Spearheading Sustainability in the Travel Industry Panel Discussion

– Good morning, how’s everyone? Good? Happy Friday. – Woo!
– Yeah, woo! I know, it’s been a long week. Well, welcome to
Spearheading Sustainability in the Travel Industry. I’m trying to speak close to this. My name is Samantha Burch and I am joined up here
by my fantastic colleagues Annabelle Mercer and Courtney McCorstin. We are second-year Master of Environmental
Management students here at the Nicholas
School of the Environment. And we’re studying business
and the environment and we’re super excited
for this panel today. We have a lot of good stuff in store for this hour and a half. I’m gonna jump into a few
notes and logistical things before we kick it off and
tell you why we’re here today. One, this is a green event. So, through Sustainable Duke, this event has been green certified. Which means that it’s gone
through a required checklist for reducing waste and energy. And then we’d also like to thank Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative for providing credit to
offset all of the trouble for all of our panelists here today. We’d also like to give some big shout outs to the Office of Development
and Alumni Relations here. Ann Thurston and Nancy
Kelly have been instrumental in making sure that this
event was made possible today. And then lastly our client,
Beth Ray-Schroeder, she’s a gem. (Samantha laughs) She’s our favorite, we love
her at Duke Alumni Travels. And then one more logistics thing. You’re going to see, on your tables, a number of built-in microphones. We are gonna jump into
some Q&A in about an hour, and at that point, we’re
gonna back and forth between all of the individuals who are joining us virtually online and those of you in the
room with your questions. So, please use that microphone so that those online can hear you. Also, start brainstorming
some awesome questions to pepper these guys with. With that, I’m gonna
pass it off to Anabelle. She’ll tell you a little
bit about why we’re here. – Yeah. Hello, so, our master’s project team has been working really
closely, as Samantha mentioned, with Beth Ray-Schroeder, who’s the director of Duke Alumni Travels. She’s been the absolutely amazing client. If you guys are unfamiliar, Duke Alumni Travels puts on
about 45 plus annual trips, they’re a education travel program. And they often bring in Duke faculty, such as Jesko, to lead these trips and really provide their
wide range of expertise. So, in line with Duke University’s overarching sustainability goals to become carbon neutral by 2024, our client Beth is
leading a transformation in the travel industry to really transform how the industry approaches and views its environmental impact. And so we’ve been working
on this project with Beth for the last year, year and a half, to try to establish three major goals. The first is to establish
a baseline understanding of where the travel
industry is at right now, in regards to sustainability. The second is to create kind of a standardized best
practices guide, if we can. And the third is to improve upon marketing and communication strategies to help inform the travelers that are going on these amazing
Duke Alumni Travel trips. So, I’ll give it to Courtney. – Yeah, so, our carbon
project for hosting this event to bring together industry leaders, Duke faculty, students and alumni to spark conversation
about sustainable travel and to highlight the best
practices within the industry. From this panel, we, as
students, and as travelers, will learn how to be a part
of this changing movement within the travel world. We’d like to introduce our
moderator for today’s event, Dr. Jesko Von Windheim. He is the Lynn Gorguze-Scott
Peters professor of the Practice of Environmental Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He is the president and
CEO of Tyrata Incorporated and he is also one of our advisors for this master’s project. So, with that, please join us in welcoming
Jesko Von Windheim and our group of esteemed panelists. (audience applauds) – That’s awesome. I’ve actually never heard my
entire title actually spoken. So, I hope we got that on record. It’s wonderful to be here. And one of the things
you may ask yourself is, “Why is a professor of entrepreneurship “leading a sustainable travel panel?” And any of you who have worked with me, or have been in my courses, you’ll know that I strongly believe that entrepreneurship is all about chaos. And quite often where you find chaos, you’ll also find entrepreneurship. And this is what interests me, actually, about sustainable travel
is it’s an emerging area of not only interest, but need. Anybody who’s been
looking at the headlines, there’s obviously a great concern about the impact of travel in
many, many different ways. I know just a month or so ago, I read a headline that said we’re gonna have to restrict
plane travel in the future. Plane travel in the future
will only be for a few elites, because we just can’t afford to do this the same way anymore. So, I believe that there is a significant entrepreneurial opportunity here. And so, what we’re really interested in, is there a potential business model? Not that we necessarily have
to answer that question today, but that is a burning question
for us at this school. And how do our students fit
into such a business model and how does the school
potentially add value in this particular area? And then most importantly,
we always think about, when we think about entrepreneurship, we think about customers and
consumers to some extent, how do they fit into this? Certainly, how do the
providers in the industry fit into this? So these are all things
that we would like to, not necessarily answer today,
but start to answer today. And perhaps start looking
for a path forward, here at the Nicholas
School to address this. So, having said all that, I would like to introduce our panel and because I’m lazy, maybe, I’m gonna let them introduce themselves. So, perhaps, starting,
John, with you here, if you could give us a brief background and why you’re here today. – Thanks, and can you all hear me fine? (audience chattering) Yeah? I’m delighted to be here. I came to the topic of
sustainable travel accidentally in a course that began
as a marine biologist in grantee of National Geographic society, later becoming a film maker
at National Geographic and finally an administrator
supporting grants to explorers and conservationists
around the world. And that was a 25-year career
that included coming to Duke to do a workshop for you on the explorers about 12 years ago. In fact, National Geographic supported 60 different faculty and students at the time we came down
and did that workshop. So, longstanding relationship to Duke. But I didn’t have, at that time, any inkling that I might
be coming back here to talk about sustainable travel. What happened was I worked
with conservationists around the world, I
got to oversee a center for sustainable destinations
at National Geographic, which worked with our traveler magazine and our trips that we offered
to elevate this dialogue. And that was some 10 years
ago, it was a good run. And I’ve realized that among
all the things that I could do in conservation in my later career, that travel was the
opportunity, as Jesko intimated, where you could really make a difference in the way people affected the planet. And that wasn’t just
the environmental side, but it includes the empowerment of people, the benefit of working locally and supporting locally as a traveler. And we’ll talk about that
today, but in fact, Duke, because of your
interdisciplinary program here, it seemed to me, in talking with Beth, and we met about a year ago, that there was an opportunity
to grow this academic force that’s required to pull people together on one of the biggest
industries on the planet, the travel industry. So, I’m here to raise that
flag to work with Jesko and to get to talk with my colleagues here and hopefully to inspire you to make a difference on this frontier. – Great, thank you.
– All right. Thank you, thank you, John. I’m also thrilled to be here. At World Wildlife Fund,
we have 15 to 20 alumni from the School of the
Environment from here and truly some of our best people. So, I’m thrilled to be here. This is my first time on campus. My name is Karl Egloff, I’m the director of the Travel
and Conservation Program at World Wildlife Funding. I grew up outside of Anchorage, Alaska in a little town and then
I went to Montana State and I think coming out of a
school like Montana State, people had mostly traditional
career paths, you know? There was education, engineering,
nursing, things like that. I think people didn’t really think, or I surely never thought I
could have a career in travel. I got a degree in teaching and then I realized I needed
to do something in the summer, so I got into being a tour guide and managing travel
programs all over the world, thinking that by 30, I gotta
grow up and find a real career. And I’d just been so grateful and lucky that I landed at World Wildlife
Fund in Washington, D.C and I’ve been able to pursue a
career in sustainable travel. Our little department at
World Wildlife Fund now is only a staff of four,
sometimes five people and we’re split into two parts. One is to manage the donor
and member travel program, which is the majority of my workload. And the other side is the
conservation travel program and that’s largely working,
what’s that, private sector? And helping that their product
become more sustainable to merge some of the largest
clients in the private sector. Our relationship side
is with Royal Caribbean and some of the larger hotel chains. So, our travel program, like
Beth Ray’s is for our members. We do about 700 trips a year
though, and we actually, different than the Duke
Alumni Travel Program, we only work with one
operator who actually has more of a licensing and
services agreement with us. So, I don’t say I’ve
managed all those trips, I actually manage the relationship with the operator that
managed those trips. And the operator called
Natural Habitat Adventures, and I might refer to them as NAT-HAB throughout the course of the questions. Thank you.
