubling example of this disastrous trend is the tiny nation of Maldives. The archipelago lies just off the coast of India and is literally being washed off of the map due to our lack of action on such issues as capping carbon emissions.
And the list goes on…drought in Australia, an overpopulation of pine beetles in Colorado and much of the Rocky Mountain West as well as glaciers disappearing from mainland Europe.
The destination that we sell is being destroyed, or at best, becoming nearly unrecognizable.
But we have a green program, you say.
Nothing more than talk, I say.
Sure, you have a couple of recycling cans in the office, perhaps you even buy locally grown produce for your restaurant and let us not forget about that expensive ‘We are Green’ brochure on your website.
Kudos, perhaps the people of the Maldives can build rafts out of those shiny new brochures and sail off to a new island home.
We need to do more.
We need to be at the head of the table, providing real and tangible ideas and solutions for our community to survive.
Solutions like the E-Move Charging Station in Denmark. The newly unveiled carbon offset kiosk at SFO. Bicycle exchange programs such as the successful experiment in Paris. Recycling programs like RAFT in Denver, which provides school supplies to teachers from leftover convention materials.
We need to use technology to educate our consumers about the natural beauty that surrounds them and what we, as the travel industry, are doing to protect it on the local level.
We need to stop printing guides, materials and mailers that consumers do not want and start thinking about how our decisions can be improved with technology and how that technology can improve the natural world.
Simple answers do not exist in this post or topic. This is a serious issue that calls for serious and thoughtful solutions, which unfortunately cannot be provided in a nice, neat bulleted list.
However, I can provide one solution for this paradox that I have so willingly unleashed on these virgin pages. We, the travel industry, need to start talking.
We need to start talking to each other, to our consumers, to our peers, to our politicians and to the world. All too often we spend endless hours discussing the best way to entice visitors to our destinations without even mentioning or blatantly ignoring such issues as air quality, carbon offsets and the potential for environmental damage. We have trained ourselves to focus on short-term gains and let someone else worry about long-term effects.
Technology is standing by and ready to make an impact on more than the way we communicate with tourists. Technology is ready to help us change the future. We simply need to start the conversation.
If you have made it this far into the post, then congrats, I can assure you that future rants will provide more actionable solutions than the previous novel. And we will certainly talk at length about Twitter, AR, GIS, GDS and every other techie acronym that we can think of, but this subject is beyond important. It is a personal cause of mine and one I felt compelled to share with our new readers and friends.
I leave you with one final thought.
It is our responsibility to protect and preserve the destination that we sell to millions of travelers each and every day. It is time we accepted this monumental task and stopped providing excuses.
Otherwise, our children might have no other choice except to visit the Maldives on Wikipedia.
Troy Thompson is a featured contributor for Tnooz. Follow his posts, articles and stories at Tnooz.com.