Travel Agents Are Key Partners in Sustainable Travel

A changing world means there's more for travel agents to consider By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2017 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2017 TravelAge West

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Read about travel to endangered destinations in this issue's cover story.

This issue’s cover story, “Fear of Missing Out” (page 12), looks at eight destinations and experiences that are severely threatened and in danger of disappearing. The cause of the threat could be climate change, overtourism, poaching or some other factor, but regardless of the reason, more travelers than ever are choosing to visit these beloved locations before they are gone forever.

This fear of missing out is not an entirely new phenomenon, but it has become more of a tourism driver than ever. And put into the context of tourism historically, we are witnessing a sea change in how consumers look at travel, as well as how suppliers and advisors think about their roles in the industry.

It was not long ago that the opening of a big American hotel or theme park — or bringing thousands of tourists to a destination via motorcoach or cruise ship — was thought of as inherently positive. That idea is still at least somewhat true — travel industry development often brings economic benefits to a community. However, today, we also acknowledge that tourism has a dark side. Too often, destinations are overwhelmed by visitors and financial benefits stay in the hands of the few while pristine and fragile environments are damaged. 

As times change, the role that advisors play in regard to sustainable tourism must change, too. In many cases, an agent might be the sole connection between a destination under threat and a traveling consumer. It’s the advisor’s obligation to make sure clients are aware of the issues facing a destination and that they understand some of the ways visitors can reduce their impact. This is not only ethical and moral, but it makes business sense, too: By protecting a beloved destination, agents do their part to help it remain an option for future travelers. 

I encourage you to visit the website TravelEnjoyRespect.org from the United Nations World Tourism Organization, or check in with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (www.adventuretravel.biz), which makes sustainable travel a core goal of its mission. 

Local governments are concerned with the welfare of their citizens. Corporations have a responsibility to investors. Travel advisors not only need to be advocates for their clients, but also for the global destinations and unique experiences that power tourism — before it’s too late.

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