Tag Archives: Center for Responsible Travel

Travel Experts to Discuss Lessons from COVID-19 on Tourism in a Changing Climate

Jokulsarlon Glacier, Iceland. The travel and tourism industry, which sustains environments, cultures and economies in communities around the world, faces twin crises of climate change and COVID-19. The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) is hosting a free 2020 World Tourism Day Webinar on Tuesday, September 29 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.

Join the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) for a 2020 World Tourism Day Webinar entitled Lessons from COVID-19 for Tourism in a Changing Climate, Tuesday, September 29, 11:00 am–12:30 pm EST

Registration for this free event is now open, and space is limited.

CREST’s annual meta-analysis, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics, will share key studies on COVID-19 and climate change and the lessons that may be applied from the former to meet the challenges of the latter. CREST’s World Tourism Day Webinar will share the report’s key findings and will bring together experts to discuss consumer, business, and destination trends in the context of recovery. 

Distinguished speakers will explore the unprecedented opportunity to mitigate two existential threats, climate change and COVID-19, with one coordinated approach, truly making the world a safer, more equitable, and more resilient place for all.

Panelists will include:

The latest report, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics 2020, a special edition on lessons from COVID-19 for tourism in a changing climate, comes at an unprecedented time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has highlighted the immense need and value of tourism, while fundamentally changing the way destinations, businesses, and travelers will plan, manage, and experience tourism. At the same time, climate change remains an existential threat that has real consequences for destinations and communities everywhere.

The report includes a special focus on the two major crises facing our world today: climate change and COVID-19. Sharing cutting-edge research and examples, the report describes how travelers, tourism businesses, and destinations are implementing workable, sustainable solutions to support our planet and its people. The report also provides an overview of what consumers, businesses, and destinations are experiencing during COVID-19 and offers sustainable solutions that can help the tourism industry on a road to responsible recovery.

“Crisis often breeds innovation, and destination communities and businesses must now take the time to reconsider the path forward,” said Gregory Miller, Executive Director of CREST. “As we look to the future of tourism, the same rigor and dedication that is needed to adapt to the pandemic must also be applied to neutralize the threat of climate change.”

Trends & Statistics 2020 updates CREST’s previous industry studies, released every year since 2013. This year’s report was prepared in collaboration with more than 30 leading organizations, researchers, and institutions, including the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The full report is available at responsibletravel.org.

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10 Tips from CREST on How to Visit Europe Responsibly

It’s important to continue to visit such popular, but fragile places as Venice, but you can choose to visit in off-season, visit less trafficked places, walk, bike or take mass transit instead of drive, choose lodging and tour companies that follow sustainable practices © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There has been much discussion of late of the negative impacts of over-tourism on communities and the environment. But the travel industry, which offers a lifeline to communities trying to preserve their heritage and environment by providing an economic foundation, is working aggressively to reduce these adverse effects. In addition to introducing sustainable practices in lodging and touring (getting rid of single-use plastic, promoting farm-to-table dining and local services, reducing impacts on water and energy supplies) and transportation (introducing technology to reduce carbon emissions, increase efficiencies), there are other things that travelers can do to travel responsibly: 

Investigate your destinations before you travel to see if there is a problem with overtourism.

Consider not visiting a destination suffering from overtourism during the height of its tourism season. Instead, try to travel in shoulder or off seasons when there are fewer visitors.

Or, travel to less popular destinations in Europe that offer many similar experiences and attractions to a bucket list destination. Resist the temptation to go only to the places you see on Instagram – destinations plagued by selfie-takers, who only remain for a few moments to get a photo, are suffering from the negative impacts of congestion but none of the positive impacts of stayover tourism.

Consider traveling with a responsible tour operator. Tour operators like Intrepid Travel and G Adventures have instituted measures to avoid contributing to overtourism, like organizing early entry when visiting popular attractions, taking travelers to less-visited sites within historic cities, and offering alternative hikes and treks that avoid crowded pathways and lead to less-visited sections of ancient sites.

Be responsible about the photos you take. Get permission to take photos of individuals and respect the physical environment when taking photos – do not go off trail/into restricted areas to take photos. Showing restraint in taking photos will allow you to really experience the destination and be respectful of those around you.

If available, use apps or other devices that can track and help to disperse crowds.

Travel on small cruises that are less overwhelming to a destination.

If using Airbnb or another home sharing site, check beforehand to see if they are legal and what the regulations are in that particular destination. Same for Uber, Lyft and other sharing economy car services – are they legal, and if so, are there rules that you should follow?

