Tourism Cares recently held its annual Summit at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas and took a bold step toward expanding its mission to preserve the travel experience for future generations. Primarily known for its Tourism Cares for America clean up events at tourist destinations and its grants program, the organization is now moving to take on a greater role in fostering leadership and education in key issues facing the industry.
“This year, we realized that our Summit gives us a unique opportunity to provide in-depth education, and foster discussion in an intimate venue with influential leaders in many industry sectors, about issues that are crucial to the survival of the industry,” said Bruce Beckham, executive director, Tourism Cares. “Tourism Cares is fortunate to have the support of many of the key leaders from USTOA, NTA, ASTA and many private travel companies who are in decision-making positions. What better venue than our summit to tackle some of the hard issues that we face.”
The 2008 Summit focused on green tourism, but participants were invited to turn green awareness into an even wider view of sustainability in tourism. A major highlight was the visit to Springs Preserve, a 180-acre cultural and historical attraction designed to commemorate Las Vegas' dynamic history and to provide a vision for a sustainable future. The site features desert botanical gardens, a theater, the future home of the Nevada State Museum and a set of walking trails through a scenic wetland. The Springs Preserve was recognized as a leader in sustainable building through its Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. While there, Summit participants toured the sustainable facility and heard in-depth presentations from Preserve staff on “Living, Working and Traveling Green.”
Participants at the Summit also interacted with a panel of diverse experts in the sustainable tourism field. Brian Mullis, president, Sustainable Travel International, kicked off the panel with an overview of sustainable tourism. He was joined by Darren Berg, chief executive officer of MTR, a Seattle-based motor coach company; Robin Korman, marketing manager of Starwood’s Element and Aloft sustainable brands; Maria Amalia Revelo, deputy manager and director of marketing, Costa Rica Institute of Tourism; and Cathleen Johnson, global director of tourism, Edelman.
“Tourism Cares really turned a corner with this year’s Summit,” said Beckham. “Over the past six years, we have been enjoying a growing awareness through our highly successful annual Tourism Cares for America clean up and restoration events. But the awareness of our impact on the environment was heightened by our visit to Springs Preserve, and Summit speakers were able to take us beyond green to a new awareness that our core mission, to preserve the travel experience through conservation, preservation and education, is the very keystone of sustainable tourism. Now we have a responsibility to act on what we learned, and our Board is committed to that.”