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, Adrian Piotto, G Adventures Managing Director for Australia & New Zealand, 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?
Funnily enough for someone who grew up in muggy far north Queensland, my passion for travel was actually sparked at a young age by a fascination with the snow. I would seize any opportunity to work while travelling so I could feed my love of snowboarding and experiencing a world that was completely foreign to me. I journeyed and lived in many different countries, learnt about exotic cultures and saw first-hand how travel could change people’s lives, including my own.
So, after 10 years of living and working overseas, I wanted to tell my story to inspire people to travel and explore the world. I wanted to educate travellers and let them know how much you can learn from stepping outside the town border. I still believe that bringing down your own barriers is the best way to stave off the myopia so many people, including influential leaders, seem to suffer from in today’s society.
What concerns you about the industry today in terms of its long-term viability?
I think the industry is resilient. We’ve been through a lot in the past 20 years and throughout people have still had an insatiable appetite to explore, no matter what adversity besets the world. And it’s our job to continue to ensure that, irrespective of global events, people continue to see the benefits that exploring the world has to offer.
Travel is not a necessity – we’re in the business to inspire. Through travel, we satisfy people’s dreams to explore history, cultures, food, meet locals, make new friends, and perhaps most importantly to take a break from reality.
Do you think travel can change the world?
A resounding yes. When you travel, you gain a totally different perspective as to what other cultures can offer.
At G, we truly believe that travel has the power to change the world and can be the greatest form of wealth distribution. We need to continue to educate travellers as to how to make informed choices that not only give them an amazing experience but also contribute to the longevity and sustainability of the local communities.
Are you seeing positive change happening in the industry that you really admire? Give us an example.
Absolutely. When we ran the Sustainable Travel Ambassador program through KarryOn in August last year, we were in awe of the number of entries from dedicated agents – the frontline heroes who are really driving change through their very own initiatives.
These guys are the silent warriors that the industry needs to embrace. Many of these agents are not only investing their time out of hours, but also contributing a proportion of their earning towards their not-for-profit initiatives. We need to recognise these agents and reward them for their efforts in promoting sustainable tourism, as well as give them a voice to tell their stories as to how they are influencing travellers and subsequently changing the world.
What projects is G Adventures undertaking in this space?
Along with our Sustainable Travel Ambassador program, which champions agents who are leading the charge in promoting sustainable tourism, we also have our own social enterprise model, Planeterra Foundation. Currently, G Adventures travellers visit over 30 Planeterra projects however our 50 in 5 campaign (launched in 2015) aims to bring that number to 75 by the end of 2020, through pledging to launch 50 new Planeterra initiatives in the next five years.
An example of the 50 in 5 campaign in action is Café Chloe, a cooking school and cultural centre which not only celebrates and preserves the local indigenous history but provides a workplace opportunity for at-risk Aboriginal youth.
Café Chloe aims to share the traditions of the local indigenous culture and educate visitors from Australia and around the world about the unique cultural practices of Aboriginal people.
Based in a repurposed railway station in northeast Queensland, the café offers lunches to visiting tourists, as well as training workshops in weaving and Aboriginal arts to travellers from G Adventures.
What do you think is the biggest challenge the industry faces in terms of the issue of ’sustaining’ itself?
We as an industry need to continue to be dynamic so it can adapt to fresh as well as ongoing challenges. We need to continue to work with local governments and indigenous communities to ensure the long-term sustainability of those cultures for the next generations of travellers.
Do you think travel can change the world? Share your comments below.
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