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The importance of traveling responsibly

How do issues of sustainability overlap with the tourism industry? Looking at the way the Philippines has handled overtourism on the Island of Boracay is a good case study.

More than two million people visited the small island last year. Local businesses were pouring wastewater directly into the ocean, and half of all known buildings were built on protected land. The decision was made to close the island for 6 months to assess and start to reverse the damage. It has recently re-opened with better infrastructure and a restriction on tourist arrivals.

We chatted about this issue with CSI member Wafaa El-Osta — founder of Local2Global Solutions — in advance of her upcoming workshop Turn Great Ideas into Great Strategies.

Sustainable tourism seems to be an idea that is gradually becoming more mainstream. Can you talk about they key objectives of this movement?

Sustainable tourism aims at benefiting host communities, as well as providing experiences for the travelers. It is a movement supported by international development scholars and agencies like the UN and the World Bank. On the demand side, new trends of responsible consuming are developing, and travelers want to make a positive impact with the power of their dollar and are also looking for more authentic experiences.

What are your thoughts specifically about what has happened and is going to happen in Boracy?

The island is an example of a destination recuperating from over-tourism. Its closure was a move to control and respect the place carrying capacity. The major concerns for this change are job loss and restriction of private sector investment. But the decision of the closure, and the reinvention of the services provided, is about transforming jobs to become more sustainable in the long term.

In my opinion, if it wasn’t for this move, business would eventually transform in an opposite direction, for lack of attraction. When the beaches would no longer be swimmable and garbage would become a part of the landscape, investors and tourists with high purchasing powers would abandon the place and seek new more attractive destinations. Then the locals would lose jobs or be serving in low-priced accommodations with fewer jobs and smaller paychecks.

The island closure for cleaning was a visionary decision in the direction of conservation and sustainable business development move. More on this on today’s news on social platforms, a proof of growing popular knowledge of responsible travel:

What is your biggest hope for your work? What does the world look like if all those hopes come true?

I’d say to develop the right partnerships to contribute to changing global connections towards positive social and environmental conservation. Eliminating or at least reducing military exchange deals too. This is not so far fetched, Costa Rica is a good example of a country investing in social and environmental development policies instead of budgeting for military industry.

If my hopes come true:
Travelers and tourism investors will further invest in their own well-being and in the well-being of the places they visit; and therefore, the well-being of the planet.

Rules and regulations set by countries and authorities will support sustainable business development environment allowing small good businesses to flourish.

Can you tell me a bit about your upcoming workshop? Who should attend? will they learn?

Our upcoming workshop in November 8th is about how to plan efficiently for starting your own business.

It is for people who have a business idea and are ready to stop talking about it and get into actionable implementation and planning stage.

They will learn how to use tools for developing innovative business models. How to think creatively in a competitive business environment and will be challenged to think about scalable business.

How has being a CSI member impacted your work so far?

My CSI membership helped me establish meaningful connections with like-minded people. My major achievements at CSI have been:

  1. Finding a sustainable finance adviser, (my savings plans and investment are clean from military profit).
  2. Established relations and support group with women entrepreneurs like me, through the prosperity café. I connected with my accountant through this platform!

How can CSI members (or anyone!) get involved in your work?

CSI members can attend the workshop of course. Also in my work, I need experts in business development in Toronto and in other areas in Canada. I often invite experts to mentor specific startups in their own fields, to form a team and participate in proposals as local2global solutions answer RFPs.

I do invite members of CSI to contact me if they want to share their industry knowledge with startups or if they have specific products to offer for people starting their small or medium size businesses. I am open for suggestions at any levels.

BONUS QUESTION: What is your favourite book about travel?

I can name two books that come to mind, I always buy as gifts:

  1. Looptail: How One Company Changed The World By Reinventing Business by Bruce Poon Tip. I recommend this for the way he connects sustainable tourism to entrepreneurship and investment.
  2. A Million Steps: Discovering the Lebanon Mountain Trail, by Hana El¬Hibri. I recommend this for how it captured the authentic aspect of the mountains of Lebanon
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