– Thank you. Rhea. – Hi, everyone, my name is Rhea and I work with the Planeterra Foundation based in Toronto, Canada. And we’re the nonprofit partner of the travel company G Adventures. Just to give you a bit of background, I actually started in
international development. That’s what I studied, that’s where I worked in for two years. I was living in Pakistan
working on Women’s Empowerment, there and Cambodia and I happened
upon the travel industry, very much as a catalyst to
do what I did even better. Because we had a market and we had people that
wanna spend their money and they wanna spend
their money sustainably. So, I have amazing job
now, I have the best job. I get to actually create and find those community enterprises that are integrated
into G Adventures tours. So, they send about 200,000 travelers around the world every year. So, I have a pretty big
market base to work with to find nonprofits, social enterprises and really get them a business to grow and make socialized to tour them. So, it’s great to be
here today and represent that social side of
sustainable tourism as well. – Thank you, Rhea. Jason.
– Hey, guys, I’m Jason. I’m coming here from Seattle, Washington and it’s been kind of a winding journey to the travel industry for me. It’s not what I set out to do, but my journey started here
in 1993, I’m an MBA student. Over the past 20 years, I’ve had jobs with six different companies and when I came here,
my mission really was, “How can I combine
environment and business “to have more of an impact?” I believe that certain businesses are a really big lever
and having the impact and in the… Oh, phone call’s coming in. Sorry, guys. Might wanna know how I know that. I have a hearing aid that told me. (laughs) So, in combining business and environment, and when I left Duke, I got into more traditional
new product development and I’ve had jobs with
six companies doing that. But I have managed to find
my way back to environment and business through a couple of the, I’ll tell you about those. The first one was in 2005, I started a company called Carbon Rally, which is an online game of kinda like fantasy
football, fantasy sports. But it was really focused
on getting teams to compete to see who can save the
most amount of energy and we had churches and
colleges and enterprises competing on this platform. At this time, 2005, was kinda boom days for
environmental marketing, and environment and
sustainability with Al Gore and it was at that time,
13% of magazine ads were making some sort
of environmental plan. It was really a time when companies were positioning themselves
with environmental. So, we started this platform. We got sponsors like eBay and Intel and New York Times and NBC Sports sponsoring these challenges
every week on this platform and we had people from
around the world competing, it was pretty cool. And so I did that for a couple of years. And then 2008, which was a
terrible time for startups and also a terrible time for
the environment, actually. All the attention went
away from environment into more pressing needs
like feeding your family and getting a job. And so in 2008, I had to
move on from Carbon Rally and that got up. In 2010, I started another venture, which is travel and environment
related, called Trover, which is another startup we
raised capital for in Seattle. And this is a platform that people to use to share their favorite
places around the world. So, it’s a lot like Instagram in that people take pictures
of things that they like, a surf spot, a hiking trail, a restaurant, and they share it on this platform and other people can see it
when they’re through the area. And I worked on that for about five years. And that was also really a
nice way to combine business, love for the environment,
love for the world in trying to champion
the experiences outside and about our business. So, 2016, we sold that company to Expedia and now that’s where I am today. I’ve been there for three
years, still managing Trover, but sort of as a side project that’s becoming more of a front project. I’m actually getting more familiar with how Expedia is managing its sustainability practices
and policies and strategies. And it’s not my day job, but I’ve started to understand
who the stakeholders are and how there doing things and I’m trying to have more and more of an influence on that. And, so, who knows, this job at Expedia may actually
be my third real connection between business and environment. And I’ll share that
exchange from Expedia today. I don’t represent Expedia’s
sustainability programs, but I’m sort of a mole inside of Expedia. (audience laughs) What’s going on there. So, I’m excited to share that with you and I’m just really glad to be here. And I’m super inspired
by everybody and students and stuff like that.
– Wonderful, wonderful. What’s really nice about this
is the diverse viewpoints that we can have around
this particular issue. And what I wanna start
with, for the panel, is a pretty simple question. Actually, I have here in front of me, the World Tourism
Organization’s definition of sustainable travel and I’m not gonna read it to
you because it’s too long. But I would be very interested
in your perspectives of what sustainable tourism means to you. And perhaps, we can get a little bit into a discussion about
that as we move forward. So, Rhea, maybe starting with… And if I’m not putting you on the spot. (laughs) – Yeah, of course. So, sustainable tourism, to me, I guess one of the main
things that I’m thinking about because of where I fit is the social side, how our people impacting culture, are you leaving the country
worse off or better or the same than before you visited? It all comes down to the
people and the planet, how you’re impacting it and like… Maybe you guys can rift off of that. – Yeah, uh-huh. – John, any thoughts on your end? – Yeah, you find there are
all kinds of names emerging. People say that sustainable
tourism isn’t quite right, because you don’t wanna just
sustain, you want to improve. More recently impact tourism
has become words of choice. I started at Geographic with
something called GEO tourism, which was a leap off of ECO. ECO pretending to look
after most of nature, but GEO looking at a broader fabric and it’s a lot like what
Rhea was referencing. So, you have tourism that
can impact the environment, but you can also look at
the aesthetics, the culture, the financial viability of a
community, the value of place and everything that it
means and authenticity. So, this notion that was
central in our promotions, had to do with maintaining
the place and all that’s in it through the power of tourism. – Great, great. – I mean, there’s other
terms too we talk about. We can say conservation
travel or what I like, fun, responsible travel. And I think a lot of the traveling market has gotten confused by it. And I think ECO tourism even started as a preference of the
way people wanna travel, which we might call nature travel now. They wanted to just be with
wildlife and in nature, it wasn’t really a set of standards. And so I think sustainable travel is most universally accepted now, it’s usually how we refer to it. But when we talk about it, we always talk about
the three-legged stool, the three pillars, the triple bottom line. And you’ll hear this, probably,
throughout the discussion, and that’s looking after
the economic needs, social, cultural and also
the environmental needs. And I think the fourth part of it, too, is the management plan
incorporating all three. – Any thoughts from you, Jason, on the– – Yeah, sure. When I first started thinking about this, the really front and center
was really climate change. And I really equated sustainable travel with how we’re gonna deal with
the CO2 associated with it, but then we poked more
people into it at Expedia. It’s a whole other piece of it that Expedia’s really concerned about, which is the destinations that we serve and the problems of overtourism. That our supply is essentially the world and we’re sending people to
various places in the world and as the environment changes, some of those definitions
are gonna be impacted. As overtourism is impacting those places, it also affects our supply. So, we really think about
longterm for Expedia, a need to protect many of
these places that people go, in addition to the
bigger issue around CO2. And I was just down at Expedia, there’s a lot of tension
around sustainable travel. Expedia’s a very mission-driven company with a huge belief that
travel can change the world in terms of bringing people together, bringing cultures together,
creating champions. When you bring somebody
out into the world, out into the environment, you’re creating champions
that people will believe in in the destinations that they go. So, we really believe travel’s great and we want people to travel more, because you can do so many
