Anne Majumdar

With sustainable tourism fast climbing the travel and tourism agenda, we’re discussing the topic with travel industry leaders and change makers and asking them how they think we can #Traveltochangetheworld.

In our latest ‘Travel to change the world’ interview, Keith Sproule, chief executive of Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy, shares his thoughts and ideas on how we can all do our bit to sustain the industry and leave a legacy of goodness.

 

What was it that inspired you to join the travel industry?

AKP project KarryOn

An early itch to explore the world.

I did an Aussie thing and went for a six month “walk about” at age 18. I criss-crossed Europe hitch hiking (it was another era) and ended up in North Africa, trekking with Berbers in the Atlas Mountains.

One thing led to another and travel became a career.

That was 30 years ago. I still love trekking with locals in remote mountains.

 

What concerns you about the industry today in terms of its long-term viability?

AKP Project 2 KarryOn

Viability is so intertwined with sustainability.

Let’s take wildlife as an example. Wildlife is under threat around the globe, especially “free roaming” wildlife, and I’m concerned the tourism industry doesn’t do enough to sustain it.

It’s not okay that the industry expects locals to live with human-wildlife-conflict and still suffer a lack educational or medical services.

Communities living on the edge of wilderness are the frontline in the battle to find a balance between humans and wildlife; between conservation and development objectives.

Tourism can be a bridge, but too often the proverbial tourism ship, or most often the luxury safari vehicle full of western visitors, passes them right by.

The tourism industry as a whole has to demonstrate it can deliver tangible improvements at the household-level if we are to expect communities living human-wildlife-conflict, especially human-predator and human-elephant conflict, will continue to endure those challenges.

 

Do you think travel can change the world?

AKP Project 3 KarryOn

Please allow me to quote a countryman, Mark Twain, who said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

We need more travellers in the world. Dare I say, we need more American travellers.

 

Are you seeing positive change happening in the industry that you really admire?

AKP Project 4 KarryOn

Certification. It can be a horrible term that evokes an even worse word: policy. And yet, when applied to ideas about energy, water, solid waste management, sewage management… certifying that a hotel, resort property or entire companies have appropriate sustainability policies in place is a great thing for the travel industry.

There’s a lot of green wash in the travel space. Certification programs help give the average traveller a measure by which to gauge the integrity of “green” claims.

The Ecotourism Association of Australia has been a world leader in establishing rigorous certification guidelines. Becoming “eco certified” by Ecotourism Australia “assures travellers that certified products are backed by a strong, well-managed commitment to sustainable practices.”

 

What projects is Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy undertaking in this space?

AKP Projects Nurse receiving donation for clinic KarryOn

The mission of Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy (AKP) is to positively impact the lives and livelihoods of the communities where our guests travel.

We now have 34 projects in 19 countries where we strive to work with our community partners to address the education, health care, enterprise development/job creation and conservation challenges they face.

 

Do you think travel can change the world? Share your comments below.