By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
On one issue I take exception to the courageous climate activist, Greta Thunberg: travel – even airline travel – is not the enemy of the climate action crusade, travel is its best ally. She may have taken two weeks to sail the Atlantic to reach the United Nations Climate Action Summit, but the thousands of diplomats and heads of state she scolded and shamed into action, could not.
“What would happen if we stopped traveling, stopped flying? Would we save the planet or unleash a global conservation crisis? There would be global conservation crisis,” asserted Costas Christ, chairman of The TreadRight Foundation, a philanthropy created by The Travel Corporation’s 42 brands, to preserve and protect the planet, people and wildlife.
Christ, who came out of the Wildlife Conservation Society, pointed to the three great forests on the planet – New Guinea, Amazon Basin, Central African rainforest including Gabon. But in the early 2000s, Gabon’s economy was dependent on mining and timber concessions.
The Wildlife Conservation Society went to Gabon’s president and said, “If you continue mining, cutting trees, the party is over in 50 years, but if put aside area for conservation, travelers will come, alleviate poverty and save the forest – your great grandchildren will be able to make their livelihood here.
“With stroke of Gabon President’s pen, he created 11 national parks, protecting 13 million acres – Travel Matters,” Christ said. “Travel is the alternative to exploitation – preserve and protect instead of poach and encroach.”
“If travelers did not go to the African continent, the future would be unrelenting poverty. Travel is hope, conservation.”
Colombia, where The Travel Corporation has introduced new travel programs, is one of the 30 places on the planet which are the “Noah’s Ark of Life,” a biodiversity hot spot harboring one out of 10 species.
“If we are able to help Colombia protect its natural resources we will protect the second largest biodiverse place on the planet.”
“We make an impact when travel supports conservation, protects wildlife and alleviates poverty. Travel matters when it is planned, managed well, sustainable. Then magic happens – we deliver on our promise to make the world a better place.
It is significant that travel benefits the destinations, but travel also enriches individuals, in a mutually virtuous circle.
What is wanderlust and why do we seek out other places? Christ asks. Marco Polo understood. So did John Steinbeck, who, in his Pulitzer-Prize winning book, wrote:
A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.
And all plans, safeguards, policies and coercion are fruitless.
We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
Mark Twain, who actually was a travel writer, wrote in “The Innocents Abroad,” “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Costas Christ traveled to meet the Dalai Lama, who travels constantly, to ask ‘Why travel?.’ “He said, ‘in ancient Tibetan ‘gropa’ is the word for human being, but the literal meaning is ‘one who goes on migrations.’ We define the essence of being human to travel – to travel is to be human.
“We think of the word ‘progress’ as hitting goals, but to pro-gress is a kind of travel. In Middle English, “progress” means “to go on a seasonal journey” – so success is a journey, success is linked to travel.”
The TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit organization created 10 years ago as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands, takes a percentage of profit from 42 companies to make sure goes to projects that make a difference. TreadRight supports 55 projects in 280 communities in 26 countries in three basic categories: planet, people and wildlife.
TTC, a member of the World Travel & Tourism Council, is joining in a commitment for the industry – which accounts for one in 10 jobs around the world and accounts for 10% of the global economy, to become carbon neutral by 2050. TTC will also take steps to eliminate plastics through its supply chain, and reduce carbon emissions.
“We’re committed to be carbon neutral before 2050 and not through carbon offsets. Carbon is what’s destroying climate, not offsets,” Brett Tollman, Chief Executive, The Travel Corporation and Founder, The TreadRight Foundation. said at a reception marking TreadRight’s 10 years.
“We are at an unfortunate tipping point, where unless we careful, this industry will be the poster for all that’s bad,” he said. “We have the opportunity to make change, but we have to be courageous.”
But though travel – particularly airline travel – does have a carbon cost (until the technologies improve), not traveling would be far worse for the quest of saving the planet and communities from the impacts of climate change and promoting a more just society.
Christ points to places devastated by climate catastrophe that have rebounded because of tourism, communities and cultures destroyed by war and conflict, like Bosnia and Croatia, rebuild and thrive because of the economic support of travel dollars.
For example, working with the Jordan tourism Board, TreadRight supports the Queen Noor Iraq Alamei, a cooperative that employs women as potters and artisans – giving women jobs outside the home but within the village. With TreadRight support, the cooperative built up a gift shop and opened an Air BnB.
