Conde Nast Traveler

Video: Jeffrey Swartz Speaks at the 2009 World Savers Congress

Jeffrey Swartz, CEO of Timberland, spoke at Condé Nast Traveler's World Savers Congress on the connections between being well and doing good: "...commerce and justice are not antithetical notions." Watch the first part of his speech above. Recorded in New York City, Sept. 21, 2009.

For the second part of his speech, read after the jump.

Continue reading "Video: Jeffrey Swartz Speaks at the 2009 World Savers Congress" »


Video: Mandy Moore Speaks at the 2009 World Savers Congress

Mandy Moore, singer-songwriter, actress, and philanthropist, spoke at Condé Nast Traveler's World Savers Congress on her work with the Five & Alive Fund. Recorded in New York City, Sept. 21, 2009.


Video: Wyclef Jean Speaks at the 2009 World Savers Congress

Wyclef Jean, musician and humanitarian, spoke at Condé Nast Traveler's World Savers Congress on his work with the Yéle Haiti Foundation, which supports grass roots educational, sports, arts, and environmental programs in Haiti. Recorded in New York City, Sept. 21, 2009.


Video: Edward Norton Speaks at the 2009 World Savers Congress

Edward Norton, actor and social activist, spoke at Condé Nast Traveler's World Savers Congress on his work with the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. Recorded in New York City, Sept. 21, 2009.

For parts 2 and 3 of his speech, read after the jump.

Continue reading "Video: Edward Norton Speaks at the 2009 World Savers Congress" »


Video: Klara Glowczewska Opens the 2009 World Savers Congress

"We're at the dawn of a new era," said Condé Nast Traveler editor in chief Klara Glowczewska at the opening of the magazine's third annual World Savers Congress. "Business will be transformed, and ultimately in the best possible ways." Watch the first part of her welcome speech above.

For the second part of her speech, read after the jump.

Continue reading "Video: Klara Glowczewska Opens the 2009 World Savers Congress" »


Wyclef Jean on Reducing His Environmental Impact

by Tom Loftus 

Wyclef Jean, musician, social activist, and speaker at today's World Savers Congress, took a moment to talk with senior editor Kate Maxwell about what he does when he travels to reduce his environmental impact.


The Ripple Effect: Travel's Power to Ignite Change

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

Whether they go organic, promote recycling, or facilitate green conferences, travel companies can have an enormous impact on their suppliers--and thus on other communities.

Julie Klein, the Director of Environmental Affairs at Rock Resorts and Vail Resorts, ended up driving the organic food market in Jackson Hole with her Appetitite for Life program. "We went to the distributor and said we wanted better products, compostable containers, et cetera," she said. Then everybody started going organic in the valley.

Reaching the point where you can ignite that kind of change can be difficult, though.

Even a simple decision such as changing from disposable bottles of shampoo to a reusable dispenser can prove to be a monumental project. Brian McGuinness, Senior VP, Specialty Select Brands, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., pointed out all the things a company of Starwood's size has to consider when making such decisions: "We have properties operating in 15 different languages, so you have to think about labels, then you have to change the viscosity of shampoo if it drips or clogs in the dispenser, you must exhaust the products you already have sitting in warehouse, then get new dispensers to hotels, and then the unions are concerned--how does it change housekeeper cleaning time?"

The good thing is, you can profit from sustainability. "At the end of the day, there is a return on investment--you are actually saving money," said McGuiness. "But it does take a while to get to that point. The return might not be in immediate future; we're laying a foundation."

Arnfinn Oines, Responsible Conscience (yes, that is his title), Six Senses Resorts and Spas, agrees: "What you're doing in terms of being responsible can really help your business in terms of profit. Improving your water consumption actually helps your bottom line and, in that sense, your profitability."

So how do these companies get the word out? They educate their consumers: You don't have to compromise to be green.

Frank Rainieri, President and CEO, Grupo Puntacana, said it best: "People have the tendency to follow. There is always one that goes ahead and the rest follows. We need key elements to push it." One of those key elements, he said, is a day like today.


The Local Benefit, Part 2

World Savers

by Beata Santora

Can we create consistent metrics to measure sustainability and local involvement?

Tensie Whelan and Ed Norton say absolutely. Tensie discussed the newly-designed Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria established by the Rainforest Alliance and the U.N. which will be implemented on a systematic scale to create a clear-cut baseline for travel sustainability.

