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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.
By Wendy Becktold, SIERRA Magazine
Have you ever booked a vacation-rental property that promises blissful solitude, only to show up at your mountain hamlet and realize that the online photos left out the traffic-jammed road or the nine other cabins clustered nearby?
What to do if, when you want to get away, you really want to get away?
FreeHouse is here to help. The website, which launched last June, lists off-the-grid vacation properties where travelers can really unplug. Founders Sarah and Jason Stillman got the idea for FreeHouse while (where else?) on vacation—actually, over the course of many vacations.
Jason was inspired by his experiences cross-country skiing in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, where he would stay in 10th Mountain Division Huts, a system of rustic backcountry cabins. "They have woodstoves. They have solar panels. They usually don't have running water," he said. "The whole point is to get out there in the wilderness."
Another source of inspiration for the couple was Sarah's father's off-the-grid property on the east cape of Baja, where the couple eventually got married. Their trips to that isolated location got them thinking about how great it would be to have a resource for finding similar spots.
"Off the grid" doesn't mean that a property lacks electricity, just that "there is no way to extend the external infrastructure feed to those areas," Jason explained. "We are giving people the confidence that if they book through us, they are going to a place that's truly remote."
Most of the properties operate with solar power, though a few use wind or hydro power. Many of them also rely on wells or rainwater. "A guy in Santa Fe took us through his whole setup for rainwater collection," Sarah said. "It's a pretty cool educational experience, especially for people who are thinking about implementing one of those systems at home."
But aren't these properties already available on better-known booking sites?
The problem, Sarah and Jason say, is that other online services don't have the best filters for these types of searches.
"Needle in a haystack," Rosellen Sell, who has booked places through FreeHouse, says about trying to find off-the-grid properties on websites like Airbnb and VRBO. She and her elderly mother stayed at secluded locations outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico and Fort Lupton, Colorado, while on a road trip. "My mom isn't going to go backpacking, so to get her out there and sit on the porch and look at the stars—yet have a house and a warm bed—that was a really nice experience."
FreeHouse doesn't just connect travelers to the right vacation rental—it also connects property owners to the right kind of traveler. After all, a composting toilet may not factor into everyone's idea of a dream vacation, not to mention being asked to conserve water and other resources.
"Sometimes people end up at off-the-grid places who really shouldn't," Jason said. "A lot of our property owners mention that because of the unique nature of their property, they don't want to put it on Airbnb." With FreeHouse, everyone knows what they are in for.
Not that the properties are devoid of luxury. The website includes a range of options from which users can pick and choose. "The majority of our places are pretty nice in terms of having all the comforts of home," Jason said.
For now, FreeHouse only lists about 50 properties, around 35 of which are in Colorado, where the couple lives. A smattering of properties in New Mexico, Florida and Baja make up the rest. But vacation rentals in North Carolina, the Yucatán and Nicaragua are soon to follow. "We are focusing on North America for the time being, but if properties elsewhere reach out to us, we add them," Sarah said. Ultimately, the couple hopes to list off-the-grid properties all over the world.
Sell has no doubts about whether she'll use the service again for her next trip. "It's very comforting to have these destinations where I can be true to the values I adhere to in my everyday life while also vacationing."
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.
Drones, most known for their military and spy use, can capture brilliant and breath-taking images of Earth in the hands of the right photographer.
Dronestagram, a contest in its third year, collected 5,900 entries spanning 28 countries in three categories: Nature-Wildlife, Sports Adventure and Travel. Three winners were selected for each category, as reported by National Geographic.
"A great drone picture is a picture that you immediately identify as a drone photo," Guillaume Jarret, Dronestagram's head of marketing and development, said.
Drone photography is trickier than normal photography, Patrick Witty, one of the contest judges, said, because not only do the pilots of the drones have to, well, pilot them, they also have to compose a photo while piloting the drone.
"Until you are floating above a scene, it's impossible to know exactly what you'll see below," Witty said. "Photographers not only have to pilot the drone but, more importantly, compose a photo that transports you to a place you've never been before."
Here are the nine winners of this year's Dronestagram contest per category:
Wielding his Phantom 3 drone, Michael Bernholdt took this photo of Demark's Kalbyris Forest. "To my luck it had snowed all day so that the pine wood really stood out," he says.Photo credit: Michael Bernholdt via Dronestagram
Szabolcs Ignacz spotted this swarm of sheep while traveling down the road in Marpod, Romania. He quickly set up his drone and captured this winning image.Photo credit: Szabolcs Ignacz via Dronestagram
"This picture was very difficult to catch because of ascending hot-air and 50Km/h wind," writes Jonathan Payet of his photo, taken above the Piton de la Fournaise volcano on Réunion island. "There was also sulfur next to the volcano so I need to have a mask while piloting."Photo credit: Jonathan Payet via Dronestagram
When Max Seigal spied this crack in Moab, Utah, he knew he had to get a shot of it. "Two years ago I started flying drones, and I quickly realized their potential to capture stunning, never before seen views," he writes. "I've been hooked ever since!"Photo credit: Max Seigal via Dronestagram
While covering a competition in Cúcuta, Colombia, Juan Pablo Bayona took this photo of swimmers. "Instead of taking the same photo as always, it occurred to me to fly my drone to try to achieve something different," he says.Photo credit: Juan Pablo Bayona via Dronestagram
Tj Balon took this picture of his friend outside of Cordova, Alaska. "My fingers always get cold while I fly up there but the results are ALWAYS worth it," he writes.Photo credit: Tj Balon via Dronestagram
It was a foggy day after Christmas when Francesco Cattuto went for a walk near the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Assisi, Italy. But when he sent his drone above the clouds, "the view was spectacular."Photo credit: Francesco Cattuto via Dronestagram
Todd Kennedy took this photo on his honeymoon in Cable Beach, Australia. When he and his spouse went on a sunset camel tour, he brought his drone and captured it from above.Photo credit: Todd Kennedy via Dronestagram
On a trip to Gran Canaria Island, Karolis Janulis captured a shot "of one of the most amazing beaches in the world—Playa de Amadores."Photo credit: Karolis Janulis via Dronestagram