You travel because it’s magic stuff. It brings out the best in people. It leads to experiences so extraordinary looking back we have to think twice whether or not they were real. They were, and we all want more.
We believe continuing to travel is the best way to protect these special places and moments.
There was a time when preservation meant staying out. Not anymore. Thoughtfully exploring national parks, natural and cultural heritage sites, meeting locals with a different way of life than your own, and getting to see creatures in the wild has serious power.
With Earth Day and the United Nations announcing 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, ethical and sustainable travel is not just a critically important topic, but an increasingly relevant one. As a travel company we think a lot about travel’s role in sustainability and our responsibility to our planet and our travelers. This is our chance to support efforts to travel right, travel better, and create real change as a business and travelers. Together our influence is bigger than we ever realized.
YOUR VACATION IS A CONSERVATION TOOL
By getting out of the house and simply stepping into the wild world you’re helping save it. But it’s a delicate balance. Exploring green places or seeing cultural heritage sites up close risks destroying them. Billions of visits take a toll. (By 2030 over a billion tourists will travel each year.) But we believe not connecting to these places and never knowing them poses an even greater risk of losing them. By going, you become a guardian—your presence protects them. You’re demonstrating there’s real financial value in their preservation and deters neglect, combating destructive acts like poaching, larceny and vandalizing.
Right now every twenty minutes another species goes extinct and local traditions, tribes, and languages continue to disappear. Preserving what matters is big work. Travel shows we care. African savannas would quickly be replaced by plantations and cattle farms without people like you taking off on safari. The mind-blowing temples of Angkor Wat would likely crumble if not for the restoration efforts prioritized by tourist dollars. Even Nepal’s remote weavers and their artisan traditions are kept from going extinct by your visits.
How we’re trying to do our part and you can too.
SUSTAINABILITY IS PART OF ABSOLUTE TRAVEL’S DNA—BUT IT WASN’T ALWAYS
Back in 1989 ideas like conservation, sustainability, and social responsibility weren’t central to how we planned an Absolute Travel trip. Today, they’re part of our daily conversations and approach. We recognize our choices matter. Bigtime. We’ve been around for 27 years now, and have watched the world around us grow older, too.
We’ve watched iconic rivers dammed and go dry, their wild choruses disappearing with them. We’ve witnessed coral reefs transform from psychedelic kaleidoscopes of colors to bleached white. We’ve watched and photographed creatures prance and play that no longer exist. We’ve witnessed World Heritage Sites crumble from neglect.
We have also watched the world wise up—Absolute Travel included. Here’s how:
RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL DECISIONS MADE SIMPLE
We travel a lot. It’s a serious responsibility. When we’re on the road we assess firsthand which experiences impact our world for the better. Sadly, there are too many experiences that get glossy press, but have practices with serious negative impacts. If travelers knew the full story they would be shocked. We openly share our firsthand knowledge with our travelers so they can make informed decisions. Whether we’re recommending ethical elephant interactions or discussing that tiger petting place (don’t go) we share the reality behind these experiences.
A RESPONSIBLE TOURISM GUIDE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
Despite the increasing demand for resources related to responsible tourism, there is a lack of credible information. As a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, we’re creating a Responsible Tourism Guide for travelers like you. We’re mapping the world’s change agents—the individuals, communities, and organizations focused on wildlife conservation and preservation of natural, historical, and cultural sites. Keep an eye out for the guide in 2017.
TRAVEL & CONSERVATION: IT STARTS WITH THE PEOPLE
It all starts with the people. An experience we had gorilla trekking in Rwanda sums this up well. We hired a porter for $10 to help carry our backpack on the trek. During the hike we learned our porter had been a gorilla poacher; he made the career switch when he learned being a porter was a safe, stable, and legal line of work that enabled him to reliably provide for his family. Travel gave him an opportunity to transform from someone taking away from the world into someone helping others see how magnificent it is. His story illuminated how these choices are often made out of desperation. Travel provides us an opportunity to hear the human experience behind the global story. This nuanced understanding is critical to developing innovative solutions. We’re all in this together.
THERE ARE HARD ECONOMIC REASONS TO KEEP WILDLIFE ALIVE, WILD LANDS WILD, AND HISTORIC TREASURES INTACT
When it comes down to it, money is the driver behind many decisions. For this reason, tourism has serious power. It’s a big statement when people realize travelers will cross the globe to experience their home and spend lots of tourism dollars while doing so. In Rwanda our presence as travelers demonstrated a gorilla is worth more alive in his forest home than sold on the black market. Some facts: Each mountain gorilla in Uganda is worth 1 million USD in revenue to the national economy annually (UN GRASP estimate). Compare that to a poacher who resells a live chimpanzee for $50-$100 in the black market. Another one: When a young elephant dies from poaching, the commercial loss to the tourism industry is 1.6 million—the amount the animal would have contributed by way of tourism dollars had he lived a natural lifespan. Compare that to the one-off sum of $21,000 a poacher makes from a set of elephant tusks on the black market. In financial terms, one living elephant is worth 76 dead ones. In response to the outrage surrounding Cecil the lion’s death National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dereck Joubert shared his thoughts on hunting‘s viability and ethics. It’s an interesting read for those wanting to learn more.
Travel also provides jobs ranging from guides and rangers to hotels and airlines. These jobs contribute to local and international economies in significant ways. Last year, over 7 million new jobs were created in the tourism sector. Tourism’s GDP contribution is growing by 4% annually. This is big money.
WE BRIDGE TRAVELERS TO REMARKABLE PEOPLE, ORGANIZATIONS & PROJECTS MANY PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT (BUT SHOULD!)
