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While airlines only serve bottled drinking water directly to customers, they use the plane's water for coffee and tea, and passengers can drink the tap water. Aitor Diago / Getty Images
You might want to think twice before washing your hands in an airplane bathroom.
Each year, almost 1.2 billion people travel abroad, making travel and tourism one of the largest industries in the world. Representing a whopping 10 percent of the global economy, it supplies millions of jobs and benefits countless communities.
The tropical Caribbean island of Haiti is a paradise with a rich, fascinating history, natural wonders and diverse cultural offerings. It has also been named by some as the next big thing in regional tourism.
But ecotourism in particular could become important for Haiti, with its rich land and sea biodiversity. Globally, the business of ecotourism generates more than $600 billion a year and is connected to hundreds of thousands of jobs.
I was shocked when I found out the travel industry generates nearly 10 percent of the world's GDP and rising each year. People are travelling and travelling more often. Tourism employs 1 of every 11 people in the world.
Along with economic impact, travel presents opportunities for growth, learning and the exchange of ideas. Travel and tourism are critical in maintaining our economy and this is especially true in developing countries. On global and local levels tourism is essential for sustainable development. As a result, the travel industry has become a sector where you can see shining examples of environmentally-conscious principles put into action that protect the planet and lift up the world's peoples.
What is sustainable tourism? As defined by the United Nations, it is that which takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.
The UN has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism. According to the Secretary-General of the World Travel Organization, Taleb Rifai, this is "a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability—economic, social and environmental, while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued."
Tourism is directly associated with three of the 17 UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals:
Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
We have to alleviate poverty and provide people with basic healthcare, food to eat and fresh water. However, this becomes impossible if we continue to erode the natural systems that support all life. Thankfully, nature travel and learning about cultural heritage are among the world's fastest growing tourism sectors. In order to save the rhinos, elephants and tigers you have to help those that depend on the same land and resources. Tourism focused on wildlife ensures those animals become more valuable alive than dead. Fortunately, adventure tourism, which is focused on nature, wildlife and cultural experiences, has grown 65 percent year over year since 2009. Soon it will surpass $300 billion in annual revenues, reports George Washington University in their annual Adventure Tourism Market Report.
According to Booking.com's 2015 survey of more than 32,000 global travelers in 16 countries, 52 percent of adult travelers said they are more likely to choose travel based on destinations that reduce environmental impact or ensure that tourism has a positive impact on the local community. And Americans (53 percent) are among the world's top sustainable-minded travelers. With this sharply growing trend hospitality and travel companies that do not keep up with sustainable travel will lose out.
Since 2014, I have been participating as a judge for National Geographic's World Legacy Awards, which honors companies, organizations and destinations-ranging from airlines to hotels, from communities to countries driving the positive transformation of the tourism industry, showcasing leaders and visionaries in sustainable tourism best practices. Costas Christ, chairman of the awards, is credited with defining the term ecotourism which has now been standardized globally by the UN. Costas also serves as the director of sustainability for Virtuoso and moderated a panel I was on this year at the Virtuoso Travel Week conference. Virtuoso Travel Week is an intense five days where preferred luxury travel agents and providers come together to do hundreds of millions of dollars of business, as well as recognize industry leaders in sustainable tourism as the market continues to become more aware of the need to drive a sustainable strategy. It's about the triple bottom line—people, profit and planet.
You can stay at Ted Turner's formerly private residence on endless acres of pristine nature at Ladder Ranch with Ted Turner Expeditions.
Land and biodiversity conservation is one of my family's most beloved passions. My father launched Ted Turner Expeditions (TTX) in 2015 with three properties in New Mexico. My father, a well known leader in conservation, has worked to restore the overgrazed habitat of these grand ranches to their former pre-cattle glory. Having a passion for bison since his childhood, dad has made sure this iconic species is an important part of the restoration. There has also been a commitment to preserving and enhancing biodiversity.