great things for society. But there’s another, we also recognize that
there’s a really dirty side, an ugly side to travel with tourism accounting for
about 8% of greenhouse gasses. Expedia sells tens of millions
of flights every year, and so we have this tension. We want people to travel, we recognize that something has to be done around overtourism and plane flights. And so we’re tackling that. And it’s interesting
watching the organization try to deal with those forces. – Yeah, you mentioned, and I wish I’d have kind
of like taken notes here ’cause I would learn so much
and more by writing it down. But one thing that did
jump out at me, you said, I think your definition was
leaving a place better than… When you leave it, to leave it in a better
state than when you arrived, did I hear that? – I mean, I’m an awesomsit at heart. – Okay, fine. – And if there is an opportunity that you can spend your
tourism dollars in a way that it really can make a country better or a place or a location,
then why not try? – But that’s a lovely
way to think about it and it’s something I can keep in my mind. As we do our travels, our tourism travels, one thing in talking yesterday
and even as we speak here, that caught my attention is we’re talking about
tourism almost exclusively. I travel primarily for business. I always feel guilty because of all the
airline travels that I do. However, I also know
that visiting a client or visiting an investor
and being face-to-face is so important to what I do. There’s only so much
you can do on the phone or Zoom or so on. At some point, you have to
be in front of your client. How does the business
travel fit into this? Any thoughts on that? – The way I would… I was reacting, how can you help on this
frontier as a business traveler? And one thing I’m pushing
for now, is in social, an ability to account
for the places you visit and to share with others whether this place is really worthy, authentic, locally owned, creating a impact in the community. And if you had a rating scale
on Expedia or on TripAdvisor where you could filter your
choices by how it’s being seen by travelers in the business
and other communities, suddenly you would have
a magnet for attention. And even searchable data that could elevate those
who’re doing best practices. So, just a simple report as a
business traveler could help. – Yeah, we’re seeing some demands for this kind of
information through Expedia. It’s small but we’re starting
to enable our customers to be able to filter hotels based on the ratings or by more ratings. So, there’s definitely an emerging need for this kind of information, John, in that travelers are
starting to look for it. And I think the more
that travelers demand it, Expedia’s always going to
try to serve the customer. So, if the customer wants this, we’ll find a way to get
that kind of information. And we get reviews from, I think 30 or 40% our of
hotels stays have reviews associated with them from some customers that have been there. So, if they could start
answering some of those questions around, you know, how does it, were there a lot of disposable
things in this room, what kind of lighting was there? There’s probably some simple
check boxes that we can collect that would enable people to start to draw some
conclusions for that– – Yeah, and you could actually have data mining occur from most comments and hot words could come
up in different regions and associated with different practices and they could take note. So, if a certain word on
the sustainable frontier or highly associated with the
Hyatt in Seattle or whatever, then management could notice. Course it depends on
the volume of comments and then how much time are
you gonna take as a traveler to even bother to do comments? I think that’s a burden
you need to put faith in and I’m not quite sure everybody
is ready to act in that way but it could work. – And also, the industry’s responding too. The hotels, the big brands all have sustainability programs now. They actually are hiring people
to actually work internally to make sure that sustainability
is applied consistently across all their brands when it has to do with waste reduction. They want food, food waste
reduction’s another big one too. And then the third one that I’m seeing is just a willingness
to offset CO2 emissions through the air travel part. And we could easily turn
this whole discussion right into carbon offsets. It’s kind of a fascinating area that people have a lot
of interest in lately. I hope we can touch on it, but I don’t want to really
go into that rabbit hole, but it is quite interesting. – Rhea, did you have any? Yeah, you sort of just have to– – Yeah. – [Host] Yeah, the online folks are having a hard time hearing. – Oh!
– Oh, yeah. – Oh, good, that’s one out. (laughs) Yeah, I mean, you may have
noticed my region is Asia-Pacific and I’m based in Toronto, so I can definitely relate
to the business travel, but you can still spend your
dollars where you want to. You stay in the hotel that
you’ve read the reviews, you may be at the Homestay. Maybe you’re trying to
make even less impact depending on where you travel. And also there’s so many
great organizations. If you’re in a city,
there’s social enterprises. Spending your dollars
really strategically, again, you do have that opportunity depending on how much time
you have in a location, yeah. – Great, great. Well, and as we talk about
travelers versus the industry, there’s a fence, I
think, amongst travelers that the industry should be
taking care of all of it. And we’ve talked a little bit
about how we can maybe impact a consumer or traveler behavior. Which is it? Who’s responsible for
making this all work? – Well, I think, first of all– – The mic. – It’s great that we’re seeing demand. And if travelers are asking the industry to step up and take care of it, that’s what it’s gonna
take to move the industry. And like I mentioned before, Expedia does things to
serve their customers. So, if that’s the noise
that we’re hearing, we’ll step up and we’ll start
to have an impact on it. So, I think educating more
travelers around this issue, mobilizing them, having
them ask the questions, look for the features that
they want from the airlines, from the hotels, from agents
like Expedia will really help. And in terms of what we’re doing, we’re just starting to do it. Expedia, really two things, can we empower our customers to start making environmental choices when they’re thinking about travel? Like being able to look
at hotel rooms and rates and based on their
environmental performance or looking at different ways to get there. Providing information on the CO2 emissions and various choices that they could make. The ability to potentially
offset their travel as they’re going through checkout. These are all things that
are gonna come to fruition as the customers are asking for it. So, if there’s demand, we’re gonna be there to try to step up. And also I think, for a certain brand, it’s a really great opportunity to secure a leadership position. And I think as the millennials become more and more
driven by these issues, some of the brands are gonna step up and they’re gonna become recognized as representing the cutting
edge of sustainable travel. So, we really need to
educate the consumers and all of us here can do what
we can to educate consumers so they start demanding
these kinds of things. And the responsibility will, you know… The companies that wanna take
the opportunity will respond. So, whether it’s consumers or where the responsibility lies, the businesses will
respond, I think, yeah. – Yeah, I mean, the answer is both. And the consumers have to drive it, but ultimately I think it’s
the industry’s responsibility. An example I have is that
at Habitat Adventures, they, for years, they’re the
first to deal with the offset, all of the land portion of all the trips. They do the carbon offset. They calculate and just
add it into the trip cost and they gave the option to
offset the international flight. They actually calculated
it and you just say, “Yes, I wanna do it,” and I will add it to my
invoice and then that’s it. And it could be in the 80, $90 for a big trip to Africa or Asia, obviously a lot less if it’s nearby. Less than 10% opted in, even though we made it that easy. But now that Natural Habitat Adventures is now including the international air and everybody loves it, you know? Everybody’s happy they do it. They feel good about traveling
with us because of that, but when they had the option
to do it, they didn’t do it. So, that’s why I think
the industry has to go in and just build it in. – Yeah, they make sure it’s a possibility. – Yeah and I agree though, it adds value to that product
or that travel program. – 10%s not small. – Yeah.