Try to use accommodations, transport and restaurants that are certified as socially and environmentally responsible and/or are locally owned. Go on the company’s website to check for this and look for certifications or messaging about sustainability. 

Use your dollars toward good. Tourists need to be mindful of creating a positive footprint on destinations, rather than a neutral one. Spend on locally owned restaurants, locally made handicrafts, locally owned hotels and donate to social and environmental projects.

Based in Washington, DC, the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) is dedicated to increasing the positive global impact of tourism. A unique nonprofit organization recognized for its unbiased, academically rigorous, practical research, CREST is also known for its “on the ground” fieldwork applying these findings and analyses. Originally, CREST’s work focused on the role of ecotourism projects in empowering communities and conserving fragile ecosystems through responsible tourism. Over time, it has evolved to examine how all tourism can be more responsibility planned, developed, and managed. CREST has become a leading expert on the full range of tourism models, from small-scale community-based and indigenous tourism to large coastal resort and cruise tourism. Furthermore, its work has also expanded to encompass country-wide responsible tourism master planning and public sector collaboration. In this era of climate change, responsible travel is no longer an option, it is an imperative. Given this reality, CREST remains committed to its original vision of transforming the way the world travels.

More information at www.responsibletravel.org.

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Industry to Gather on World Tourism Day to Discuss Best Practices for Responsible, Sustainable Travel

Biking in India: Travel can provide the economic base to sustain ancient heritage and conserve wildlife and environment but too much can also destroy. Responsible travel industry entities and governments are working to minimize adverse impact. One of the ways for travelers to maximize their contribution and minimize adverse impact is by a bike tour © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

How can the travel industry better support the communities we love around the world? On World Tourism Day, leaders in tourism and community development will come together in Washington, DC on Friday, September 27, to discuss best practices for travel giving, voluntourism, and corporate social impact.

The 2019 World Tourism Day Forum, Impact Tourism: Giving Time, Talent, & Treasure, is a day-long event focused on how tourism business, travelers, and organizations are successfully making strategic contributions of time, talent, and treasure to social and environmental projects in destinations. Recognizing that “doing good” does not always mean “doing right,” the forum will also examine the downsides of poorly implemented travel giving programs.

Hosted by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) and the Organization of American States, this event will trace the evolution of what was originally referred to as “travelers’ philanthropy” into “impact tourism,” which is recognized today as a core component of responsible travel. Designed to generate insights and highlight innovation, the forum will also discuss the future of this growing source of development assistance.

Select speakers include:

  • James Thornton, Chief Executive Officer, Intrepid Travel
  • Chris Blackwell, Founder, Island Outpost
  • Meenu Vadera, Founder & Executive Director, Women on Wheels/Azad Foundation
  • Katherine Redington, Vice President of Social Impact Journeys and Business Development, Elevate Destinations
  • Carmen Portela, Co-Founder, Local Guest

For a complete list of speakers and topics, visit the event website.

The event is taking place on Friday, September 27, 2019,  8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m at United States Institute of Peace, 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC (reached by the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro, Blue, Orange, and Silver lines).

US Tour Operators and Educational Travel Organizations Urge State Department to Lift Punitive Travel Advisory Against Cuba

John McAuliff, Executive Director & Founder of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, fields questions from interested travelers at the Cuba-US People to People Partnership booth at the New York Times Travel Show. © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 1, 2018 — A group of 28 leading U.S. tour operators and organizations specializing in educational travel and exchanges with Cuba is calling on the U.S. State Department to re-staff its Embassy in Havana and change Cuba’s travel advisory from a Level 3 (“reconsider travel”) to at least a less intimidating Level 2 (“exercise increased caution”). The request comes on the eve of the State Department’s decision about whether or not to return the U.S. diplomats to the Embassy, expected to be announced on March 4.

(The US State Department said it would not restore the diplomats.)

Beginning in late September 2017, after reports that 24 U.S. Embassy employees in Havana had suffered unexplained health ailments, the Trump Administration withdrew 60 percent of its Embassy staff from Havana, issued a Travel Warning urging Americans not travel to Cuba, and expelled 15 diplomats from Cuba’s Embassy in Washington, D.C. In January 2018, the State Department issued a new global travel advisory system, which ranks Cuba as Level 3.

