How Can We Make Sustainable Tourism Catch On?


I truly believe that sustainable tourism is the way of the future and with the leadership of major travel companies, we can make huge strides in making sustainable tourism mainstream. What I have found throughout my internship is that people want to make travel better and they are genuinely interested in learning about sustainable tourism and responsible travel, however they still don’t fully understand and to be honest, I don’t think the travel companies really understand how to fill in the gaps. Some companies tout their sustainable practices proudly while others hide them pages deep in their website. Everyone uses different terms like community impact, environmental commitment, global citizenship, sustainability, our promise, etc. and for travelers, this information can be confusing and vague.

As a part of my webinar series I created for my internship to present to travel agents, I tried to explain sustainable tourism in the simplest way possible:

  • Sustainable Tourism: “Tourism that respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment”… while ensuring “future tourists and tourism businesses can enjoy and profit from the same destinations.” (A combination of UNESCO wording a wording from Sewing Seeds of Change)

Basically:

  • Sustainable Tourism is Better Tourism
    • Better for the traveler
    • Better for the community visited
    • Better for the planet
  • Sustainable Tourism is about being a Responsible Traveler

And most importantly:

  • ANY type of travel can be Sustainable Travel 

What I’ve found when discussing sustainable tourism with people at the office and with travel advisors is that the buzzwords ecotourism and voluntourism always come up. These are great but I always stress these are part of sustainable tourism, but not quite the whole package.

F13220573_1186658298014017_7508145138412162820_o.jpgor example, I recently went on a Fathom cruise. Fathom is well known in the travel industry right now for being the first American cruise to sail to Cuba in recent time. The cruise line also sails to the Dominican Republic where passengers take part in Impact + Travel activities on shore and also engage in social innovation workshops on board. The shore excursions include reforestation efforts, teaching english, assisting at a woman’s cooperative, and laying cement floors for families. While many guests on board really bought in to the whole “we’re making a difference” thing, I felt a little disenfranchised. These aren’t feelings I included in my webinar series – because I do think Fathom is a great way for some people to take baby steps towards sustainable tourism – however I just couldn’t help but feeling like Fathom missing the boat on creating an amazing sustainable tourism opportunity. For instance, the cruise line doesn’t have an environmental commitment listed on their website and the only mention of one on board was to please reuse your towels and don’t throw anything overboard. The excursions don’t allow for travelers to make meaningful connections as you only interact with people for minutes at a time in some cases.

If sustainable tourism is going to catch on, companies need to go all in. If you’re going to have travelers volunteering, have them recycling and avoiding plastic straws too. If you’re going on an ecotrek, make sure the money is going back into the community. If you’re leading a cultural immersion tour through Europe, interact with the locals, take your trash with you, and find a fuel efficient bus. While researching sustainable tourism options through the vendors available to travel advisors, it’s difficult to produce a list of lots of companies that have truly sustainable cruises and tours rather than just bits and pieces or an overall company goal to “protect the planet” that has no measurable initiatives attached.

While we wait for companies to go all in, I made sure to stress in my webinars that travelers need to be responsible travelers. This means acting out pillars of sustainable tourism and knowing that the rest of the world might not catch up as quickly, but eventually if we all focus on protecting the environment, supporting communities, and preserving cultures, sustainable tourism will catch on.

Leaving Singapore


It’s the last few hours in Singapore. I’m pretty sure I will miss this place, where nice to travel, good to work, and comfortable to live.3-pic

Through this internship, I learned how to communicate with people in different background. it is nice to meet these people and make friends with them.

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I love the weather in Singapore as well. It is a little bit like Tampa, sometimes it rains on the afternoon, but for the most of time, it’s sunny and warm.5-pic

Comfortable Work Environment


The place I’m working is a branch company of Steelcase, which is for sale and after sale services. during the work, we can help ourselves to have a cup of coffee or tea, and even free snacks.

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The desks, chairs and sofa are all products of Steelcase their own. So during the work I can also enjoy the expensive furniture that I can not afford. In addition, at the corner of the office, there are a lot of material sample, including wood, textile, and plastics.

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The mission boss gives me is to do a market research in Singapore about educational market. It is a challenge for me but interesting. Through the marketing research, I need contact with the potential customers, or even develop some potential customers. It is hard, but I’m trying my best.