"An easy but not sexy way to create such a metric would be measuring how much waste a company generates. Just go to the landfill and see what's dumped in there," said Simon Cooper of the Ritz-Carlton Hotels, who is incidentally wearing a shirt made of plastic bottles which will be sold in Ritz-Carltons everywhere. "You can all touch it later on if you want," quipped Cooper.


Local Benefit - Reaching and Empowering the Community, Part 1

World Savers

by Beata Santora

Should hotels and travel businesses be involved in local communities? And if they should, what are the most effective means of establishing genuinely sustainable programs? That is the question posed in the last panel of the day at the World Savers Congress.

All of our panelists agreed that without support and employment of the community, you cannot have a sustainable business in the long term. "We preserve the thing that makes the destination attractive to our guests...the community is an intrinsic part of our company," said Luis Bosoms of Grupo Plan. Going even further, Intrepid Travel's CEO Darrell Wade said "protecting the environment isn't just good business, it's our business."

Tensie Whelan, the president of Rainforence Alliance claimed "if you abuse population where you business is located, you won't survive. On the other hand, by engaging locals, it empowers them, improves lives."


Ed Norton Takes on the NYC Marathon for the Maasai

World Savers

by Beata Santora

After showing a slideshow of the Maasai landscape, Norton called for smaller scale, grassroots partnerships between tourism companies and the communities where they conduct business. The Maasai Wilderness Conservation Fund is a prime example of this type of a successful partnership.

On November 1, Norton will join three Maasai warriors to run the New York City Marathon in support of the biodiversity and sustainability of the Maasai region. You can be a part of Norton's team and support the Maasai Marathon.


How Ed Norton Started the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Fund

World Savers

by Beata Santora

There are strong models on how global travel industry can sustain and develop local partnerships, said Norton. One such positive example is from Norton's own life. He first traveled to Kenya 10 years ago to visit family. His experience at Campi Ya Kanzi was eye-opening. It was completely sustainable and provided a singular experience, while investing in local communities.

Norton's involvement led to a 10 year relationship with the organization, leading to the formation of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Fund.


Ed Norton on "Skin-Thin" "Eco-Friendly" Marketing

World Savers

by Beata Santora

Ed Norton has just called on the travel industry to do a lot more to care for their impact on the environments where they do their business. Superficial skin-thin marketing is not enough anymore. Just calling something "green" or "eco-friendly" doesn't cut it.

>For example, the health of the cenotes around Cancún is going to be affected by the tourism industry. And there are many such examples of destinations that are being degraded by the industry that touts it as an asset.


Ed Norton Takes the Stage at the World Savers Congress


by Beata Santora

Bona fide celebrity Edward Norton has just taken the stage. He is on the board of the Maasai Wilderness conservation fund. Why should the travel industry professionals at the World Savers Congress pay attention to Norton? He's the consummate traveler. "I've stayed at all of your hotels," he said and "love your concierges. All of them!"


The Bottom Line: Why Responsible Travel Matters

World Savers

by Kathryn Maier

As panel moderator Dorinda Elliott, Deputy Editor at Conde Nast Traveler, said in her introduction, corporate social responsibility has come a long way since Milton Freeman declared that the social responsibility of a business is to increase profits. These days, it's increasingly vital for competitive success.

The way companies look at corporate social responsibility has evolved from philanthropy to real integration into business practices, according to panelist Kara Hartnett Hurst, Managing Director of Business for Social Responsibility. It's now less about giving away the money you've made, and more about how you made it in the first place. It's also becoming more of a leading factor that consumers are considering when deciding whom to do business with.

Mark Hoplamazian, President and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, echoed this statement when talking about sustainability initiatives that have been implemented at his company's hotels, which have proven to produce cost savings as well. An example he gave was that in Santiago, Chile, a team collected waste stream items that were recyclable and received money for them. The proceeds went to a local charity for burn victims. Similar initiatives have been implemented in Moscow and Mumbai. According to Hoplamazian, it's possible to align economic decisions with CSR initiatives, it just takes ingenuity.

Several panelists have increasingly seen that guests want to actively participate in a company's CSR initiatives. Raymond Bickson, CEO of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, says that some of his lodges in India have adopted schools, and offer excursions where travelers can go and read to the children there.

Abercrombie & Kent started its philanthropic foundation 27 years ago, according to Vice Chairman Jorie Butler Kent, who said that social responsibility is just as important to her company's guests as it was before the economic crisis. Every destination management company has a project running now, in 27 countries. Guests love to visit the projects, she said, to see what the company is doing and become actively involved; A&K has recently introduced philanthropic travel as a separate offering.