“A Level 3 rating is not justified for Cuba since there are no confirmed causes of private citizens or travelers contracting symptoms similar to the diplomats,” says Andrea Holbrook, President and CEO of Holbrook Travel, one of the companies that signed the petition. (The list of signatories is provided below). “This inappropriate travel warning has caused fear and confusion and has sharply reduced the number of U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba,” Holbrook adds. “It has also affected travel businesses in the States and in Cuba, including those small businesses, like B&Bs and home restaurants, which depend so heavily on American tourists.”

survey of 42 tour operators and educational travel organizations conducted in late January 2018 by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) found that not one of their travelers reported suffering from health issues similar to those of the Embassy employees. Collectively, those surveyed sent more than 42,000 U.S. travelers to Cuba in 2016 and 2017. In addition, there have been no confirmed cases of similar illness among the estimated 700,000 private U.S. citizens who visited the island nation in 2017.

A lengthy ProPublica article, published February 14, 2018, provides the first detailed chronology of the diplomats’ afflictions and the subsequent official — but, to date, inconclusive — investigations by the United States, Cuba, and Canada, and makes clear that the general public is not threatened. In fact, in January 2018, Cuba was voted the safest place to travel at the International Travel Fair in Madrid.

During a meeting on January 12 with State Department officials, a group of American tour operators, travel associations, and Cuba experts were told that a Level 3 rating is automatically triggered by a “drawdown” of U.S. Embassy personnel as a result of the “No Double Standard” policy articulated in the Foreign Affairs Manual.

According to the State Department, this policy originated after the terrorist bombing of a passenger airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, in the interest of sharing information publicly about potential threats against U.S. citizens. That policy, however, also states it is “not intended to prevent the limited distribution of information about threats to specific U.S. citizens/nationals or U.S. organizations.”

“The ‘No Double Standard’ policy leaves the option for the State Department to report threats only to those parties that might be affected by similar incidents,” says Kate Simpson, President of Academic Travel Abroad, Inc, a Washington, D.C.-based educational travel company. “So why was this more limited approach not employed in the case of Cuba, given that the affected group consists only of diplomats, many of whom are known to be intelligence officers and their families?”

Simpson adds, “The fallout from the State Department’s actions has negatively impacted not only U.S. companies and institutions sending travelers to Cuba for educational purposes, but the lack of Embassy staff in Havana has also made it extremely difficult for Cuban citizens to attain visas for visits to the United States.”

On March 4, the State Department faces a mandatory deadline requiring that, six months after an Embassy drawdown, staff must either be reassigned or sent back to their original post. The draw down in Havana began in early September 2017 as Hurricane Irma hit the island and was increased to 60 percent of staff later in the month, in the wake of media revelations about afflictions to the two dozen U.S. diplomats and a handful of staff in the Canadian Embassy. Canada has launched an investigation but has not downsized its Embassy or issued any travel warning to its citizens.

The 28 tour operators and organizations specializing in educational travel to Cuba are calling for the State Department to return more consular officers to the U.S. Embassy in Havana. Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, President of the American Foreign Service Association, the union that represents U.S. foreign-service officers, and some diplomats who were interviewed for the ProPublica article indicated that this is also their wish — to return U.S. diplomats to Cuba. This would, the group hopes, eliminate the trigger that has categorized the country as a Level 3.

The group further questions how Cuba can be rated as a Level 3 while countries with known security risks — such as Israel, Egypt, Algeria, Mexico, and Ethiopia — are rated as Level 2. In addition, the State Department advisories for some countries include alerts pertaining to particularly dangerous parts of their countries. Mexico, for instance, while rated Level 2 overall, is given ratings of Levels 3 and 4 (“do not travel”) for certain states.

“While the new travel advisory system is a welcome improvement, in terms of clarity and organization,” says Ms. Simpson, “it is disappointing to have the Cuba rating starkly reveal political bias, undermining the credibility of the State Department’s consular services.”

A more acceptable alternative, Simpson and the other signers suggest, would be to rate Cuba at least Level 2 overall and designate the parts of Havana where the health incidents took place as Level 3. “Until it’s discovered what caused these ailments, a Level 2 rating, at least, would more accurately reflect the situation in Cuba,” explains Ms. Holbrook. “And it would help encourage those considering traveling to Cuba to do so.”

To read the full petition, click here. The list of tour operators and educational travel organizations who have signed the petition are:


Johann Besserer, Executive Director, Intercultural Outreach Initiative

Reid Callanan, Director, Santa Fe Photographic Workshops

Karin Eckhard, CEO & Co-founder, Espíritu Travel, LLC

Michael Eizenberg, President, Educational Travel Alliance

Malia Everette, CEO, AltruVistas

Michele Gran. Co-founder and Senior Vice President, Global Volunteers

Bob Guild, Co-coordinator, Responsible and Ethical Cuba Travel (RESPECT)

Kendra Guild, Director, Marazul Charters, Inc.