Through the work of the Turner Endangered Species Fund biologists and other partner organizations have been working to increase the numbers of imperiled and endangered species, among them the Mexican Gray Wolf, Bolson Tortoise and Chiricahua Leopard Frog. Visitors can stay on one of a number of properties, including some of my father's formerly-private residences and immerse themselves in an incredible American landscape that has been dubbed by some as the American Serengeti. As visitors enjoy the beauty of these natural landscapes they are also becoming more aware of the importance of conserving the land and species for many generations to come. Two TTX ranches, the Armendaris Ranch and Ladder Ranch, are located in one of two of the most critically important biodiversity hotspots in North America. With TTX, my father has created a model for other private land and business owners that you can manage these landscapes for profit and conservation and the two are not mutually exclusive.
With my family as we explore Iceland and their green energy economy.
As you begin to plan your 2017 vacation, consider destinations and accommodations that employ environmentally sustainable best practices. You can not imagine how much good your visit can do for the local people and animals. My favorite trips have been transformative experiences in nature, topping the list are the Arctic circle, the Amazon river basin and the Galapagos. I always come away restored and more committed than ever to work to make sure these special places are available for our children and future generations. On my bucket list are the Antarctic, the awe-inspiring Sandhill crane migration along Nebraska's Platte River and central Mexico to see the wintering grounds of the imperiled Monarch butterflies.
Here are 10 of the best ecolodges, according to National Geographic:
1. South Africa: Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve
2. Indonesia: Misool Eco Resort
3. Peru: Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica
4. Australia: Great Ocean Ecolodge
5. Greece: Milia Mountain Retreat
6. Nicaragua: Jicaro Island Ecolodge
7. China: Yangshuo Mountain Retreat
8. Sri Lanka: Jetwing Vil Uyana
9. Poland: Eco-Frontiers Ranch
10. Namibia: Damaraland Camp
On election night, as the electoral map turned increasingly red, a swarm of Americans frantically searched the Internet for ways to flee Donald Trump's future presidential reign. So many of us visited Canada's immigration site that it actually crashed. At the same time, the Guardian reported that the number of hits on New Zealand's immigration website also dramatically jumped from its daily average of 2,300 visits to 56,300 in a 24 hour period. While we love our neighbors to the North, here are some reasons why you might want to get much further away.
1. Smart, respected people are also considering citizenship.
Before Trump was elected, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the New York Times that she and her husband were looking to join New Zealand's tiny population of 4.4 million people should the former Apprentice host win the highest office in the land.
"Now it's time for us to move to New Zealand," she said.
Richard Dawkins, also submitted a (joke?) letter to New Zealand. The English biologist, who went through a similar populist shake-up with Brexit earlier this year, wrote that New Zealand could be the "Athens of the modern world" if it decided to offer citizenship to the top minds in the U.S. and the UK.
He wrote via Scientific American:
"There are top scientists in America and Britain—talented, creative people, desperate to escape the redneck bigotry of their home countries. Dear New Zealand, you are a deeply civilized small nation, with a low population in a pair of beautiful, spacious islands. You care about climate change, the future of the planet and other scientifically important issues. Why not write to all the Nobel Prize winners in Britain and America, write to the Fields medalists, Kyoto and Crafoord Prize and International Cosmos Prize winners, the Fellows of the Royal Society, the elite scientists in the National Academy of Sciences, the Fellows of the British Academy and similar bodies in America. Offer them citizenship. The contribution that creative intellectuals can make to the prosperity and cultural life of a nation is out of all proportion to their numbers. You could make New Zealand the Athens of the modern world."
2. Kiwi politicians care about climate change, unlike Trump who thinks global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese.
Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer said in an interview with Newstalk ZB that climate change is his biggest worry about a Trump presidency.
"The Paris Agreement, if that doesn't work ... we'll have a revival of the petrochemical and fossil fuels industry, and that spells disaster for stopping climate change," he said.
Metiria Turei, a New Zealand member of parliament and the co-leader of the Green party of Aotearoa, explained why she refused to congratulate Trump on his election win, a customary practice for the lawmakers.
"Donald Trump will almost certainly never hear about what I said in parliament yesterday or, for that matter, give a flying toss. In that sense, our position may seem futile," she wrote for the Guardian. "However, it is unconscionable that the Green party of Aotearoa New Zealand—which has a proud record of promoting tolerance, inclusiveness and peace—would send our best wishes to a man who has spouted misogynistic, racist, xenophobic and climate change-denying views."