In response to an audience question about the willingness of companies to work together to achieve a set of common CSR goals, Elliott gave credit to the companies -- Abercrombie & Kent, Carlson Hotels, Fairmont Hotels, Four Seasons, Hyatt Corporation, InterContinental, Kimpton Hotels, Loews, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Starwood, and Vail Resorts -- who've been working together to set standards for measuring and reducing water consumption. All are competitors, and each company handles these issues differently, Elliott said, but each believed that this issue is important enough to work together on it.

But yet, the average consumer may not know about the CSR initiatives that many travel companies have implemented. Hoplamazian sees this as a missed business opportunity. "Everyone's consciousness has been raised," he said. "Guests now come to our properties aware of and interested and wanting to participate in the inititives."


More from the World Savers Awards Winners

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

More favorite quotes from our World Savers Award winners:

Accor's Hélčne Roques, winner for health initiatives
"We have learned three key lessons from our work: 1) There's no need to wait for national regulation to make conservation mandatory. If we reduce waste, we reduce our own costs. 2) Involve employees in sustainable practices. Offer them a way to contribute and save their planet, and you will see their passion for their communities. 3) Give opportunity to guests to contribute to social programs, you will see how the trend of sustainability will accelerate, becoming more important even in this crisis. Multiply effects of these practices with the participation of guests&It's in our interests and out moral obligation to include the planet in our business plans."

Ritz-Carlton president Simon Cooper, large chain overall winner
"From 1983, our mission statement clearly talked about service to our communities and environment&Three years ago we formalized it on a global basis&.Ten days ago we announced a partnership with Americas Promise to tackle the drop out rate of North America's children from disadvantaged communities&Every single Ritz-Carlton will adopt a school in North America."

Willard Intercontinental Hotel General Manager Hervé Houdré, city hotel overall winner
"Sustainable development isn't just a marketing opportunity&Our properties consume a lot of energy and generate a lot of waste. So it's time to focus not only on bottom line, but also on societal and environmental bottom lines&Economic crisis is not an excuse - in fact it's the perfect time to implement practices because it saves on costs&When you develop a serious sustainable strategy, you gain new clients who want to stay at a place that is in tune with their sensibilities&Our clients have evolved, so it's up to each and every one of us to think every day about how we can help to make our descendants proud of us."

Ecoventura owner Santiago Dunn, cruise line overall winner
"Conservation costs time and money. Some may ask why with profits under fire in this environment, are stepping up with our efforts? We believe that we are only as healthy as the animals and people in our environment&When the world returns to its financial health, there will be two types of companies left: ones that exist for purpose, and others for profit."


A Call to Action from Timberland CEO Jeffrey Swartz

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

In 2006, Timberland introduced an industry-first "nutrition label" with information about its shoes' "ingredients." The company launched a Green index, as well, to measure the environmental impact of its products.

Today, Timberland President and CEO Jeffrey B. Swartz spoke at the World Savers Congress. But not before receiving two great introductions.

One, from editor in chief Klara Glowczerwska, outlined some of his successes: "Under his leadership, the company has grown from $156 million in revenue 1989 to more than $1.4 billion in 2008."

Hip-hop star Wyclef Jean said, "He has a lot of swagger."

And he does. So much so, in fact, that all his great quotes were hard to get down on paper fast enough. Here's the gist:

"I'm sitting back listening to the CEOsyouand you're talking about social justice as part of what you do, he said. "And I'm thinking, Hey, this is a pretty good day here in NYC for a Red Sox fan.'"

But Swartz's biggest question: If the marketplace is involved, how come the socioeconomic gaps are getting bigger?

"You can create in people an aspirationshow them another world they can be transported to, where they can feel good," he told the travel industry leaders in attendance. "Travel liberates peoples' imaginations and gives them a change to soar. You have power. Use it responsibly. Please continue to use the power audaciously."

"The three important letters are to me are not CEO, they're DAD. I have a responsibility to my kids and you do, too."

We can talk about it all day long, said Swartz, but only if we go together can we change things.


Wyclef Jean's Haiti

World Savers

by: Beata Santora

"I'm a rockstar, so it's a little early for me," joked Wyclef Jean as he sauntered up on the World Savers stage just a few moments ago. The early 2 p.m. hour notwithstanding, Wyclef gave an impassioned speech about his work on behalf of his beloved native Haiti. Praising Condé Nast Traveler's recent Haiti coverage, he urged the Congress attendees to shake off any preconceived notions of the island. "Tourism is alive in Haiti--it's just missing is the right tour guide," he said.

