Archive for February, 2009

Celebrating Kathy Moyer Dragon

Written by admin on February 25th, 2009. Posted in Uncategorized

Kathy Dragon

Kathy Dragon

This post is a birthday present to my friend Kathy Moyer Dragon. Kathy’s soaking in the amazing sights, sounds and flavors of Jordan as I type this. Kathy is one of my earliest friends and inspirations in adventure travel.
After 10 years in the adventure travel biz, Kathy launched The Dragon’s Path, offering small group cultural walking vacations. The Dragon’s Path is Kathy’s response to those active travelers who desired more interaction with local cultures. So that’s what Kathy and her longtime friend Maura Murphy do, escort others on unique itineraries around the world.
They research the trips, meet the locals and find the best ways to immerse their clients in the destinations they visit. A key point of distinction is that Kathy and Maura consider themselves “escorts” rather than “guides” and in so doing facilitate their clients’ immersion in the culture of a destination. You could say Kathy was actively promoting the principles of geotourism before National Geographic’s Jonathan Tourtellot coined the term.
This year, Dragon’s Path will has fixed date departures for small groups to Croatia, Peru and Turkey as well as always being open to custom trips.
Kathy lives her belief that travel has the ability to effect positive change in the world and client by client she does just that.
Happy Birthday Kathy!

Tourism Queensland’s PR Gambit

Written by leehart on February 23rd, 2009. Posted in Biz Buzz, Geotourism

Measured by traditional standards of return on investment, Tourism Queensland’s Best Job in the World campaign may also turn out to be a case study for future textbooks on marketing in the Web 2.0 era.

The campaign certainly has made lemonade out of the lemons produced as a result of the global economic meltdown that has cost millions of jobs and slowed spending on everything including travel abroad. Despite this reality, or because of it, some 34,000 people from 200 countries around the globe responded to Tourism Queensland’s call for online video applications to be hired as caretaker for one of the islands in the Great Barrier Reef. Some applicants sourced their own media coverage of their application and established websites and blogs dedicated to promoting their application.

According to a Tourism Queensland spokesperson, the $1.8 million campaign has already returned $80 million in publicity and generated more than 2.3 million visits to the campaign website IslandReefJob.com

In creating the campaign, it would seem the creative minds at Cummins Nitro got their hands on an advance copy of David Meerman Scott’s “World Wide Rave” and created the perfect vehicle (a global search for a tantalizing job) to achieve three key hallmarks of a World Wide Rave: when global communities eagerly link to your stuff on the Web; when online buzz drives buyers to your virtual doorstep; and when tons of fans visit your Web site because they genuinely want to be there.

Seems as though the big challenge now is in choosing the caretaker. It seems obvious that one of the imperatives of unleashing a World Wide Rave is accepting the consequences, intentional or unintended, that go along with it. In this case, it seems as though there is a potential for some negative backlash if the members of this particular World Wide Rave sense any hint of marketing mischief in the selection of the lucky caretaker. As Brian Solis recently opined at UGCX, “consumers will smell what’s authentic or not.” And there are already plenty of examples of swift Web 2.0-enabled retribution when consumers think they’ve been wronged or duped.

It will be interesting and instructional to follow this campaign through to its conclusion. And “good on ya” to my mates who’ve entered.

Friends of geotourism: Martha Honey

Written by leehart on February 20th, 2009. Posted in Geotourism

An ecotourism hero I’m proud to have crossed paths with is Martha Honey. Martha started her professional life as an investigative journalist based in Central America and East Africa. As a freelance journalist, Honey reported for such esteemed clients as The Times of London, The Nation, ABC TV and National Public Radio.
Along with her husband Tony Avirgan, Honey had a ground floor, up-close window on some of the most volatile but little understood wars of those regions. She chronicled the CIA’s War in Costa Rica including eyewitness accounts of a botched assassination attempt. Her experiences in Africa led to the essay “Racism, Exploitation and Neglect: Bush and Africa,” which was included in the book “Power Trip: US Unilateralism and Global Strategy After September 11.” She and Avirgan also published a book “War in Uganda: The legacy of Idi Amin.”
Advocacy and investigate journalism seem to go hand in and the travel industry should count its lucky stars that Martha decided to take up the banner of ecotourism. I met Martha just shortly after she had become executive director of The International Ecotourism Society.
During her tenure from 2003 through 2006, TIES took many noteworthy steps including the following:
• Moved its offices to Washington DC
• Conducted the first worldwide study on the social and environmental footprint of nature-based lodges
• Supported relief efforts and advocated for sustainable tourism in Indian Ocean countries devastated by tsunami
• Sponsored the first conference on Ecotourism in the US
• Launched distance learning courses and Sustainable Tourism Certification with George Washington University.
Martha left TIES to form her own ecotourism-focused non-profit called the Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development.
In conjunction with Stanford University and the Institute for Policy Studies, the mission of the non-profit CESD is to design, monitor, evaluate, and improve ecotourism and sustainable tourism practices and principles. Its policy-oriented research focuses on ecotourism as a tool for poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation, as well as socially and environmentally responsible tourism practices.
Martha has written and lectured widely on ecotourism, Travelers’ Philanthropy, and certification issues. Her best-known book is the seminal “Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise?” recently updated and re-released by Island Press.