The Power 2 Change


The City

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The City of Atlanta, or Atlanta, is located in the north-central part of the state of Georgia, which has been one of the top growth areas of the country for the last two decades. Atlanta was established in 1847, and since then it has provided municipal services to its residents, citizens, and visitors.  These services include police and fire department, the maintenance of streets, roads and street lighting and other infrastructures. It provides recreational activities and cultural events, public transportation, municipal health services, land use and building regulations. The City is also responsible for the energy and water supply, and sewage collection and disposal operations. The City is also the home of the worlds’ most transited airport, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport [1]. The City of Atlanta forms part of the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA (MSA), or commonly known as the Metropolitan Atlanta. The Metropolitan Atlanta is number nine in the largest metropolitan areas in the country and has become known as a leading center for logistic activities and business. The area represents one the biggest national and international transportation hub and it is among the top three distributions cities in the U.S., As a result, Atlanta has ranked number three in the country for the number of FORTUNE 500 company headquarters. The City has built a powerful economic base and was lately ranked 10th nationwide as an important technology market. The City of Atlanta also ranks 10th in the nation economy and social well-being with a gross domestic product of approximately $295 billion[2].

The Initiative

Addressing sustainability in cities like Atlanta is a complex undertaking, demanding respect and a comprehensive understanding of the interconnected nature of social, economic and environmental issues, and collaboration across all established jurisdictions, municipalities,  geographies, fields, and expertise. Meeting Atlanta’s sustainability development goals, therefore, entails complementary efforts at different scales and domains, where everyone and every single entity and organization is relevant, and where everyone has a role to play, and everyone has a responsibility to work to accelerate progress towards sustainability across the city.

Power to Change aims to offer a clear path forward for all Atlantans in these commitments, joining national best practices with local context, leveraging the work of countless individuals and organizations from the public and private sector, across many impact areas, and giving all a sense of shared accomplishment and purpose.

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As Atlanta’s citywide sustainability energy, Power to Change is the result of the contributions of more than 250 stakeholders across the city, representing their businesses,  neighborhoods, their schools, their community organizations and their government agencies. The input and continuing commitments and efforts of these individuals and organizations are what make Power to Change (P2C) alive and powerful, transforming goals, targets and initiatives into a better Atlanta.

Power to Change employs this framework of co-creation processes to build a strong foundation for measurable sustainability actions around 10 impact areas, joining and leading sustainability cities around the globe by using this compelling approach.

My Internship Experience

This fall I had the most incredible and fascinating government experience by working as an intern at the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a great honor for me to be part of a learning process that allows me to get a different perspective and a professional experience from the so-called public sector. During my internship program, I primarily assisted two departments and their corresponding green initiatives in addressing Atlanta’s sustainability efforts. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in two internships during this fall semester with different focus areas but with very interlinked domains.

The Urban Agriculture Department

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The goal of urban agriculture in Atlanta is to support and strengthen an equitable and healthy local food economy. To achieve this, the following are some of the actions and activities performed so far by Dr. Mario Cambadella, the Urban Agriculture Director, and his incredible team:

  • The city has provided technical and conceptual drawings for design and construction of the Capital View Community Garden Landscape Plan as well as supervised community work days.
  • The department has streamlined the permitting process for urban and community gardens to make it easier for farmers to do what they love to do best, grow, distribute and sell food.
  • The Department has also secured dozens of grants to strengthen Atlanta’s Urban Agriculture (UA) Network and increase access to local, healthy, and fresh produce. The awards include the GRO1000 grant to give social entrepreneurs an opportunity to grow and sell edible plants and a U.S. Forest Service grant to establish a food forest in Southwest part of Atlanta.
  • Thanks to the assistance and strategic partnership with Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, the Department of UA has completed the Customized Food Hub Assessment Tool Kit for the City of Atlanta.
  • Additionally, The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability has established a Community Supported Agriculture drop-off location at the City Hall with the local farming cooperative, Global Growers.

I participated and assisted the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability Urban Agriculture Legal Internship program. This program allowed me to acquire significant learning experience to seek for career options and develop professional skills in a diversity of leadership disciplines such as community engagement, urban agriculture development, and management, sustainability, urban planning, water conservation programs and many other related fields. By participating in programs such as the first Food Forest of the City, I understood and unleashed an interest in learning how urban agriculture can help to achieve the goal of making Atlanta a top-tier city for sustainability by the year 2025. The purpose of this position in the Internship Program was to develop a passionate and skilled leader in me, committed to urban agriculture as one of the critical components of sustainability progress in the city.