Modeling a brand new pair of Timberland boots, Wyclef excitedly announced a partnership with Timberland to donate $2 from the sale of each pair to planting trees in Haiti. Through partnerships like this one, and his foundation Yele Haiti, Wyclef has become a true ambassador for his country.


Mandy Moore's Work with the Global Fund

Mandy Moore on assignment with PSI's Five & Alive FundMandy Moore on assignment with PSI's Five & Alive Fund

by Beata Santora

About this same time last year, during the 2008 World Savers Congress, Ashley Judd left us speechless by showing how PUR water purification sachets can turn even the foulest sludge into clean drinking water. Her remarkable efforts in Rwanda brought PUR to local communities and opened our eyes to the extreme need for organizations like the Conde Nast Traveler's Five & Alive Fund.

This year, another powerful woman took the World Savers stage. Singer/actress Mandy Moore has been tirelessly working with the Global Fund, distributing anti-malarial mosquito nets in an effort to eradicate HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis in the Sudan.

"Being part of the net distribution was the most humbling experience of my life," said Moore.

Moore described an encounter with a mother in the Sudan whose life was forever changed by receiving one of these free nets. After being constantly ill with fever, her children are now malaria-free and their mother has since dedicated herself to promoting the nets to other women in her community.

"The travel and entertainment industries are so powerful, so influential" said Mandy, " they can inspire real change."


The Committed Consumer

World Savers

by Kathryn Maier 

Picture this: You're on a luxury cruise ship about to transit the Suez Canal. An auction onboard the ship is offering the highest bidder the chance to join the ship's captain on the bridge for the canal transit. Now imagine that the money raised from the auction will buy enough oral rehydration salts to save the lives of 33,000 children in a developing country. Talk about a win-win situation!

That was the anecdote told by Wendy Perrin, Condé Nast Traveler's consumer news editor and moderator of the most recent World Savers Congress panel. The ship was a Crystal Cruise ship, and the money went to the Five & Alive Fund, which supports malaria prevention and treatment, nutritional, and safe water programs for children aged five and under. In her panel, Perrin raised the question: As social responsibility becomes more of a focus, companies are finding new ways to engage travelers in their programs. How can they best spread the message?

Her panelists agreed that travelers all seem to care more about corporate social responsibility now than they did in years past. According to a recent study by Carlson Hotels, 76 percent of travelers said that a hotel's degree of environmental friendliness influenced their decision of where to stay. Some are willing to pay a premium to companies with a high CSR involvement; some simply expect that their companies will be good corporate citizens.

"The traveler's expectation is that the company is going to be green," said panelist Richard Edelman, President and CEO of Edelman Public Relations. "Instead of being the eco-cherry on the sundae, it's in the ice cream."

Perrin asked the panelists which corporate social responsibility initiative had worked best for their brands. The responses:

Gregg Michel, President and COO of Crystal Cruises, said that his guests are really excited about the Five & Alive Fund. Crystal holds about four auctions per year such as the one above, all benefiting the Five & Alive Fund. Through that fund, $5 can buy mosquito nets to protect a mother child from malaria for three years, or $25 can buy anti-malarial antibiotics for 100 children.

Carmen Baker, VP of Responsible Business at Carlson Hotels, said the best ways of engaging consumers are easy and non-intimidating, such as a giving tree located near the front desk of her hotels during the holidays.

Niki Leondakis, COO of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, said that her company's involvement with Dress for Success is a hit with guests and employees alike. Her hotels hold fundraisers and clothing drives, and have started hiring women who have gone through the program.

Bruce Poon Tip, Founder and CEO of Gap Adventures, said that his company's dollar-a-day program, in which travelers are asked to give one dollar per day of travel, which will go toward a community program, has gotten a big response.

The strongest guest response, according to Tip, came for projects with specific aims, a beginning and an end, where guests know their money is going toward that specific project.

After the tsunami, Gap Adventures identified a specific fishing village that got washed away, and raised funds that went toward buying new boats and fishing nets for the villagers.

So how best to inform travelers of these initiatives? All agreed that new social media--such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs--is key.

Edelman advised that companies participate in all of these, wherever conversations are happening. "The conversation is happening with you or without you," he said. "You may as well participate and add to it."