– That’s the real number. – Yeah, so, I agree, top down, bottom up, but top down makes it a lot easier, right? And the tragedy of the comments is that people aren’t agreeing
to act in a certain way, is what’s likely to happen. And it reminds me of something Issac and I were talking about this
morning regarding New Zealand. A friend of mine is trying
to move to New Zealand, it can require that every
flight that comes in and leaves New Zealand has baked
into it an offset payment. So, the country itself as the destination. And an actor on the international scale becomes a promoter of what
should be part of our mentality. – Yeah and just going off that too, I think the why really needs to be clear for the travel operator too. If they’re promoting and making available really sustainable options,
why are they doing it? And how does the traveler, the consumer, actually do it well and understand it? So, one thing that G Adventures has done and recently is release these
really cute little videos of how do you interact with children really responsibly on a trip? How do you, if you’re
seeing animals in the wild, do you touch them? No, you do not but why? (audience laughs) So, being really clear in
the most simple language. Not everyone is an environmentalist. Not everyone travels so
that they can save the world or make it a better place, but they can. And if we can make it super, super easy, make it almost a no-brainer. You can go on these two different trips, one, it’s really clear that
you’re gonna make a good impact, the other one is kind of gray. Why would the consumer choose the other? – Well, we’ve started to talk about the supply and demand side of this and of course at the end of the day, there has to be a business case. You talked a little bit about the triple bottom line, carbon offset. At the end of the day,
what are the economics? I can understand kinda
the emotional side of it, I likely would start to opt
into the $90 if I’m flying once around the world or whatever it is, right? To make myself feel better. But what are the economics of this, that are gonna make it really work, right? ‘Cause if the economics work, then everything else will fall in place. Any thoughts on that? Go ahead, yeah. – Sure, I mean, a couple businesses– – The microphone. – A lot of things that are
happening at Expedia today, we don’t really measure them
the way we probably should. We’re just doing them because they feel like
the right thing to do. And there’s some pretty obvious
benefits starting inside, in terms of the employees that
we can attract to Expedia, to attract people like
you to work at Expedia, we need to have something to
say about what we’re doing with sustainable travel with
the environment in general. So, I think in terms of
recruiting great employees, I think 70, 80% of
employees, when surveyed, say it’s important criteria
that the company that I work for is actually taking this seriously. So, that’s probably our
first business case point. Secondly, for us, it’s the opportunity to build
a more loyal customer base. If we’re taking a leadership position, it just builds trust around our brand. Which may lead to more
retention of our customers, attracting more customers. If we took our leaderships down, some of these issues that
are really of interest to millennials and
certain market segments, that’s gonna just position
us as a better provider and I think that’s it. I mean there’s some things
that we do internally, operationally, to save energy
with our lead buildings and reducing disposable
containers in the office that are also just cost savings. But really if attracting employees then we’re attracting customers are really the big ones for us, yeah. – Brand equity in it. – Brand equity, yeah. So, it should be measured. I’d like to see it get more measured so that we can actually bring
it back to the CEO and say, “This is the actual economic return “that we’re gonna see from
these initiatives,” yeah. – I, you know, oh. – I was just gonna say that’s the two things I
had written down, exactly, as well as working for the nonprofit within a corporate entity. I would say 80% of
people, when I meet them, they say, “The reason
I joined G Adventures, “and this travel company specifically, “is because you have this
purpose and you have Planeterra,” and we know we’re making
a difference in the world and the morale that that creates. And it really lets people
be part of something much bigger than themselves. I, again, don’t have
the data on that either, for actually what that
meant for G Adventures. There are people staying two
years longer than they would, because they have that sense of purpose. I’m not sure, but definitely in the morale
in the company, you feel it. And then it’s the brand. A differentiation, setting yourself apart because you are making a difference. – Yeah, and I think the
focus should first be, rather than trying to
see it as a way we cost, how does it add value? So, I think we suggest, or that we do, is printing our catalog with the most sustainable
printer and paper and ink. It does cost more money. Giving everybody a water bottle
to reuse costs some money. Offsetting CO2 emissions cost money. But these things all add
value to the trip itself. But there are things to do, you know? You give people for
their pre-trip documents, a paperless option. That actually does save
some money as well. So there are a few examples of things that come with some cost saving. One example is we work with hotels with a program called Hotel Kitchen, with their own food waste, dealing with their own food waste. In these hotels, the food costs has, which is one of their
largest variable cost, has increased by 10 to 28%. So, this is really a
win-win in reducing costs and also elevating the
problem with food waste. – Yeah, I’d like to
chime in on brand value and with an example. And that is Lindblad Expeditions, which is one of the companies
that’s been evaluated in this master’s student endeavor. Lindblad had a crunchest in all travel companies in 2008 and nine and it turns out that the
affinity of the travelers on Lindblad is unbelievable. And Sven went out to them and said, “Listen, I’ll give you such and such “if you help me get through this hump.” And people rallied with contributions and with becoming lifetime
affiliates if you will. And the fact is when they travel, they invite people who have been supported by via Lindblad’s fund, that I’m fortunate to have
helped establish and sit on. We give away almost two
million dollars a year to the sites that the ships visit. And those people come back to talk about what the
travelers have supported. That’s the fund and there’s
also the revenue share with National Geographic Society, when you travel with
the National Geographic. Lindblad, you’re supporting
that whole endeavor. So, regardless of those actions, as well as an incredible staff and a leader who’s really
amazing on this frontier. People care to travel with
Lindblad as if it’s family. It’s almost like an alumni relationship. I went down to south Georgia
in the Falklands recently, there were people that had
taken 14 Lindblad trips. And the average, I would
say, was three or four. And they get an appeal
at the end of the trip, say you can contribute to this fund and deduct that from your next trip. So, you get a voucher basically
that’s matched by Lindblad. You give 250, you get
500 off your next trip and it’s all going to the
betterment of the locales that Lindblad visits. That creates and demands
for traveling with purpose and a joy in giving to the
sites that you’ve come to love. – Yeah, that’s, for myself,
I’m a tech entrepreneur. I’m used to being new widgets
that make something happen, but it’s well known that
some of the greatest startups that we have are based
on new business models. And I would say this is one area that is
incredibly exciting to think about and to do customer discovery. And so those of you, the
students who are out there, who are interested in entrepreneurship, I would say this is one area that I would be thinking
very strongly about. And of course, business models
are much cheaper to pursue. New business models, than necessarily building some new widget, which always cost a lot more money investment to get started. So, this is something that y’all may wanna think
about more in the future. And I certainly hope, as we move forward, I’m not sure if you’re
aware, but some of you, most of you maybe, are aware
that we do master’s projects within the Nicholas School. And as I think what this team has done, is they’ve really set the platform to maybe do more work on business models and true entrepreneurship
in this area in the future. So, very, very exciting. Moving forward from your perspective, what are your organizational challenges to really make this work? Are they, well, I’ll
let you speak to that. Is it easy? Is your organization ready
to rock and roll and do this? Or are there challenges for
you that you’ve perceived? – There’s a lot of challenges. I think for us, and I’ve
mentioned that tension at Expedia. Then it’s just prioritization
across so many staples, there’s so many dimensions to this problem that we talked about already
and just kinda laid it all out on the table over the past 20 minutes. So, I think, for us, just figuring out where to invest is probably one of the biggest challenges. Employees, our operations,
our platform it serves, travelers and suppliers. So, I think it’s just navigating
and kinda prioritized. And where you invest
is probably looked on. I think in giving us a framework for how to understand this
issue, I think that’s a start. In terms of action, just to rift a little bit
off of the master’s project, the more evidence and data that we have that describe true
customer demand for this, is really gonna move things. And so surveys say I wanna
travel more sustainably, I wanna work in a sustainable office, if given a choice, I’d take
the more sustainable option. That will move something, but actually seeing demand and numbers, I’d love to know what’s
happening with Carbon Credit. Is the demand rising? How quickly is it rising? These are the kinds of
numbers that I could bring to the leadership that
say it’s actually real, it’s not just people’s stated desires, there’s behaviors that
we’re actually seeing. – I wanna pause here for
your students, MEM students, MPE, if you’re interested. (audience laughs) – Yeah, I’d love to– – This is how we like to do it, right? (audience laughs) – So, the challenge for us is always everything is really
