At its core, tourism depends on the beauty of the environment. Ensuring the destination(s) we visit are viable far into the future is critical to the success of our business, as is providing tours that operated sustainably. But sustainable tourism demands a multi-stakeholder approach to succeed, that is why endorse the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) standards as recommended baseline practices for a tourism business to maximize their positive impact and minimize the adverse effects on the environment and local communities.
We encourage our employees to volunteer and be leaders in their community.
Over 20 years ago, we hosted our first G.I.V.E. Day to give back to the communities where we live and operate. Since then, each year employees and their friends and families, suppliers and business partners, join forces nationally and internationally to assist nonprofit and community organizations in improving the quality of lives in their communities. From G.I.V.E. For The Holidays across our fleet to initiatives like the beach clean ups, employees leave with a sense of camaraderie with colleagues and our communities.
The rapidly warming Arctic Ocean is losing sea ice at record speed and that’s having a significant impact on where polar bears can find habitat. Over the 2017 and 2018 holiday season, we engaged our guests to fundraise for these iconic creatures. Those funds, more than $40,000, are now being used by WWF, engineers and innovators to create a better tag for tracking polar bears.
Right now, scientists use collars equipped with technology to send location information up to satellites and back down to computers here on Earth. The problem is the collars have a high failure rate and they are culturally offensive to local communities.
After workshopping ideas and designing a plan forward, a small team is now working on a miniaturized ear tag to replace the collar. In January, staff from WWF and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spent time studying a polar bear named Lyutyik up close in the Alaska Zoo and have since incorporated information from the experience into the design process.
The goal is to produce five ear tag prototypes for polar bears by the end of 2019 and then deploy them in 2020.
Donsol, Philippines, is where our partnership with WWF was launched two years ago and it remains a special part of our partnership. We continue to support the region through conservation projects, education and helping the municipal government expand its sustainable tourism offerings.
Through our support, WWF trained teachers and student leaders in an environmental education school curriculum in Donsol’s 47 public elementary schools and is now expanding that program.
Donsol, a small municipality in the Philippines, is home to one of the wonders of the ocean world – whale sharks. This past year, WWF worked to improve the water quality in Donsol focusing on the health of the rivers that feeds into the ocean. The two major rivers, the Donsol and Ogod, are essential breeding grounds for plankton, a major food source for the whale shark. In partnership with the local government, WWF developed plans to mitigate the environmental impacts on the river. WWF is also rehabilitating the rivers by planting mangrove and bamboo. Over 30 volunteers helped plant 2,500 bamboo and 14,600 mangrove plants.
Tourists are increasingly flocking to Donsol to see the whale sharks up close. WWF has recorded an increase of whale sharks off the coast of Donsol, with a total of 87 whale shark sightings this past year. While tourism brings much needed revenue to Donsol, it must be done in a way that protects the whale sharks for generations to come. WWF is working with the local government to develop the Donsol Tourism Information System to train local government workers about protecting the whale sharks. WWF also provided input into the amendment of the local tourism ordinance to include ecotourism activities.