New travel programs in Colombia help create a wildlife nursery and install solar panels, while another program in Sierra Nevada, through Trafalgar, creates an opportunity for visitors to be hosted by a family.
“Travel is an incredible gift. It has the ability to open our eyes to the unique cultures and spellbinding beauty of the natural world. But with this gift comes a responsibility – to protect the world as we know it. At TreadRight, our mission is clear; to have a positive impact on the people and communities we visit, to protect wildlife and marine life, and to care for the planet we call home.”
Craig Kielburger, the co-founder of WE charity, explained how Treadright’s family of travel companies is partnering with We.org, which builds schools, promotes sustainable agriculture, brings pure water to communities – to offer programs in which travelers can immerse themselves into that community.
In partnership with ME to WE, travelers have the opportunity to visit three iconic destinations: India, the Ecuadorian Amazon and Kenya. In conjunction with TTC, guests can book ME to WE Immersive Volunteer Trip extensions on upcoming set departure dates or as a requested custom trip. Travelers stay among local communities in comfortable lodges, owned and operated by ME to WE. All meals, ground transfers, transportation and local sightseeing excursions hosted by an expert facilitator are included.
You can run with the Masai, help build a school, see what it feels like to have to carry water barrels on your back; stay in a family’s home in Ecuador; in India, visit an elephant rescue preserve instead of riding on one. (See TreadRight.org site, https://www.TreadRight.org/trips/).
“Travel is a privilege,” said Celine Cousteau, a documentary filmmaker and TreadRight Ambassador and storyteller. “Experience places and people, become a part of who they are. Travel fosters profound change. Travelers become storytellers. Traveling on an airplane has a carbon footprint, yes, but the value it brings more than compensates. Travel is an opportunity to bring a thriving economy, conserve, preserve. Make a choice to do good and if travel, make it count.”
TTC’s ‘Make Travel Matter’ Pledge
TreadRight has made #maketravelmatter its mission and its theme and on this year’s World Tourism Day, made this pledge:
The Travel Corporation (TTC) has just announced its new Make Travel Matter Pledge, in celebration of World Tourism Day. Guided by The TreadRight Foundation, a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s family of award-winning brands, including Trafalgar, Uniworld, Insight Vacations, Luxury Gold, Contiki, African Travel, Inc., Lion World Travel, Brendan Vacations and Red Carnation Hotels the pledge serves as the next step in a long standing commitment to sustainable tourism and conscious travel.
“This World Tourism Day, Friday, September 27th, 2019, engaged citizens will examine the positive impact travel has on the globe and TreadRight is making its commitment public to Make Travel Matter,” the company stated.
Inspired by Palau’s First Lady, Debbie Remengesau who introduced the Palau Pledge, every one of TTC’s 10,000 team members and 42 companies worldwide are committing to make travel matter, with its new official pledge standing to help protect people, planet and wildlife. In celebration of World Tourism Day, all members of TTC’s family of brands will use the opportunity to stand up and personally commit to share TreadRight’s ethos as travelers, as travel providers and as members of the global travel industry.
“Our Make Travel Matter Pledge is another step on our journey and an impactful one as it further solidifies our commitment to helping protect the destinations we work with, its communities and local wildlife,” Tollman said. “As responsible travelers, TreadRight’s ethos has become part of our company’s DNA and what we stand for, and we share our pledge with our guests as well as partners in hopes they will join us.”
MAKE TRAVEL MATTER PLEDGE
I will make my travel matter – for our planet, for people and for wildlife.
When I explore this planet, I will do my best to TreadRight.
I will refuse single use plastics when I can and recycle what I cannot avoid.
When possible, I will offset my travels.
When I meet new people, I will honor their home as I do my own and do so in the spirit of diversity and inclusion. I will purchase locally made items wherever possible and pay a fair price.
When I experience wildlife, I will do so in nature.
I will not ride animals that ought not be ridden, nor support animal cruelty in any way.
Together, we will TreadRight upon the earth – and we will make our travel matter.
More information at TreadRight.org. #MakeTravelMatter
For more information about TTC, visit www.ttc.com.
TreadRight is not the only entity that facilitates authentic, transformative, responsible travel experiences – there is a whole travel industry subcategory, many represented by Center for Responsible Travel (responsibletravel.org), Global Sustainable Tourism Council (gstcouncil.org), Earthcheck (earthcheck.org) and the Rainforest Alliance (https://www.rainforest-alliance.org).
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