driven by is there demand? Is there a business opportunity? And so, really getting a firm grasp on how big that opportunity is so that we can start to build solutions. There’s so many things to
prioritize in our business and so many optimizations
that are happening across all of the experiences that we bring to our customers. To get something like some of
these kinds of opportunities above the line, just
requires a lot of data and really realizing the demand and showing the decline in demand. And I think it’s happening. I think flight shame is real. I think people are feeling anxious. I wanna see the numbers that show that they are
actually making decisions, yeah? – Of data, that’s a really good one. Any other thoughts from the panel? – Oh, sorry. Being at National Geographic
for so many years, communication is primary to me. And I think, how do you
get this information out in a way that’s palatable and doesn’t hit people over the head? Flight shame, that word
itself creates an aversion. And I’ve been talking with leadership at National Geographic Channel
of doing a travel series where you get to enjoy
going around with somebody like an Anthony Bourdain, but what that person can do is model a different way of travel that really exemplifies
a positive engagement, as well as positive impact in choices. And so you folks who are
looking forward, I expect, to traveling in your lives, are certainly concerned
about doing it right. Well, what does that mean? What does it look like? Can you find somebody
who’s a really exciting, provocateur, if you will? And show you what’s cool and why it’s fun. One of the best ads at
National Geographic Channel, for the channel itself
was two young people putting their head into a taxi and they went through about six languages. (speaking in a foreign language) Do you speak English? And the taxi driver kept going like this and they went through
a number of languages and he said, “No,” to every one. He said, “Great,” and they jumped in. (laughs) The idea of creating challenges
and enjoying local culture and making it rough for yourself
maybe is a thing to model. And so I think the communication side is a huge challenge. And there could be ways
to make it more fun and accessible and to model. So, I’m all about that and I haven’t got the series started yet, but I’ve got some open ears at least. – So, data, communication is a great– – I’m going off of the communication side. Externally, yes, the consumers
need to know and understand what values it is you’re trying to promote and what you’re upholding,
but also internally. There’s so many moving pieces
within a tour operator, from your employees to your tour guides to the hundreds or thousands
of suppliers that you work with and their sub-suppliers
and their sub-suppliers. So, you don’t have control over what’s going on at all times. G Adventures just launched
that we’re trying, the intention is to now
have single-use plastics. Doing that, it’s great, but there’s so much education and so much just resource sharing and communications internally
that needs to happen to make everyone actually
want to be on board with that. And everyone of course would want to, to help the environment, but you need to share and make sure the resources are available. And a very tangible challenge that we’re working with right now, Planeterra is obviously
very socially-focused and so G Adventures,
when they were looking and saying there’s a
million different ways we can do sustainable travel, what do we wanna start with? Do you start with social? Do you start with carbon offsetting? Do you start with plastics? Social was the number one, it was the side that they
were most passionate about. But right now, we’re looking
into carbon offsetting and really trying to
figure out where to start. Do you offer it so that the
traveler can buy into it? Do you naturally pay for
offsetting all your operations? And calculating how much that would cost or looking at each of the options and calculating and seeing what is viable and what is the right business choice and the right environmental
choice in balancing that. So, no answer on that one yet. (Rhea laughs) – The challenge I’m seeing, probably in the last year and a half, and it is a positive thing though, is that travelers are more aware. I think the National
Geographic issue on plastic with the straw up the sea turtle’s nose and we’re in a sea of plastic out there in the Pacific, literally, in some places. People are learning more
about CO2 emissions. We’re talking a lot about overtourism. And so, we work in the travel industry, I’m dependent on people
continuing to travel. So, I have to be ready to
respond to people’s concerns like with the flight shaming and that’s mostly in Europe now. People are choosing not to travel. They think it’s bad. Travel is a carbon-heavy industry, so we just have to be
ready to respond and say, “Is this a threat or an opportunity?” We strongly, strongly believe that this is a great opportunity. If you look at the amount
of employment and revenue that travel provides throughout the world and especially in developing countries, it’s very important
that we keep traveling. It’s very important that we travel right and consider these ways to
reduce waste and reduce CO2 first and also then offset when we need to. – Just wanna make a quick comment. One of my favorite innovations that I have seen in the past years from one of our faculty, Kurt Richardson, who has come up with this
concept of a carbon farm. And you kinda think, “What
could that possibly be?” Well, he’s discovered that there
are areas in North Carolina where there’s peat and
peat sequesters carbon so much better than any other
forest or anything else. And so that you can sequester a lot of carbon in this one spot, relative to doing anything else and that might be an area
when you think carbon offsets. Quite often, we just think of
going out and purchasing them, but this idea of
investing in carbon farms, I thought was so cool. And I don’t think Kurt’s here
today, but it’s something. I’ve talked about that idea many times with people since then, and so there’s other
innovations potentially, that could come to the travel
industry where we can address maybe some of these issues in other ways. So, lots of innovation going on. – I just wanna to that. We will talk about offsets more and more because it is really fascinating ’cause we’re kind of with the demand. And I think there is a demand for offsets. It’s really one of the few ways to address the air travel
issue that there is about. I think there’s gonna be a really booming demand
for things like that and the offsets are getting, with the standard bodies
that are now certifying them, I think they’re actually
becoming a legit play. And people are choosing to tax themselves on things that they’re doing and those tax dollars are
gonna go to projects like that. – The interesting thing on
carbon offsets is, they’re, at least I feel, very
confusing to the late person. When I first came to the Nicholas School, it took me a long time to figure out what the heck the carbon offset was. And so what I really loved
about this idea of a carbon farm is okay, it’s a physical farm, you know? I understand peat, I
get all that, and yes, I could see investing in
that sequestered carbon. So, and this maybe comes back to the communication issue, right? If you can communicate
offsets in a very visceral way and in theory, people can go
visit and see what’s going on, that would be very, very interesting. And I think, in fact, the travel industry could have
a huge impact in that area. And so, I’m putting a big
plug in here for Kurt. But it’s an idea that I just love. Yes, please. – I’m thinking about
farmings social change. So, just to twist it a bit, the idea of enabling people that are local to follow a path that
helps their community is a great gift that can be lasting. In the Andes, in the
Sacred Valley near Cusco, there’s a woman named Nilda Callañaupa who received a grant from National Geographic’s
Conservation Trust about 12 years ago and she has grown in a resurgent capacity. There are now 300 weavers
employed in this region in 12 different sites. Tourists visit this central locale, where she talks about local
and traditional customs and you can buy for 200 bucks, a really beautiful runner
that you bring home and tell people about
the Cusco traditions. And she has become a star for our trips, because not only can they go and see a tangible part of this community, but they know by
purchasing their products, they can get their photo
taken with the weavers. I mean, it’s just amazing
that they are giving back and enabling celebration of something that could be strip malled over or maybe was dying because
of a lack of attention. So, that whole idea of farming, if you will, for the benefits, does go beyond, well beyond carbon, but you have to find the key places to put your energies and resources. – Fund it, it’s something that
the travel industry can do better than anybody else, is
bring people there, right? – Right.
– So, that’s very good. We’re gonna move to outside
questions shortly, right? But before we do that, we have one other burning question here at the Nicholas School and it’s how can higher
education help you? How can the students help you? How can the Nicholas School and how can Nicholas faculty help you in achieving some of these goals and overcoming some of these challenges? And maybe we’ll start, John, with you. ‘Cause you’re a big driver behind it. – Well, my desire is that
the biggest voice as possible get behind this industry, if you will. This effort to shift the way people view their role in the world. So, I have a colleague who already has a couple of great projects
for Nicholas master students and I know there are plenty more. And the question is who will be interested and able to start carrying the load
and thinking creatively about the challenge of grappling with a very complicated field of tourism? But if it’s 10% of our international GDP, it’s a big deal and you guys could be
helpful in finding solutions. So, the questions and the
demand, I think, are there and it’s more a matter of getting you all in capacities where you can contribute. Some classes here, a certificate program or
something as a startup and greater connectivity
around the different schools around the topic of travel. Having case studies arise
in the business school or in social policy classes could really contribute to a fabric that would make Duke
the leading institution in solving this challenge in leveraging a really important industry. – Any other thoughts
