In today’s world, sustainability has become a primary focus when it comes to consumers and the brands they choose to spend their money on—the travel sector is no exception. Travel and tourism can provide significant benefits for host nations and their local communities that reside in and around tourist destinations when sustainability is brought into play.
In response to this new wave of eco-conscious travelers, many travel brands are now implementing best practices that benefit not only the tourist, but to the environment—enhancing the brand’s reputation along the way. As a result, some travel brands have seen a growing niche industry that embraces and prioritizes sustainability. Brands that use actions will be seen as leaders.
In order to better understand how established travel brands are now making pledges to reduce emissions and offer sustainable packages into the market, I spoke with Andy Chapman, President & CEO of Travel North Tahoe Nevada, and gained some insight on how sustainability is now being perceived as an opportunity to be embraced and not a challenge to be overcome.
Jeff Fromm: What are some of the sustainable best practices today in North Lake Tahoe?
Andy Chapman: North Lake Tahoe’s community is dedicated to environmentally conscious practices and promoting a more resilient and robust community. North Lake Tahoe’s education programs include the Traveler Responsibility Pledge, which outlines 6 tenants that encourage visitors to be cognizant of the way they not only interact with the region, but also how they leave it. By including visitors with our mission, we hope more people are thoughtful about how they can be a better eco-tourist. TART Connect – a free, on-demand shuttle service that offers door-to-door service in three different zones to help you get exactly where you want to go in the region – supports our effort to reduce the number of cars on the road, decreasing carbon emissions and traffic. Our landscape also naturally lends itself to being the perfect destination where folks can experience human-powered sports, like kayaking, hiking, biking and fishing.
Fromm: What will sustainability look like in five years?
Chapman: We really want environmentally conscious practices to be second nature to both our visitors and locals. The more we can educate guests and lead by example, the better shape we’ll be in five years from now. The goal is to not just slow the impacts of travel, but to truly better our region for future generations. Our partners throughout the region are also currently developing the Lake Tahoe Destination Stewardship Plan, which is a coordinated effort to establish the framework to inspire all to take care of the area. The basis of the plan, which is set to be completed by the end of this year, is to balance the needs of the environment, businesses, visitors, and local communities.
Fromm: How does the North Lake Tahoe brand apply innovation to both sustainability and travel/entertainment?
Chapman: Destination stewardship is always evolving. We are constantly thinking about how to reach our visitors with the best sustainability practices, while also making sure they have a wonderful time in North Lake Tahoe. For example, this past 4th of July, Incline Village hosted a drone show for the first time, in lieu of fireworks. It was a successful event and seems to have had a big impact on the shift we are trying to make. Tahoe City and Kings Beach did the same thing over Labor Day weekend. We also offer information about “voluntourism.” We know there’s a growing trend with travelers wanting to do something while on vacation that has a positive impact on the places they visit. Outside of the Traveler Responsibility Pledge, there are opportunities to volunteer time, whether as individuals, families, or groups, with some of our local non-profits so we’re always looking for ways to support those efforts as well.
Fromm: I love the brand actions around July 4th. As you think about what other leading brands can learn from North Lake Tahoe’s example, what guiding principles are most important and how do you continue to adjust?
North Lake Tahoe is a great example of what happens when destinations shift their mindset and sustainability becomes a primary focus. We have actively adjusted the thinking to ensure this is part of our brand and not just something we talk about – we want our actions to always back up the practices we encourage of others. Five years ago, we were a Destination Marketing Organization. Now, we lead with Destination Stewardship – we’re a Destination Management and Marketing Organization. We have the honor of representing one of the most beautiful places in the world and that’s not lost on us. We see great responsibility in that sense of pride.
And while this is a shift in how forward we are now with educating visitors and locals alike, it’s important to note that this isn’t new for us. For almost three decades, we have held annual clean up the lake days and focused efforts, to some capacity, on maintaining the health of our region. Just this past year, we had a scuba diving effort that cleaned up almost 25,000 pounds of trash under the lake’s surface.
We hope the beauty of the area inspires the millions of visitors we see every year to not only learn about our sustainability practices, but to join us in these efforts. Sometimes even the littlest things can have a lasting impact. We’re currently running a campaign called “NLT + Me,” which is a social media challenge asking followers to showcase how they’re doing their part, posting a photo or video of them doing one of the six tenants of the Traveler Responsibility Pledge. It can be as simple as using a disposable water bottle, but small efforts result in a big payoff.