Travel Tips: Sustainability Lessons from Brownell Academy 2021

Apr 4, 2022 | Travel Tips

We have been thinking back to Brownell Academy 2021; a time spent meeting with our amazing colleagues, suppliers, partner properties and friends. While the event allowed us all to connect in person for the first time in far too long, we also got the chance to learn current trends in the industry while enjoying a little bit of Texas. Sustainability was at the forefront of this year’s event. Coming away from the conference, we learned more about how sustainability is shaping the travel landscape and becoming one of the biggest travel trends. We heard highlights from a few partners that are doing some pretty cool things in their sustainability efforts. Spoiler alert – sustainability isn’t just compostable toilets! 

About a decade ago, sustainability equated to “ecotourism”. An African Safari, trip to Costa Rica and other places where you are immersed in nature. However, presently there has been a shift to not only looking at protecting the environment but also the natural and cultural heritage while ensuring economic benefits to local communities. These are the three criteria that the United Nations use when thinking about sustainability practices – the economic, social and environmental impacts. These ideas have been adopted by Virtuoso (our network of luxury travel agencies) in theory and in practice. Today, success is measured by changes on the ground, from eliminating plastics to utilizing renewable energy sources to empowering and providing opportunities for locals as business owners themselves.

As a travel advisor, we feel strongly about our role in making tourism sustainable for the future. While some clients may ask for sustainable options, some may not even know where to start; this is where we can add value to these efforts. Our goals as an advisor is to 1) feature partners and suppliers who also champion sustainability; 2) be educated on sustainable tourism and success stories from our partners; and 3) encourage clients to consider sustainability when making travel decisions.

A few highlights from our partners that truly bring sustainability to the forefront of what they do… 

Aqua Expeditions. The cruise line has turned its focus towards sustainability with its committed effort to improve its environment and make a socio-economic impact for good. They have focused on community engagement, hiring local staff and donating financially to the communities they visit. Conservation efforts focus on rivers and oceans through education of staff and guests, along with repopulation programs of threatened species such as the taricaya turtles in the Amazon and The Manta Project in Indonesia. They also have sustainable operations including LED lights, zero chemical use onboard and an innovative waste management system. 

Vermejo. This property has been a finalist for the Virtuoso Best of the Best Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award. Having visited Vermejo, this doesn’t come as a surprise. The property’s core purpose is to sustainably manage its diverse ecosystem while sharing its beautiful land through immersive experiences and outstanding hospitality with guests. The reserve uses innovations in green operations while supporting local communities and economies. Perhaps their biggest success story is the ambitious project that rescued the Rio Grande cutthroat trout from the brink of endangerment. 

MGM Grand. Las Vegas is not an obvious first thought when you think of sustainability but MGM Grand has truly embraced humanity and protecting the planet. They start with sustainable design and construction by choosing environmentally friendly materials and technologies. ARIA is one of the world’s largest LEED Gold-certified buildings in the world making significant steps to being more energy efficient, water efficient and generating significantly less waste. They have an impressive behind-the-scenes materials diversion program, including circular water management and an incredible food waste program donating it to people in need, sending it to farms to become feed for animals and the oil to become biofuel. The company also commissioned a mega solar array to offset its carbon emissions.

One & Only Resorts. Particularly Reethi Rah, Palmilla and Wolgan Valley have sustainability as a top priority. The resort teams recognize that their existence can inherently harm the environment and therefore strive to minimize their environmental footprint by actively implementing plans to reduce energy and water use and manage waste. This has included efforts to protect coral, rehabilitate wildlife, champion sustainable water bottle charity projects and recycling programs.

To learn more, check out Virtuoso’s Sustainable Travel Stories. Sustainable tourism is possible. We believe that we all want this world to be enjoyed by future generations. Want to travel more sustainably? Wondering how you can take steps to make your next trip sustainable? Reach out to Walks Around The World – we would love to chat!

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