from the panel on that? – Yeah, in terms of conservation and international development,
travel is essential. I’ll go to brown bags
at World Wildlife Fund and they might talk about
wild life in Mimbia, but then the whole conversation’s
about safari tourism and how that supports the wild life. So, it’s very involved. In terms of careers, we’re
in the careers in travel. I went to grad school and
studied sustainable tourism and I thought I’d work
for the World Bank or USAD and when I got out there,
there was no jobs there. So, I got back into infinity
travel and group travel, but where I’m seeing jobs
now is these hotel chains hiring people to work in sustainability and it’s very exciting. I was just on a Royal
Caribbean cruise with family and they actually have two, they call ’em environmental officers. It’s just people that are
looking after the sustainability and responsibility of the cruise itself. So, there’s a lot of
opportunities in there, but I think everybody needs to understand travel is so ingrained into conservation and international development. – Yeah, I looked back at my degree I did in international development and we didn’t talk about
tourism at all, not even once. And I never thought I would
end up working in tourism because I hadn’t even considered it as a way to empower communities in a way to actually make a sustainable difference. And I talked to some of my colleagues who have studied tourism specifically, not sustainable tourism and they, “You can take your elective
in sustainable tourism.” It’s not a piece that’s weaved
through the conversation, but these jobs exist now. And whether you’re passionate
about the carbon offsets and you wanna learn the skill
of how to calculate that or if your passion is actually the community
development side. The jobs exist. I mean, it’s gonna grow more
and more as tourism is growing and we need to do something. The more that this school, I mean you’re having these conversations so I think you’re in the right place. – Getting excited. – Yeah, the way that you weave
sustainability into tourism or travel into the conversations you’re having about sustainability is just gonna set everyone up for success. And yeah, it’s really exciting actually. Looking into this room. (Rhea laughs)
– Right. – The observations that
I’ve had in Expedia and even some other companies
that I’ve worked with, if you wanna work in the
corporate environment or the business side, a huge gap in opportunity
is really around marketing. The ability to tell stories, it’s a way to supercharge
all your knowledge. If you can package it in a way
that people can understand, we talked about this a
lot on the panel today. So, consumers don’t really
understand what all this means and so being able to take the data and the knowledge and the case studies and really packaging it in a way. I mean, John, you’re an expert
at this in some of the media that you’ve created over the years. This is really a huge lever that you can add to your sorta toolbox, it’s just the ability understand who’s listening to your story and building a story
that’s sorta data-rich. And marketers in general can do this but they don’t have
necessarily the knowledge of the issues or complicated issues that require the
understanding of ecosystems and a range of different
kinds sorta data sources. Being able to tell a good story… Take a marketing class if you can, understand what that process is because that’s really gonna
supercharge what you can do. So that would be the one
that I would highlight, a sort of a layer to put
on top of what you do if you’re that kinda person. Just think about
marketing and storytelling ’cause these are complicated
things to understand and making them really
compelling as far as that. – Yeah, warming my heart. (panelists laughs) When I joined the Nicholas School, we had to prioritize in terms of what we can teach students. And at the very top of my list is teaching a marketing course and we have actually a
marketing course here that is taught by myself and the gentleman who is a communications
expert in the outside world. And I really feel that that piece of it what I like to tell students is marketing is a
multiplier to your career. So whatever you can achieve
with your dominating knowledge, if you can do good marketing, you can multiply that
and you can do better. So, thank you for that plug right there. I think we were going
to go to some questions from the audience and from,
I think you’re also looking– – [Host] Already right here. – You already have some online? So, what I wanna do at
this point is open it up to questions from the
audience, don’t be shy. And you’ve got this amazing
panel in front of you who you’ve got an opportunity
to ask your question to, so please do so. – [Host] Please use the
mic on the table, thanks. – Yes, please, go ahead. – [Audience Member] What
role has airline companies played in this conversation? And what can they be doing better to work with individual companies
or individual consumers? – Airline companies,
I think there’s some– – If you’d just take the mic. – Thank you. I think a lot of pressure on the airlines because they’re front and center on the flight-based GHG emissions. And I think there’s a couple… I may be speaking out of line
but I think Qantas and KLM are taking a leadership role and making offsets more available, so setting the standard
for some of the others, there may be others that I’m not aware of. I think they’re under the most pressure across the source of
supply chain of travel, so I think they’re probably gonna respond. Beyond that, I can’t speak
on the other initiatives that they’re putting forward right now but I think that that does
put pressure on them, yeah. – I have, one of my hats is a board member of Sustainable Travel International and the airlines is one of clients. National Geographic bakes offsets into their private jet
trips which is a good thing. But yeah, I think there’s
a lot more opportunity to have travel that’s
branded in Costa Rica Copa, not Copa, there’s a local, shoot, I can’t remember the name, leader as local organization domestic air, it was offset before anybody basically. But smaller is easier when you start getting into the big players,
it’s peace, you know. – Yeah, I think we actually have someone at World Wildlife Fund
and with our climate team, it just focuses on the aviation industry and I’m fascinated to talk
to him and I ask like, “Is this doing a good job so far?” The technology is not there to
reduce as much as we should, it’s not like we can just buy a fleet of, remove our fleet of gas powered vehicles and replace it with electric. Electric aviation planes
has a long ways to go, I think there was a company out of Pacific Northwest trying to do it. But he had said JetBlue
does a pretty good job of communicating what they’re doing and doing the offsets also. They’re talking a lot
about bio aviation fuel too which is kind of an interesting one because when they grow the product, it sequesters the carbon at the same time. It’s kinda a lot to get my head around but there’s also some issues
with growing crops for fuel, I think they’re talking
about using algae as well. I even said like why
not just tax the fuel? That makes the most,
it right at the source and he just said, “Politically,
you have a long ways to go “before that’s gonna happen
’cause you’re dealing “with several different
countries that have.” But Europe in a way is
leading the way in steps to actually just offsetting
the fuel right at the source and then we could not have
to worry about all of it. – Thank you, we’ve got another
question here from Beth. – [Beth] I just wanted to
add that Delta has partnered with some universities in a first attempt of its kind partnership
to offset carbon emissions by planting trees in
the Raleigh-Durham area and offsetting emissions
for scholars travel. – Great, thank you, yeah, question? A comment?
– Yeah, actually, I run a startup called
Urban Offsets that partnered with Duke and Delta on that exact project. And it was interesting that
the project itself was founded on a Nicholas School of
Environment master’s program but redlining in Durham. And so, we wanted to address
the tree inequality in the town as well as help Delta
Airlines offsets emission. One of the things that I found
interesting during the panel is there’s no discussion this airline what’s called scope overlap, right? Duke University, they’re
counting the emission as well as Delta Airlines. It’s double-dipping, it’s
double-paying into it. So we found this way of
getting both partners, Duke and Delta, to
essentially pay 50%, right? Share the cost and have Delta
Airlines offset Duke’s travel. And we looked at it afterwards and getting data on projects is difficult. So what we were able to find is that there was a 3% increase in
flights on Delta Airlines from Duke University within 90 days after the program was released. But it’s an A equals B sort of situation where data needs to come into it but we saw anecdotally
that there was choices made by Duke University students, who said, “Look, we’ve got
carbon neutral partner, “I’m gonna choose them instead
of one of the other ones.” We saw cannibalization of
numbers from the other airlines. But yeah, it was a really
interesting project, there’s just a lot of ways you can look at financially
sustaining these projects by looking at the overlap between
who’s actually offsetting. – Very well, thank you, thank you. – Just covered comment,
attracting these credits. Now and last years, there’s
been some discussions I’ve been involved with using Bitcoin as a way to uniquely account
for actions of this sort which is energy intensive
and problematic for me from a number of ways. But the whole notion if
you had a cheap device that people could even trade that recognizes these payments or actions. That, to me, would be a very helpful gift because right now people don’t have a way of representing themselves
as having done this good work in a way that might even be transferrable in growing markets. So I find that to be an
interesting area of discourse and I don’t even know if
you folks at the school here are even talking about that
but I’m still a student but hopeful there can be a way to track in a way that’s
faithful and accurate. – Yeah, I actually think that that’s a very rich area
of entrepreneurship. I have worked with a number of students who try to think of
this in different ways. There’s no obvious solution yet
but using kinda the Bitcoin, we argue Bitcoin but
it’s really blockchain– – Right, blockchain–
– So, usually– – Sorry.