Words from the World Savers Awards Winners

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

Some favorite quotes we jotted down from our World Savers Award winners:

Frank Rainieri, CEO, Grupo Puntacana, winner for educational programs
("Forty years ago, when we began Puntacana, responsible tourism was basically unheard of. Unconsciously, and based solely on what we found to be right, we implemented responsible tourism practices."

Marilu Hernandez, co-owner of the Haciendas, winner for poverty alleviation(
"Tourism is a way out of poverty--if you do it right. It's a serious investment and commitment for the future of a community."

Gap Adventures CEO Bruce Poon Tip, tour operator overall winner(
"It's easy for Gap Adventures to do good because it's in the fabric of our business model. The real pioneers are the larger companies...Condé Nast Traveler has been very brave to walk the fine line of luxury and responsibility, especially in the past three years."

Niki Leondakis, COO of Kimpton Hotels, winner for environmental/cultural preservation
Years ago, Kimpton decided to replace traditional cleaning products with non-toxic cleaners. Once they finally found a supplier, though, the housekeepers refused to use it.

"They didn't like it because it didn't foam and they didn't think it was effectively cleaning the rooms. We created an 'eco road show' around the country hosting training sessions in multiple languages on the value of using non-toxic cleaners. We got their buy in when the ladies stopped having rashes and other skin conditions."


Ken Burns and the National Parks

World Savers

by Beata Loyfman-Santora

We have just watched an exclusive sneak preview of Ken Burns' latest project, National Parks: America''s Best Idea. The film veteran spent the past six years working on this powerful 12-hour film about the history and development of the U.S. National Parks, an incredible 84 million vast acres of what Burns calls "nature's sublime wonderlands."

Burns' film highlights the amazing achievement of the National Parks as the first time in all of human history when land was set aside "not for the nobles or the rich, but for everyone." It's the "the Declaration of Independence applied to the landscape."

As Burns told the audience at the World Savers Congress, the project began as a historical account, but soon evolved into what he described as "the kind of things today's World Savers Award winners are all about--personal transformative experiences."

After seeing the first minutes of this film, there's no doubt that we'll all be tuning in to its September 27 debut on PBS.


2009 World Savers Awards

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

At this portion of the World Savers Congress, Condé Nast Traveler honors the airlines, cruise lines, city hotels, resorts, hotel chains, and tour operators that are dedicated to saving their communities and our world. (Hooray!) Click on the category links to find out more about what these companies are doing to give back.

Educational programs
Winner: Puntacana Resort & Club, Dominican Republic, large resort
Runner-up: Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, 74 hotels in 24 countries, large hotel chain

Poverty alleviation
Winner: The Haciendas, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, small chain
Runner-up: Gap Adventures, global, tour operator

Wildlife conservation
Winner: Bushmans Kloof, South Africa, small resort
Runner-up: Micato Safaris, Africa and India, tour operator

Environmental/cultural preservation
Co-winner: Kimpton, 48 hotels in 22 North American cities, large chain
Co-winner: Air New Zealand, airline

Health initiatives
Winner: Accor, More than 4,000 hotels around the world, large chain
Runner-up: Hotel Grano de Oro, San José, Costa Rica, city hotel

Being a jack of all trades is a good thing, too. Read about those who are doing it all. And how, exactly, are these awards judged? Read the methodology to find out.


The Economics of Doing Good

Ts_inner_doinggood_090921Panelist Blake Mycoskie, CEO of TOMS Shoes

by Kathryn Maier

In the keynote panel of the 2009 World Savers Congress, moderator Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times posed a question to the panelists: How is the current economic climate affecting businesses' commitment to social responsibility?

The consensus of the panelists was that a commitment to corporate social responsibility makes good business sense --reflected both in profits and in consumer and employee loyalty. 

Goldman Sachs had committed $100 million over five years to its 10,000 Women program, which provides basic business-management education to underserved women, immediately before the economic downturn.  Not only has the firm sustained its commitment, it is also looking at how the commitment can be expanded, according to Dina Powell, Global Head of Corporate Engagement at the firm.  

People want to work for institutions that really are making an impact, she said.

The program has shown results, such as a 44 percent increase in sales among the program's first graduates in Rwanda.

Rachel Webber, Director of Energy Initiatives at News Corporation, agrees with Powell that the ability to show and communicate results is crucial.  Her company's efforts are geared most to minimizing its carbon output.  To say each DVD her company produces generates 1.12 pounds of CO2 may not mean much to a CFO, she said, but these facts can often be translated into dollars, and a case to reduce carbon output can be made that way.  Results can also be seen through consumer support -- for instance, the day that The Sun newspaper gave away an energy-efficient lightbulb with each issue, she said, the paper saw a 400,000 bump in circulation. 