Working closing with the Urban Agriculture Director Dr. Mario Cambardella and Elizabeth Beak, his fellow, my primary responsibilities were: UA policy research, grant writing and editing, legal research, and analysis and the placemaking of the first Food Forest in the City. I actively participated in projects such as the opening of a fresh farmers’ market at the Five Points, one of the Marta Train Stations in the City. I also participated in the Food Forest Workshops and the site-visit and celebration of the Food Forest in the Browns Mills Farm.

The Climate Resilience and Renewable Department

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Atlanta’s City Hall

Atlanta has been one of the first cities in Georgia to pass a Climate Action Plan and has been a leader in solar energy programs.

The director, Dr. Jairo Garcia has been on the most dedicated sustainability practitioner in achieving new milestones on transition initiatives that act upon turning Atlanta as one of the most sustainable low-carbon Cities. The actions performed by this department are the following:

  • In 2016, the City began installing solar panels at more than 25 facilities across the city, half of wich are located in the low-income neighborhoods and minority communities.
  • The City of Atlanta was one of the major cities in the Southeast to participate in the COP21 Climate talks held in Paris. Also, the City was recognized by the Atlanta Regional Commission for the Climate Action Plan developed for the city.
  • Atlanta has been recently honored as one of the Rockefeller Foundation’s “100 Resilient Cities” in strengthening its ability to face the impacts of climate change such as flooding and heat islands.
  • Finally, the City of Atlanta has been recognized by the Center for Disease Control as a top ten worldwide Greenhouse Gas emissions reporter.

My internship experience in this department was to work in close collaboration with doctor Jairo in the Climate & Renewables policy research, GH Gases Inventories, updating, writing and editing the 2016 GRI-G4 Sustainability Report, and contributing to the update of the Atlanta Climate Action Plan. This role offered me a broad range of experience on Climate & Renewables Master Plans, GHG Emissions Inventories, GRI Sustainability Reporting, and Solar Atlanta. This position also gave me the opportunity to explore and develop a passionate and skilled leadership in public engagement, policy research, conceptual master plan designs, and working with great partners across the city.

1-2 “The City of Atlanta, Georgia, Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Year Ended June 30, 2015”. http://www.atlantaga.gov/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=20459

Links of Interest

http://www.atlantaga.gov/

Home

http://www.atlantastreetsalive.com/

Week 6: Internship Conclusion


This week at the farm we had some promising growth happen over the last couple days. Two of our plants have started to produce fruit for the short Fall season in Florida. The two plants that are bearing fruit are the American Plum tree and the Yellow Passion Fruit vine. Over the last six weeks I have been putting in extra effort and care into preparing the passion fruit for the small growing opportunity in early November. I have been posting the progress of these plants in my previous blogs and on our social media pages. However, what we did not expect was for the American Plums to produce some fruit during the Fall as well. This occurrence is out of season and not supposed to happen until Spring here in Florida. This particular plum tree has around 5 plums dangling from its branches currently, but the same tree a couple feet away has nothing. I have been tending to these trees all Fall in hopes that they would grow enough to produce plums during their grow season in spring. This is the first time that these trees have produced any fruit since they were planted years ago. Below are some of the pictures I took of the fruit currently on our farm.

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During my time here on the farm I have learned several skills involving the construction of various urban farming infrastructure. These include a chicken coops, vertical strawberry gardens, and drip irrigation systems. When I start my own urban farm these skills will be very useful in beginning with a strong foundation. As for the social media aspect of my internship, I’d say it has been going well. As of this week we have increased our page likes to 565 people and reaching  1370 people via comments, likes, and shares. During the harvest season this increase in potential customers should really help to turn a profit next year. We’ve expanded the number of products available, while branching out into new markets in order to meet the demands of our new customers. We have added avocados, bananas, basil, carrots, sweet potato, mango, and strawberries. Plans for the future continue to be focused on farm fresh eggs and possibly cascade hops.

I finished my internship up just a few days ago and have learned so much over the past couple months. It brought me happiness knowing that the work I did not only promotes a sustainable future, but also helped to produce nourishment for people. Each day on the farm was quite enjoyable. Even after days of sweating and pulling weeds and handling feces I was still able to have a smile on my face. I guess this means I’m doing what I was meant to do. It feels good and I hope everyone has an opportunity to do something that makes them happy. At the end  of this month my 50 page paper is due. However, I am not concerned as I feel as if I could write a 100 page paper. The presentation is going to have a lot of pictures and some graphs to help present my data in a effective method. Excited to get my degree, but sad to be finally done with school. Its time to go out and change the world. I can’t think of a better way to spend my time. Thank you everyone for all your support and I plan to make the Patel College very happy.