– Yeah, it’s okay. ‘Cause sometimes Bitcoin people think, (groans) but blockchain for sure could be used to track these kinds of things and I think that will evolve over time. Especially, I know there’s
studies and projects going on with the business school around that area. – Good. – Oh, we have a question here from the– – [Audience Member] Yeah, I’m
representing people online. So, Karl, you mentioned that
a lot times it’s important that travel not only,
you consider the cost to the value that’s
generated from these trips. So someone online asked,
“What are the different ways “that you can quantify
the value a project adds, “especially if it might
incur a significant cost? “And do you have an example?” And this can go to any of the panelists, it was just that Karl
had initially mentioned the value on it. – So, you’re asking for another example of some of the things we’ve
done with sustainable travel? Is that–
– Exactly, how do you quantify the value of them? – How do you measure? I think the reason why we
talk about carbon offsets is because it’s measurable. We pay it and we say we
have the exact numbers. And so, kind of anticipating
this question like, “Well, how do you measure “how sustainable your travel program is?” Or, if you have targets, “How do you know when
you’ve reached them?” And what I really thought is looking at how much money
is left in the destination. Actually paying attention, not just the country, but
in the local community. And also, it’s a question you should ask. A tour operator should just ask on their evaluation, you know? Was your trip sustainable? Agree or disagree? And I think that’s something that, if you’re consistent with a question, you can measure and
hopefully you would see an increase as well, in how
people respond to that question. You know, I think that… You know, I’m trying to just… Our target market with our
travel program is, nah, probably mid 60s, yeah,
they’re the baby boomers. I feel like, but granted,
they worked so hard and saved and now they said it’s time to travel. And we’ve been, as marketers in travel, have been saying well,
you need to see this, you need to see this
species in Machu Picchu and the Great Wall and they’re going after
those opportunities. I think that the next
generation of travelers, that are retiring, which
might be my generation, which I don’t know what
I am actually, I forget, maybe an X or something, but I think we want different experiences. I don’t think we’re gonna
be as bucket list-focused. I don’t think we’re gonna
want trips that are, yeah, I think that something like all inclusive is gonna turn us off because I wanna use my
phone and an app now to find something that’s
recommended on Yelp or TripAdvisor and have that flexibility and the freedom and give myself more of
an authentic experience. – Any other comments on that? – No. – Okay, I think it’s a tough one. I think one way to look at it is just looking at what’s
going on with overtourism and looking at the density
of travel and travel days and if we can do some time-shifting so that we don’t see so much travel concentrated on a small destination, maybe sort of a travel density per day or something like that. ‘Cause one thing we’re really conscious of is overtourism and I
think it is measurable, so you can try to see
how successful we are in sort of shifting demand
to other similar destinations that aren’t as heavily impacted. And sort of understanding
how well we’re doing that. Also just time-shifting again, sort of density of travel days in these sensitive destinations
would be an area to look at. – I think that’s the best strategy. You know, it’s really… And in terms of the destination, I remember the first time I went to see polar bears in Churchill, probably eight or nine years ago, Churchill Manitoba had one
five-week tourist season. Everybody came to see the bears and people did not embrace tourism. They said nobody cares about
us 11 months of the year. Natural Habitat Adventures
has worked with them to create products with
their amazing Northern Lights and then they have a summer wildlife, mostly beluga season, and as a result, people have almost year-round
income through tourism. And I really feel like
they value tourism more. I mean they actually incentivizes them to protect their natural
and cultural assets because they don’t see it as just this very concentrated
four-week window anymore. So, it’s a very good example
of how spreading people out throughout a year can
really have a large impact. – Speaking to the project, Planeterra has 85 community partners around the world right now. So, there are nonprofits
or real communities that have come together
to create organizations that we have a tourism experience with. So, we do impact surveys
every year with them, so we can know how many
jobs have been created, how many micro enterprises are supported, farmers who are growing the
quinoa that go to the restaurant that the travelers go to. That part we can measure, which is great, so we know how many
thousands of jobs are created and sustained because of a
partnership through tourism. What we can’t measure,
really, unfortunately, is how that affects the bottom
line of the travel company that we integrate these partners into. It may be something to figure out here. (Rhea laughs) For a project. Because it is such a
small part of a big tour, the correlation usually
is hard to really know how that impacts that side. – Great, I thought those
were excellent answers. Especially this idea of
community involvement, time-shifting, very
interesting, thank you. Other questions from the audience? Yes, please. – [Jason] Hi, I’m Jason Elliot, I’m the assistant director for
sustainability here at Duke. And a previous iteration, worked at the Duke Carbon
Offsets Initiative. So, my mind is spinning
with all types of questions, but the one that I picked, we spent most of today focusing on what to do if you do travel, but not why do we not travel. So, how do we limiting in terms of the reduction
of us actually going? The questions we need to ask ourselves. How do you encourage people? Understanding you all work for companies that make money based on people traveling, but how do you reduce
your use to begin with? (panelists laughs) – Open to brainstorm on this one. One thing is to note, try to direct people to do more exploring near where they live. The notion is sort of weekend adventures and really marketing and promoting those. Another idea is to reduce
the frequency of travel. So, rather than taking two one-week trips, take one two-week long trip so that you’re only flying one round-trip. There’s a couple of strategies like that. For Expedia, hotels is
really our bread and butter and flights are less so. So for us, actually, it makes a lot of sense
to promote longer stays. Fewer-longer stays is one
way to kinda shift towards less frequent air travel. To find a lot of other ideas,
not an easy problem though. – Yeah, even World
Wildlife Fund is global, we have network offices
all over the world. And some of the European
offices have taken the position of saying, you know, first don’t travel. And if I lived in Europe and there was so many
things I could see locally, I’d probably do so and they
have much better rail and boat and ship infrastructure than
we do in the United States, so we have a little bit
more of a challenge. I do think it’s great to travel locally but I read something, there’s an acronym called a flight nerd and just by choosing a different way of flying can make a difference. And at the end is newer craft. Newer aircrafts are 30% more efficient. E is obviously fly economy,
R is regular planes. Very small planes and very large planes, like four-engine aircraft
are less sufficient. So, regular means like
regular-sized planes. And then the D is direct. And it’s logical, we do this anyways, but really choose direct
flight versus multi stops because it’s less miles. And then aircrafts use a lot more fuel in actually the landing and the takeoff than their flight, the actual flight. So, you wanna limit the amount of times that it’s taking off. – That’s great, I don’t know, I’m a nerd but I don’t
know if in that way. (audience chuckles) The thing I think about this question has to do with how you
are a local citizen. So, for me, travel is a wedge opportunity to think about how you’re a consumer and what your impact is. So, going around your community and looking for great opportunities
to engage and to learn is something people don’t
think about immediately when they have travel time. They tend to think about going
somewhere on your list maybe, but I think as consumers in travel, if we’re thinking sensitively, you could also be consumers locally and take those same
ethics to your community. In fact, we can now stay inside
our houses most of the time and get everything delivered to us and our food is all shrink wrapped and you don’t even have a
clue where it comes from and you aren’t engaged, maybe
even with your neighbor. And so this ethic of becoming
an empowered consumer and actor on the planet can
be very well applied locally. And I see travel is big, but I think even bigger is
how we’re all global citizens and that starts at home
and can go abroad as well. – Just to rift on that,
an idea that came to mind is we talked about sort of living locally. Just the notion of if you
wanna have a cultural exchange, think about what’s happening with hosting visitors these days. And with Airbnb, you can have sort of a travel experience without leaving your home, right? So we could start to market that cultural exchange is possible by having an Airbnb
operation in your house and so you’re bringing somebody in. That’s also waking up your desire to show them around your city and you’re getting somebody that may speak a foreign language or brings their whole
perspective and point of view from wherever they’re coming
from, into your house. – Great point. – That could be an interesting way to sort of reposition travel
is not only going some place, but receiving a traveler. – Excellent, another idea– – From the entrepreneurs. (laughs) – I have no idea to the
answer to this question, maybe you guys know, would virtual reality eventually
play a role in the future for getting experience? But I guess it’s on TV, but I’ve never experienced
virtual reality. I don’t know how real it is, but I don’t know if that
will be in the future, something people use instead
of getting on a plane. – So, I happen to know
a little bit about this. My son’s a virtual reality
producer, among other things, but I’ve been very close
to some experiences, including Alex Honnold’s
climb free solo of El Cap. And if you go online and you
look at the 360 opportunities, for anybody who’s slightly
fearful of heights, you almost have to jump
away from the computer ’cause you can look up, down and you’re right on that with Alex. I mean, talk about a virtual experience that you probably aren’t
going to get otherwise. It can be very powerful, especially if it’s
well-produced at the same time. And we talked about this yesterday, being face-to-face with
people sharing meals, actually getting to look around you and have full control
and a real experience is, in many way, irreplaceable. So, then it becomes a
matter of pacing and number and what you do with
your time and expenses getting to these locales. But, it can be, for certain circumstances, it can be absolutely other
and even more intense than what you might
really be able to achieve. – Great, great, thank you. I’m very, yes, one more. – [Host] Another online question, do any of the panelists have
experience getting buy-in for sustainability projects after receiving pushback internally on sustainability initiatives that are not obvious revenue drivers? (audience laughs) – Well, I nominate, oh, okay, go ahead. – Well, in 2000, I got to
oversee what was called the Conservation Initiative
at National Geographic and it did have a number
of positive benefits, including establishing new
grant programs and so on, but one of the pushbacks from leadership was that we can’t get
out on this front too far if we don’t our own act in order. And so there was, at that
time, a fear of being exposed. That came up in discussion at least. How can you proselytize if people are gonna point
to your own practices? And I think it is, that’s a very difficult
conundrum that everybody faces. It’s easier now ’cause more people are seeing it as necessary. At the time, almost 20 years ago, it was a little bit out front
and we made some headway and now the organization
is wholly invested, but it was difficult. – Nice comment about pushback. Yeah, I don’t see that we’re
getting a lot of pushback, it’s just more can we get priority? Yeah, I think there’s a willingness to do all sorts of things at Expedia and a clear value on some of it. It’s just, do we have enough data to drive the level of
investment in it that’s needed? I think there’s… We’re starting by getting our
own house in order, you know? And so we offset all of our travel, all of our employee travel. We have commuting programs that incent people to ride
bikes and use the bus. We are doing a range of things internally, that’s through educating
everybody on some of these issues and then going to the next ring outward, looking at our operations
and our suppliers and eventually our consumers. I wouldn’t say there’s
pushback, we just… Things that get acted on are things that have robust business
cases associated with them. So, always gonna be
looking for those numbers. – Any other questions from the audience? – [Audience Member] I can’t
remember what I wanted. – Okay, I have another one online. – [Audience Member] In this year’s mind, tourism companies and
airlines have a strong hand in creating a culture
of sustainable travel. In your opinion, do
airports have a strong hand in creating this same culture? – Well, yeah. Do you wanna–
– Yeah. – Go last, anyone?