John Haffner, President, Cuba Trade and Travel

Marcel Hatch, President,Cuba Explorer Tours

Richard Hobbs, Esq., Executive Director, Human Agenda

Andrea Holbrook, President and CEO, Holbrook Travel, Inc.

Martha Honey, Ph.D., Cofounder & Executive Director, Center for Responsible Travel (CREST)

Adriana Isaza-Mohring, Founder, Elite Tennis Travel

Tor D. Jensen, President, Jensen World Travel, Ltd.

Gabrielle Jorgensen, Director of Public Policy, Engage Cuba

Collin Laverty, President, Cuba Educational Travel

Lee Marona & Aja C. Napolis, President & Administrative Coordinator, Vaya Sojourns, Inc.

John McAuliff, Executive Director & Founder, The Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Janet Moore, President, Distant Horizons

Tom Popper, President, insightCuba

Bill Robison, Director of Expedition Development, Lindblad Expeditions

Melisa Riviere, Ph.D., President, Son Dos Alas: Cultural and Educational Travel

Peter Sanchez, CEO, Cuba Tours and Travel

Kate Simpson, President, Academic Travel Abroad, Inc.

Mark J. Spalding, President, The Ocean Foundation

Ned Sublette, Founder & President, Postmambo Studies

Kristen Tripp, Program Director – Cuba, Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures

The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) is a policy-oriented research organization dedicated to increasing the positive global impact of responsible tourism. CREST assists governments, policy makers, tourism businesses, nonprofit organizations, and international agencies with finding solutions to critical issues confronting tourism, the world’s largest service industry.

See also:

New York Times Travel Show: Despite Trump Policy, Americans CAN Travel to Cuba!

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Center for Responsible Travel Takes Stand on Animal Welfare and Tourism

The dolphin Winter, made famous for the breakthrough rehabilitative work that Clearwater Aquarium did to create a prosthetic tail that saved the dolphin's life, here in 2008 getting her prosthetic tail on, also saved the aquarium and its important work © 2014 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The dolphin Winter, made famous for the breakthrough rehabilitative work that Clearwater Aquarium did to create a prosthetic tail that saved the dolphin’s life, here in 2008 getting her prosthetic tail on, also saved the aquarium and its important work © 2014 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Responsible Travel industry is turning its sights on animal welfare.

This issue will figure into the keynote address by Dr. Martha Honey, CREST Co-Director, at TBEX North America, which will be held September 11 – 13, 2014, in Cancun, Mexico.

In advance of her speech she has been asked to comment on an ongoing debate about captive dolphin tours in Cancun. Here is how CREST views the issue:

“Respecting animal welfare is an essential component of responsible travel. CREST believes that when at all possible, wildlife should live in their natural habitats.”

If wild animals are held in captivity, they should be guaranteed, at minimum, the following ‘Five Freedoms’:

Sufficient and good quality food and water

A suitable living environment

An opportunity to exhibit natural behaviors

Protection from fear and distress

Good health

(Check out Born Free UK’s Guide to the 5 Freedoms, which discusses the Five Freedoms in detail in the context of captive wild animals.)

Dolphins are socially complex and self-aware creatures, and we agree with World Animal Protection in that these animals “deserve to live a life free from captivity, where they can properly fulfill their social and behavioral needs.” A tank simply cannot provide them with the space, environment, and social freedom they need to thrive as they would in the wild.

The tour operator Intrepid Travel, a highly respected leader in responsible travel, has set a guideline that it is best to view wildlife where it belongs, but if a zoo or aquarium is ever visited, a visitor should make sure the facility adheres to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Code of Ethics before entering.

Also, interactions with wild animals should never involve physical contact with people, feeding, or other actions that disturb or alter their natural behavior. These actions often cause extreme distress for the animal and are health risks for both parties.

On the issue of captive marine animals, President Mark Spalding says, “We have admirable facilities that rescue and when possible rehabilitate and release marine mammals, sea birds and sea turtles. Some of these allow the public to visit and volunteer. And, many have advanced our knowledge of marine wildlife through research during their recovery.

“But like hospitals for humans, this is not where we want wild animals to spend their entire lives. We prefer to see them in the wild where they thrive.”

CREST works frequently in close collaboration and partnership with The Ocean Foundation.

For more information about CREST, visit www.responsibletravel.org. Connect with CREST on Twitter and Facebook.

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