USTOA Hosts Inaugural "Sustainability Is Responsibility" Summit

The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) held the "Sustainability Is Responsibility" (SIR) Summit from May 24-26 in Bodø, Norway. Representatives from member tour operators, destination marketing organizations, airlines, hotel companies and other travel providers gathered to learn and share insights and best practices to encourage sustainable tourism.

Terry Dale, president and CEO, USTOA, said the summit exceeded expectations in its first year. He commented, “USTOA has reached its milestone 50th anniversary this year, and instead of looking back, we’re looking forward to the next 50 years and how we can work together to preserve and protect our planet’s natural heritage. This Summit was an extraordinary opportunity and example of how all of us can learn, grow, and make positive change towards a more sustainable and equitable future.”

Held in collaboration with Visit Norway and facilitation from Malcolm Preston, former PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) global head of sustainability services, and Greg Takehara, CEO of Tourism Cares, USTOA brought nine industry leader panelists and 22 member delegates to the Thon Hotel Nordlys to promote discussion on navigating the internal challenges of a sustainability journey and driving sustainability through the supply chain.

Hege Barnes, regional director Americas at Visit Norway, said: “We are so grateful for USTOA’s acceptance of our vision and their commitment to taking on this challenge of creating a platform and community that can raise the bar on internal competence as well as commitment to sustainability implemented into the member organizations’ core business models.”

Wawa Gatheru at the Sustainability is Responsibility (SIR) Summit
Wawa Gatheru (left), with Hege Barnes (right) leads a discussion on environmental justice.  (USTOA)

Guest speaker Wawa Gatheru spoke to the group about her background as an environmental justice advocate and founder of Black Girl Environmentalist. Gatheru said that it is possible to align travel with environmental demands. She added that organizations have the power to educate and inform consumers on sustainability efforts to lead an environmentally friendly path. She ended her discussion by inspiring delegates to reframe the climate crisis as an opportunity to create a future to be proud of.

The “Driving Sustainability Through the Supply Chain” panel emphasized the cost savings and growth opportunities sustainability can have on businesses. Malcolm Preston led the discussion with Leigh Barnes, chief customer officer of Intrepid Group; Adrienne Howard, chief impact and program management officer of WorldStrides; Shannon Guihan, chief sustainability officer and head of TreadRight for The Travel Corporation USA; and Patrick Preiano, sustainability project manager for the Globus Family of Brands. Preston advocated that moving from a profit-maximized to a stakeholder-maximized system will drive sustainability through the supply chain and beyond. 

The Brim Explorer, Sustainability is Responsibility (SIR) Summit
Attendees explore Fleinvær in the Norwegian Arctic.  (USTOA)

Attendees also had the opportunity to visit local sites that practice and promote sustainable acts. Activities included a visit to the KRAFT Sustainability Centre to learn about sustainability projects in and around Bodø and the Salmon Center to learn about aquaculture in small Norwegian communities. The group also set sail aboard the Brim Explorer, a hybrid electric ship, to explore The Arctic Hideaway and learn about energy positive communities, and to visit a sustainable fish farm.

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