– Yeah, I mean. – Cool question. – It’s a really cool question and I think it’s rather than airports, I think it’s more of the public sector. You know, the city’s, the
government’s making policies that often run the airports. I think some airports are privately run and some are run by municipalities. But new airports that are
coming online being built, they really strive to be as
sustainable as they can be. You see the league certification, is in Baltra in Galapagos? They have the first most sustainable airport in the world now. Yeah, and they have
taken all these measures in terms of renewable energy
and recycling programs and building materials in
the way it was constructed. So, absolutely, not just airports, but I think that the public sector has to influence it as well and they can. – I think about authenticity in airports and if you go to Denver, for example, which has gotten remodeled
maybe 10 years ago, the flooring has fossils in it. I don’t know, embedded metal replicas and you go thorough that airport and you feel like you’ve
landed somewhere different. And I hate the notion
of strip malling places and having chains. You want to go to a place
and know you’re somewhere where you can learn,
experience, benefit, celebrate. So, here you’re in Denver
and you get to feel a bit of that community. And more and more, I think airports have
wonderful art displayed, local art is on display. And think of the amount of
time you spend in airports, which, you know, can be oppressive. But with the right thought to representing and giving opportunities to celebrate. You get to this notion of destinations creating a strong sense of place and celebrating their locals. And even that goes to food too and having local diners
and places that are Denver. So, I’m all about more designed thought that goes into that, you
know, authentic celebration. – Great, we probably have
time for one more question. Yes, please? – [Chelsea] Hi, my name is Chelsea. I’m a first year MEN in ecosystem
science and conservation, I’m very interested in
clients communication and sustainability communication. So, some of my classmates in here have heard me ask similar
questions of other speakers, but we especially see in the
millennial and gen Z population the value of experiences over things and that’s really exhibited
in social media influence. And that’s not always done
with a sustainable lens, so I guess my question is,
kind of in your opinion, what has been the net impact
of social media influencers on sustainable travel? – I think that those
influencers have a huge impact on the way people conceive of travel, what they do when they’re there. People get the selfie culture. And there was a study, I think it’s getting a good Instagram shot is the driver for 40%
of millennial travelers. It’s really what’s driving the
story that they’re telling. I don’t know if the sustainability is really leveraging that channel. It’s a really interesting idea. Just anecdotally myself, my daughters, she looks at Instagram. That’s where she’s discovering
some of the stories that are getting her engaged
in plastics, for example. She’s really concerned
about ocean plastics and it’s all coming through that channel. So, I think there probably are. There’s media flowing through there that’s actually influencing people. I could see that there
could be influencers that are really building out
their own influencer brand around sustainable travel. It would be interesting if
they actually go look at them and see who they are and what
kinda stories they’re telling and see how many followers they have. That’d be a really interesting project. And what kind of traction they’re getting. That would be fascinating to understand. I do think that it’s a really powerful, maybe the most powerful marketing channel for travel right now is influencers and social media. – Yeah, G Adventures actually
works with influencers, social media influencers that do have a more
sustainable travel focus. I would not be able to tell
you who they are right now, I’m sure you might know
some of them, even yourself. So, they exist. I don’t know what percent
of the travel influence they have on social media, if
it’s 1% of the conversation, it’s how to travel more responsibly or if it’s getting bigger. I’m not sure about
that, but it does exist. And a few really nice stories where people are creating
educational content as well as just showing how
they are traveling responsibly and it does exist. I hope it can grow because, I mean, that’s how people are making
decisions right now to travel. When you travel, make some stories. (Rhea laughs) – Yeah.
– Yeah. – I guess, I think this year, I had my first experience
with an influencer and he went to Pebble Mine up in Alaska, you’re familiar with
the project, I assume. I’m happy to talk about
it, I’m very opposed to it. But it’s right in the heart
of Katmai National Park and amazing sockeye salmon
runs and grizzly bear viewing. And he did a great job of
really covering the story and talking about how the impact of the moving forward of
this mine would impact these salmon runs and tourism which is a much bigger industry
than the much bigger amount of revenue compared to the mine in itself and it’s eventually built. So my first experience with an influencer has been very positive and the millions of followers that he has, having a story reach them is very important to us in this way. – I have a couple touchpoints, one is the Sustainable
Travel International, it’s created a new group
called Travel Better and you can go online and take a test and become part of the community
and share your experiences. And that’s a growing interest
but from a smaller platform, if you will, with less name recognition. National Geographic reaches
700 million people a month on the other side of the
arena and 100 million is the number they just passed
on the Instagram account. So they’re rivaling some
of the celebrities now and highest in the nonprofit arena. It’s populated by 110, 150
of our best photographers, so the reasons people go
to get National Geographic is because it’s really quality images. And the question is,
“Well, how much can I get “or anybody get National Geographic “to make a travel sustainable type imagery “and commentary through
these very large pipes?” And the magazine now is adopting
a section soon to be seen on travel in replacing
our travel or magazine which has been eclipsed
for want of subscriptions. So within National Geographic magazine, there’s going to be a travel section. And hopefully that along
with the Instagram and others will begin pushing this even harder. and you have a Planet or Plastic? movement that we had with the cover
story in the magazine and follow media on tourist websites has been extremely effective in moving people to
think about these things. So I’m bullish on the
notion that these topics we’re talking about today will get higher and higher traction in trying to move our
leadership National Geographic partners to take this up,
as I said, in a bigger way. Everybody has to do their bid though. And so, even one person
here commenting, “Well,” on a particular topic can be
shared and magnify these issues and I feel it’s always
like a pebble in the waves in the water can make
huge and lasting impacts you sometimes don’t know. But if you aren’t commenting and if you aren’t engaging
your fellow friends and your network, you’re failing on a really
important global arena. – Fantastic, fantastic, thank you so much. I just wanna, maybe one last comment before we thank our
panelists and move on to, I guess, a networking event. As an entrepreneur, I’m always looking for an
actionable path forward. And over the last 24 hours, I start to think about what can this do, what can our students do? And we have efforts here at Duke that cut across the entire university, there’s an energy initiative, there’s an entrepreneurship initiative and maybe it’s time to think about a sustainable travel initiative. And as we think about that, the action path becomes clear, right? How do you build something like
that within the university? Who are the stakeholders who
you have to bring to the table? How do you raise money for it? And who are the people who might be involved
in something like that? How can it be integrated into education? All of things would need to be answered. But those are clear questions
that are all answerable and I’m hoping the panel here will perhaps beyond the great job
you’ve done here today is help us to think this through and to see if something like that is feasible here at the university. But in closing, I really wanna thank you on behalf of all of the
people who put this together, for coming here, spending time with us and really doing a great job, thank you. (audience applauds)

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