I had a travel agent take me to
task last week because we featured this article in the Travelgram: The world’s largest cruise ship and its supersized
pollution problem. The article purports to describe
the amount of pollution generated by mega-cruise ships and comes from a
reasonably credible source. I want to state up-front TRO has no idea of
the accuracy of the article.
But that is not the point.
The editorial mission of TRO’s Travelgram is
to daily inform travel professionals of what their clients are reading. The
article above was picked up by numerous other publications and syndicated
across the internet. No doubt many of your clients read the article. If you as
a travel professional don’t know the article exists you could be blindsided by
the questions posed by clients. The Travelgram is circulated only to travel
professionals and we are not supporting or validating any of the news we pass
along to our readers.
But that is not the point either.
Travel and tourism is certainly one of
the 1st world’s great luxuries. We in the west have the greatest of
opportunity to travel nearly anywhere and sample the world’s offerings. But we
often do so at a price beyond what we pay for an airline ticket.
We think of the earth as incredibly
large and very small, as the most solid entity we can imagine. It is also one
of the most fragile.
During the history of the human race, we
have been pilgrims, wayfarers, explorers and pioneers. Our feet and minds
have carried us far. We migrated out of Africa and spread across the planet in
search of food, fortune and, sometimes, just the horizon. But we did
so in a thinly populated world with what seemed to be limitless resources.
We are now more than 7 billion humans on
the planet. Getting along with the earth, and with each other, will be
increasingly important. Travel and tourism plays an important role in the way
we perceive each other.
Some would argue that travel wastes
resources like vast amounts of fuel, is a privilege of the wealthy and exploits
indigenous people and ecosystems. At times, travel and
tourism does all of these things and perhaps even worse than we realize.
But travel also expands our
understanding of other people and cultures. Travel reminds us of how alike
we are. Travel reminds us of the fragility of the planet and seldom do we
travel that we return unchanged. On balance, TRO falls out on this side of the
argument, so long as travel and tourism seeks to do as little environmental and
cultural damage as possible.
As travel professionals, we cannot
ignore the balance we have to achieve in our business practices.
People can do incredibly bone-headed things as they travel the globe and
some of those people might be our clients. We have responsibilities. Our
activities as business people have global repercussions. Professionals cannot
ignore such issues.
Likewise, our suppliers should account
for the impact of their promotions on the environment. Many suppliers are
actively promoting humanitarian and environmental causes. We learn of those
activities, they will be reported to you as well. When news like the
article in question appears on the front page of a publication like The
Guardian, I believe it incumbent on our suppliers to assist travel
professionals in understanding their corporate position and counter-arguments.
Below is the exchange between the agent
and TRO Support.
I don’t think hiding from the news is an
alternative for people who call themselves professionals. I do believe
professionals are capable of evaluating news and then assisting their clients
in doing the same. That is our job.
Ignoring bad press isn’t an option, not
in the age of constant connectivity when your neighbours are no longer only
right next door.