Recently, I visited the Brando resort in Tahiti, which is scheduled to open this summer. I was accompanied by Richard Bailey, managing director of Pacific Beachcomber, the company that owns the resort. Bailey told me the story of how this property on what was once Marlon Brando’s private island came to be — the tale could be a movie in itself. One of the most interesting aspects was how important environmental innovation was to the project. By all accounts, Brando was ahead of his time when it came to environmental sustainability — and Bailey, who worked closely with the actor until his death, has stayed true to Brando’s vision.
One of the innovations on the island is a seawater air conditioning system that uses deep-sea water to cool the entire resort. The Brando will also use coconut oil instead of fossil fuels, as well as solar and wind energy, among other environmentally friendly practices.
As we recently celebrated Earth Day, I was thinking about The Brando and all the other environmental innovations we have seen in the travel industry in recent years — often well before becoming mainstream. For years now, cruise lines have been turning gray water into reusable clean water utilizing technology that some municipalities are testing for wide-scale application. Airlines have been leaders in fuel efficiency as a way to reduce costs, while car rental companies continue to promote hybrid and electric car usage. Hotels were among the first buildings to utilize LEED-certified techniques. According to many estimates, green buildings use 26 percent less energy, emit 33 percent less carbon dioxide, use 30 percent less water and produce up to 75 percent less solid waste.
As you read our cover story, “Core Values” (page 16), about how consumer attitudes are changing, it’s good to reflect on the positive changes the travel industry has made as it also undergoes a shift in its values. While travel is far from perfect when it comes to sustainability, these environmental innovations and many more are all relatively recent, which is a hopeful sign for the future. Plus, through travel, we enable people to experience the wonders of the world firsthand and, in many cases, help them build a stronger commitment to preserving our planet.