Blake Mycoskie, CEO of TOMS Shoes, has seen a similar response from his customers.  For each pair of TOMS Shoes purchased, his company gives away a pair to someone in need.  His business has seen double-digit growth even in the past year, which he attributes to the philanthropic aspect of his business. 

People are buying less, but are focusing their purchases on things they can emotionally connect to, and that has played in our favor, he said. 

A common challenge that all panelists faced was figuring out the right targets--whether choosing the particular communities as recipients of their philanthropic efforts, or determining a set of sustainability goals for each specific department within the company; all admitted to having had to adjust their targets as they refined their CSR initiatives.  Even so, all agreed that even in this challenging economic environment, their companies would be furthering their commitment to corporate social responsibility.


Welcome to the 2009 World Savers Congress

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

"We're at the dawn of a new era," said Condé Nast Traveler's Klara Glowczewska at the opening of the magazine's third annual World Savers Congress. "Business will be transformed, and ultimately in the best possible ways."

There's proof of that in the stats Glowczewska shared with the audience: 75 percent of Condé Nast Traveler readers say that they are influenced by hotels' sustainability practices when booking, and 50 percent would pay slightly higher rates to help local impoverished areas.

"In this economy, people are thinking about larger issues," she said, highlighting the upside of our current economic state. "We're all aware of our interconnectedness."

Today's Congress is all about facilitating conversations that will hopefully inform and inspire those in attendance--and those reading about the event--to move towards sustainable and profitable business. Over the past few months, the magazine has been hosting brown bag lunches with Abercrombie & Kent, Carlson Hotels, Fairmont Hotels, Four Seasons, Hyatt Corp., InterContinental, Kimpton Hotels, Loews, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Starwood, and Vail Resorts, to come together and develop a standard way of measuring water consumption.

"You have enormous power," said Glowczewska this morning, "The services you provide enable people to see the world with their own eyes. There is nothing more important for making us aware." Stay turned to learn more from travel industry leaders as they discuss how to harness that power.


Drinking Accor's Kool-AID

World Savers

by Dinda Elliott

I'm going to sound like I've drunk the Kool-Aid, or worse, that I'm on somebody's payroll, but I swear to you, Accor, whose Sofitel and Novotel hotels cater to business travelers, really gets the idea of sustainable development. This year, Accor won a Condé Nast Traveler World Savers AwardCondé Nast Traveler World Savers Award, which will be presented at the World Savers Congress World Savers Congress on September 21.

The company monitors and conserves water and energy consumption (setting transparent targets for reduction), but it won the award for the amazing work it is doing in fighting AIDS at its 4000 properties around the world. Accor's CEO, Gilles Pelisson, is a crusader for the idea that hotel companies can-and should-do good. I had a chat in New York's chic Novotel with Pelisson a few days ago, overlooking Times Square. The CEO, who lost some friends to AIDS, got emotional discussing what he sees as the hotel industry's responsibility to fight the plague. Accor has persuaded its employees to be tested for HIV/AIDS, a special challenge in Africa where Accor has 111 properties and AIDS still carries a crippling stigma. "If I admit that I am part of the problem, then I believe others will follow," Pelisson said. "I like to see us as doctors for businesspeople. We pamper them, then send them out into the world. But I can also see a dark side, prostitution and ugly things that can happen in hotels, and this is our responsibility. It's not easy to speak about it. But we must." Accor has provided AIDS training to all its employees and hangs anti—child sex trafficking posters prominently in its lobbies.

Pelisson is one of those rare CEOs who sees a larger mission in what he does. "I believe in solidarity at all levels of society," Pelisson told me. "Whether we are in Paris, North America or Africa, we are part of a community. Our hotels are part of people's lives. We must look at what good we are doing, wherever we operate. Through the families of our employees, through our suppliers, we have links and relationships. Whether we want it or not, we are responsible. If we don't care for the environment, and about social issues, then we are not doing our jobs."

Wouldn't it be great if every hotel company approached the world that way?


Further reading:
* Video: Mandy Moore introduces the World Savers Congress
* How can YOU help save the world when you travel? (Perrin Post)
* The program for Monday's World Savers Congress


About this blog
The editors at Conde Nast Traveler answer questions and share travel secrets, tips, and dispatches

Twitter: CNTraveler
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