Wrapping up in Belize


We are now wrapping up the portion of the project that I’m working on in village.  The overall sustainable tourism project will continue as there are many other components that the Social Investment Fund need to complete. To complete my last objectives for this project, it was my responsibility to get the village trainees some practical real world experience to equip them with some basic skills to conduct various tours for visitors to Belize. Last week we completed setting up an initial nature trail tour around the village.  This proved to be very challenging, especially because of weather conditions, but was ultimately successful.

I needed to identify locations for the trainees to visit to gain some practical experience about guiding in different areas from other tour guides as well.  After examining tourism statistics for Belize, major terrestrial attractions that tourist visit includes the ancient Maya sites, caves (especially cave tubing), and the Belize Zoo.  We decided to visit The Belize Zoo, Nohoch Che’en Cave (where the cave tubing occurs) and the ancient Maya city of Xunantunich.


Our first field experience was at the Belize Zoo.  This is a wonderful zoo, recognized worldwide as a model for other zoos.  Rehabilitation and conservation are very important to the Belize zoo.  Majority of the animals are rescued, injured or orphaned animals which are taken to the zoo by residents or the forestry department. The enclosures are large and imitate the animals’ natural habitats as much as possible. You won’t see slabs of concrete with animals on display here. In reality, you may not see many of the animals without the assistance of a local guide or zoo staff because they blend in naturally in the environment they are in. The village trainees from Gracie Rock each had the opportunity to guide on a section of the tour at the zoo.

I explained and demonstrated the internationally acceptable methods for guiding tourists in this type of environment.  They were very excited and receptive and did a wonderful job at the Belize Zoo.

The tour at the cave tubing site was a new experience for most of them.  I had the assistance of another guide, since this was a wet cave tour and had a higher level of challenge and risk involved.  The trainees had a blast. They learned about the natural flora and fauna of the environment and about cave geology.

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Group at Cave Tubing site

 

 

The last trip we did was to the ancient Maya city of Xunantunich. This is all the way in the west of the country. Again, this was a first for majority of the trainees. We had to drive through several communities and cross the Mopan river on a hand-cranked ferry before getting to the site.

There was a troop of howler monkeys chilling in the trees.  It was as if they were there to  greet us when we arrived. The trainees got to tour the entire site and climb the tallest structure, El Castillo.  From the summit, we could see clear into Guatemala and got a panoramic view of the country side.

The trainees from the village had a wonderful experience over the last week of this section of the project.  Almost every person has met the requirements and passed the national assessments as administered by the Belize Tourism Board.  Now, they need to go through the license application process and very shortly they will be licensed guides, conducting eco-tours in and around their community.  The training they received allows them to also guide anywhere throughout the length and breadth of Belize.  This part of the overall sustainable tourism project will allow these villagers to generate income for their families and, with further support, they can setup their own tour operations and run their own business.

 

 

Gracie RockVillagers


We are getting to the part of the project which requires more field work.  The villagers here have shown how dedicated they are to this training that they are receiving.  We need to start early in the day. I recently found out that some of the villagers participating in this project are traveling some far distances and even crossing the river en route to the training venue.  I had the opportunity to accompany some of them to the road leading to their houses.  I was amazed to know that several of them cross the river, paddling a canoe, twice daily everyday.  This is difficult enough seeing as how the river has been consistently flooded over the past few weeks, but one of them does this daily and she cannot swim. Her name is Sirley.  I saw her stand in the canoe and paddle her way across the flooded river. The pictures below were taken while she made her way across the river.

Another one of the trainees has a new born baby boy. Her name is Amalia and most days she has her son with her. He is a welcomed addition to the group.  Amalia doesn’t allow the fact that she has a young baby to keep for from benefiting from this project. She is shown below.  I even spend some time with the baby boy during the sessions to allow her time to complete her work.

This commitment to what they are doing only solidifies the importance of the work that I am doing down here.

Last week we had to set up a nature trail around the village.  All of the participants in the project came out. They came from far, across rivers, catching the bus, biking and even walking.  They endured through swarms of mosquitoes and doctor flies. It was muddy and raining. In the end we accomplished what we set out to do.  It was a great feeling knowing that we were getting closer to the end goal. The next activities will involve more field work.  Below are some pictures from the nature trail. We saw what I believe is a bare-throated tiger heron nesting in a nearby tree.