Anthropologists, archaeologists, artists, conservationists—so many incredible projects are underway but oftentimes everyday travelers don’t know about them or don’t know how to connect with them. We are honored to meet remarkable people and organizations all over—in the field, at film festivals, and through our partners like The Explorers Club—and connect our travelers to them, whether through events closer to home or by including special experiences in their trips.
1. The Explorers Club: “Firsts” for Earth
It’s the coolest club you probably don’t know about yet, even though it’s been around since 1904! A club of “Famous Firsts,” members include Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norway (first to summit Everest), Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin (first to surface the moon), and Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh (greatest ocean depth) who were made members for their groundbreaking contributions to science and discovery. Although being the first to walk on the moon or discover the Titanic wreckage may be claimed, you can still become a member and your personal explorations could get you in (find out which membership level makes sense for you). You’ll be in good company: it warms us to see friends like Mandip Singh Soin (mountaineer, explorer, philosopher, conservationist) and groundbreaking journalist Bryan Christy become part of that incredible community.
But you don’t have to be a member to benefit from The Explorers Club. This is an organization founded on uniting explorers and promoting exploration by every means possible! As their exclusive travel partner, we are honored to invite you to attend their fascinating events. The best news is they’re happening all the time! Next week we’re attending a dinner with world-renowned paleoanthropologist, Lee Berger, best known for two recent archaeological discoveries: the remains of two (new!) species of human ancestors. Next month we will learn about medicinal traditions in the Andes, and the magical world view of the shamans who live above the clouds in central Peru.
Interested? Here’s The Explorers Club calendar. We’d love for you to be our guest. Or, join us on a tour of their headquarters to learn all of the 1910 townhouse’s stories and secrets—it’s one of the coolest things we’ve done in our own city (particularly when Explorers Club president Ted Janulis or executive director Will Roseman take you). Get in touch if you’re interested!
2. Wings WorldQuest: Extraordinary Women, Extreme Discoveries
Have you heard of WINGS WorldQuest? This non-profit organization is more like a close-knit family of remarkable women pioneering scientific research, activism, and discoveries that catalyze solutions on global conservation issues. Some to take note of right now are the 2016 Women of Discovery Honorees. They include: Juliana Machado Ferreira, a conservation geneticist using DNA analysis and forensics to end wildlife trafficking and preserve biodiversity; Beate Liepert, a climatologist who discovered the climate change phenomenon of global dimming; Kristen Marhaver, a marine biologist studying the reproduction of threatened coral species; Sheila Ochugboju, a genetic virologist advocating for science communication and leading the Global Women Inventors and Innovators network initiative; and Marla Spivak, an entomologist protecting and enhancing the health and diversity of the world’s declining honeybee population. These five intrepid women will be inducted into WINGS WorldQuest’s international community of Fellows and recognized for their bold scientific research, activism, and discoveries that catalyze solutions to global conservation issues.
3. Donor Engagement Trips
We are honored to collaborate with esteemed organizations including The Nature Conservancy, American Jewish World Service, Human Rights Watch and Every Mother Counts who trust us with one of their most valuable assets: their high-net-worth donors. These are the individuals who help advance the organizations’ missions. Working together, our donor engagement trips connect supporters with the projects they help fund. Invariably, seeing their dollars at work through on-the-ground experiences inspires donors to engage at a higher level for a longer term. Get in touch to find out more about how our donor engagement trips work.
THE ELEPHANT MAP PROJECT | THE PERSUASIVE POWER OF ART & SCIENCE
We’re teaming up with self-taught cartographer Connie Brown to create a hand painted map that is beautiful at first glance. Look closer and you’ll find a powerful story, too. We want to show the world the impact elephants have on us all in hopes that through boosting awareness through educating and inspiring others we can galvanize our species to help theirs. This hand-painted map has serious rhetorical power: it celebrates a creature that is self-aware, feels, thinks, and whose emotional capacity challenges our own; it will highlight elephants’ key role as savanna gardeners, seed dispersers, and their integral role in Africa’s web of life (losing them would mean a domino-effect of lost species); and it will convey our interconnectedness and interdependence on these wondrous creatures regardless of where we call home. Maps like this one connect the persuasive powers of art with the persuasive power of science: this particular intersection tells the story of elephants in a fresh and compelling way.
The original 4’x4’ map will be auctioned off to an elephant beneficiary. Smaller-scale archival prints will be sold with the proceeds going directly to elephant conservation. Get in touch with us if you would like to find out more about The Elephant Map Project or reserve a map of your own (limited editions of the map will be signed by Connie as well as the matriarch behind the phenomenal beneficiary—to be announced soon!). 100% of map proceeds will go towards elephant conservation.
WE STRIVE TO BE MORE THAN A TRAVEL COMPANY
Your experiences shape who you are and what you care about. We are honored to play a role in that. Mark Twain said it best: “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’re all in this together.
We recognize that the choices we make set a model for the travel industry, and we’re compelled to be an active participant in the global conversation on sustainability and help turn things around. It’s become part of who we are, and seeps into everything we do. We are in a business that is contingent on there being a world worth exploring. We all want this. It’s our responsibility to do our part to ensure we leave behind a planet that is so astonishing those who come after us want to be ambassadors for our planet, too. The fate of our planet, and protecting ourselves, rests on all of our shoulders. We must each do what we can before there is nothing left to protect.
More innovative ideas on how we’re trying to make an impact coming soon. Until then, learn more about some of our Absolute Awareness initiatives here. And please reach out if you have ideas of your own; we’d love to hear them!
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