Friends of geotourism: Ron Mader

Written by admin on February 12th, 2009. Posted in Geotourism

Ron Mader

Ron Mader

You can’t go to any tourism conference, especially ecotourism conference in Mexico – or, for that matter, anywhere else in the world where they’re talking about ecotourism, without bumping into Ron Mader.
Ron’s been promoting ecotourism since at least 1994 when he started his website Planeta.com
Ron’s spoken at innumerable conferences, hosts online e-conferences and hosts an award for indigenous tourism websites.
Ron’s latest website contest can be found here http://planeta.wikispaces.com/itbw
Anyone can vote for their favorite nominee for this year’s Indigenous Tourism and Biodiversity Website Award. The winning website gets little more than bragging rights but thanks to the competition, more folks will know about 15 indigenous tour operators and destinations than they might not have otherwise discovered.
I can’t remember if I met Ron in Mexico or Venezuela or both. As I alluded to above, he’s ubiquitous. The great thing about Ron is his consistency and unwavering passion for promoting ecotourism.
Author or co-author of travel guides for Mexico and Honduras as well as well as a guide to traveling, studying and living overseas, Ron’s website says he’s currently editing a seminal essay titled “Toward Effective Communication in Responsible Travel and Ecotourism.”
I look forward to crossing paths again with Ron in some sweet little village in Mexico. Until that day, I’ll have to settle for following him on Twitter, @RonMader.

Courage of convictions

Written by leehart on February 3rd, 2009. Posted in Uncategorized

I had the distinct pleasure of introducing Tim DeChristopher to the outdoor industry at the recent Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade show. DeChristopher is the young man who single-handedly thwarted a BLM oil and gas lease on lands adjacent to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

What drew me to Tim’s story initially was his courage, quick-thinking and willingness to put his own freedom on the line to protect some of Utah’s most scenic wildlands from what appeared to be an improper federal oil and gas lease auction. In introducing him to leaders in the outdoor industry, some of them with activist histories of their own, I was impressed with this 27-year-old colleges student’s poise, intelligence and dedication.

Tim DeChristopher schooled the Bushies

Tim DeChristopher schooled the Bushies

Tim made me think about what it means to have the courage of your convictions. In the days since the OR show, I’ve come to realize that I too have the courage of my convictions. while Tim’s rallying cry is climate change, mine is geotourism. I firmly believe that the principles of geotourism provide the only sane foundation upon which the tourism industry can continue. Contrasted with mass commercial tourism, geotourism focuses on preserving and protecting the very essence of destinations and the natural resources and cultures that define them.

As technological advances shrink the world and make travel to foreign lands and people more accessible it is important to use a tourism model that preserves the unique attributes of a destination. A healthy climate that supports a diversity of plant and animal life is as important to future generations as preserving the unique cultures of the world. How boring the world would be if it were all homogenized. How tragic if we lost not just the unique landscapes of the world but if the undisciplined pursuit of tourism dollars would cause us to lose the myths, stories, crafts, food, music and lifestyle traditions of a place.

On a related note, I find it alarming that UNESCO estimates the rate of language extinction has now reached the unprecedented worldwide level of 10 every year. Some people predict that 50 to 90 per cent of today’s 6,000 spoken languages will disappear during this century. As each language dies, a chapter of human history closes.

Back to my main point . . . though not nearly as severely consequential as what Tim did, last fall I resigned a good-paying contract over the client’s inability to embrace the wisdom of geotourism. As a result, I – and a few of my  like-minded friends – are launching a grass roots, market driven geotourism initiative. Geotourism may be too far out front for some to grasp and in dismal economic times may even seem like a counterintuitive approach. I am convinced geotourism offers the the very best course for the future of a sustainable tourism industry but even more so, for the future the world’s unique places close to home and all around this beautifully diverse globe.