Fun fact about New Zealand. In 2006, the country's highest positions were all held by women: the Queen, the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chief Justice.
Watch Turei's speech here:
Even New Zealand's Dominion Post newspaper thinks Trump's win is bananas.
3. Just look at it.
This is the land of The Shire, after all. New Zealand's official tourism Instagram is so unbelievably beautiful that I couldn't decide which photo to post so I chose several.
4. People really respect their land.
"New Zealand weather and climate is of paramount importance to the people of New Zealand, as many New Zealanders make their living from the land," says the tourism website. "New Zealand experiences relatively little air pollution compared to many other countries, which makes the UV rays in our sunlight very strong during the summer months. In order to avoid sunburn, visitors should wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats when they are in direct summer sunlight, especially in the heat of the day (11 am - 4 pm)."
New Zealand's total primary energy supply comes mostly from renewables. In 2013, a total of 75 percent of electricity generation came from renewable sources, mostly geothermal. The country also doesn't have any nuclear power stations. Meanwhile, Trump's "drill, baby, drill" platform caused a surge in fossil fuel stocks.
5. There's plenty of space for us.
According to a Buzzfeed post, "only 5 percent of New Zealand's population is human, with the rest being animals." That sounds pretty wild but even the government calculated there's a sheep-to-person ratio of six to one.
Following the election, New Zealand film director Taika Waitit sarcastically tweeted:
"Don't even think about moving to New Zealand. You shat the bed, now you have to deal with the mess," since "America is worth fighting for."
I, of course, agree. However, his later tweet that the country has nothing but nature and beer is only rubbing it in.
Elon Musk's grand vision of a Hyperloop system that can transport people and cargo through high-speed vacuum tubes is coming to life in the United Arab Emirates.
The near-supersonic railway would connect the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi with Dubai, the area's most populous city, in only 12 short minutes. This journey normally requires about two hours of travel by car or train.
Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One and Dubai's Road and Transport Authority announced their new partnership Tuesday atop Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.
"We are here today to sign a historic agreement with our partners from (the Dubai) Road and Transport Authority ... and we begin to evaluate the delivery of the world's first hyperloop system across the country," Hyperloop One CEO, Rob Lloyd, told reporters.
The Roads and Transport Authority and Hyperloop One have agreed to develop a prototype of the hyperloop and the feasibility of building a hyperloop system that can link the two cities.
Hyperloop One's vision consists of combining autonomous vehicles with Hyperloop technology, according to a company press release:
"Individuals can commute for limited distances within the city in small self-driving vehicles. These vehicles can then board the Hyperloop train to travel for longer distances—including between cities—with speeds that can reach 1,200 kilometers per hour, exceeding aircraft speed. Hyperloop stations will be spread all around the city, providing easy and convenient access. This would effectively reduce travel time between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to less than 12 minutes, and between Dubai and Riyadh to less than 48 minutes.
"The new technology is set to have positive implications on urban planning; it will economize parking spaces as it changes the way individuals commute within the city, as well as to and from logistical centers such as airports and ports—not to mention the impact it will have on shipping."
The deal is also meant to help city-state move forward with the "Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy," which aims to render 25 percent of all transportations in the emirate driverless by 2030.
How the Hyperloop One's system compares to other transport options.Hyperloop One
Although Tesla CEO Musk came up with the futuristic transport idea back in 2013, he is not affiliated with any hyperloop companies. He has, however, encouraged other private companies to turn his vision into reality. Besides Hyperloop One, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is another firm trying to bring the technology to life.
When asked about the project's cost, Hyperloop co-founder Josh Giegel told the Associated Press it would be "somewhere between the cost of putting a road in and a high-speed rail."
The hyperloop features levitating pods powered by electricity and magnetism that can zip through low-friction pipes at speeds up to 750 mph.Hyperloop One
The Associated Press reported that at Tuesday's event, Hyperloop officials showed several circular station models for Dubai, including one at Emirates Towers on Dubai's main artery, Sheikh Zayed Road. Dubai's Jebel Ali port is also exploring the possibility of using the technology.
Hyperloop One is currently testing the transport system in the Nevada desert.