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WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Condé Nast Traveler and Corporate Social Responsibility

World Savers

by Dinda Elliott

We haven't told you about this yet, because we wanted to do some work quietly first. But a week before we host our third Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Congress, it's time to share some news about the progress we've made related to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the travel industry over the past year. Our conference, scheduled for Sep. 21 at New York's Morgan Library, will convene some 250 travel industry CEOs and leaders from the nonprofit world to discuss what more can by done by the travel industry--particularly during challenging economic times--to improve the planet. We will also present the World Savers Awards to this year's winners, which were announced in the September issue.

We're excited and proud to report that over the past year, in addition to covering such environmental and social issues as global warming in Greenland, development challenges in Grenada, and trips that give back   throughout the year, Condé Nast Traveler has hosted a series of brown-bag lunches around our conference table and telephone meetings with a group of leading U.S. hotel companies to discuss CSR, learn more about the challenges they face, and set some goals. Our editors realized that we not only have a platform to speak with our readers through our magazine, but also that we can play a role in helping an important industry conversation.

To their immense credit, Abercrombie & Kent, Carlson Hotels, Fairmont Hotels, Four Seasons, Hyatt Corp., InterContinental, Kimpton Hotels, Loews, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Starwood, and Vail Resorts all took the trouble to join the meetings, sometimes flying across the country--even from London in the case of InterContinental--to do so.

We applaud these companies' commitment to promoting socially responsible practices and, especially, their willingness to work together to solve some very challenging problems. I can tell you from personal experience that these companies' CSR officers are an amazing group of people, passionate and dedicated, and they are pushing relentlessly to expand environmental and social programs, even in the face of a very tough economy.

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

Video, WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Mandy Moore Introduces the World Savers Congress

On Monday, September 21, Condé Nast Traveler will host its third annual World Savers Congress. It will be a day of conversation about how we all can limit environmental impact as well as a celebration of the travel industry leaders who are making a difference in the areas of poverty alleviation, health, education, wildlife conservation, and environmental or cultural preservation. (And some who are doing it all).

Special guests will include Ken Burns, Wyclef Jean, Timberland president and CEO Jeffrey Swartz, and Mandy Moore, above, who is an ambassador of the Five & Alive Fund. Watch the video for more on the event. Then, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. eastern time next Monday, you can follow live coverage of the World Savers Congress both on Twitter and on a brand-new Condé Nast Traveler blog. We'll be back later this week to tell you where.

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Middle East: Development Through Travel

World Savers

by Beata Loyfman

The Middle East is a frequent news headline these days. Unfortunately, much of the press has not been positive. How do we juxtapose the region's enormous growth in the travel sector with its often negative reputation? Middle Eastern hospitality experts tackled this issue in the last panel of the World Savers Congress

A few facts to get you started:
* Abu Dhabi is building the world's first carbon-neutral, zero-emissions city, known as Masdar. The city will be fully functional by the end of 2009.

* Qatar has budgeted $100 billion (that's right, billion) toward new infrastructure over the next six years.

* Egypt was the world's first producer of beer and wine (sorry, Europe).

* More than 50 percent of visitors to the Middle East come from outside the region, with the greatest majority hailing from the United States.

The consensus among the panelists was that we are far more similar than we are different. And despite cultural differences, travel is the one force that connects us. As Mounir Neamatalla of Environmental Quality International said, "The natural tendency of humans is to include, to relate. We are a social animal."

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

China: Expansion and Accountability

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

China today is a country that embodies raw capitalism; nowhere in the world is the travel industry growing faster. At our second World Savers Congress discussion session, Condé Nast Traveler Deputy Editor Dorinda Elliott asked panelists where they think corporate social responsibility lies for the travel industry. Below, some of their thoughts:

* Orvile Schell, Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society, tied the obvious problems China faces--"Any tourist who goes to China will see the manifestation of its growth and development, namely the pollution that you can see, smell"--with an international perspective. In his opinion, the United States needs to find a way to engage with China, one polluter to another: "Unless we both get in the game by way of solutions to climate change, there is no game."

* Barbara Finamore, a Beijing-based director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's China Program, has seen growth in the Chinese government's understanding of and concern over environmental issues there. China's state council just enacted a new set of development regulations that apply to all non-residential buildings in China and will have serious implications for the hotel industry. "I do see change," she says. "It has to go faster." Read about the China Clean Energy Project here.

* Albert Ng, the CEO of Wild China, said that most Chinese tour operators believe in the idea of sustainable travel, but they don't know how to do it--they need proper training. "Ultimately, it really depends on the people living in the tourist area: They need education, and that takes time." His company is going to local NGOs to figure out how to best give travelers an educational experience and take them off the beaten path--in a responsible way. 

* Partnership was the name of the game: Panelists said there is tremendous potential for partnership between the private sector, NGOs, and the government--and between the U.S. and China. "We can talk about how hopeful we are, but the place is like a house on fire. The real question is how do you modulate and moderate growth so that they can continue to grow," said Schell. "There will be no answer unless there is some kind of collaboration. Together, we might actually lick the planet clean."

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Women of the World: Queen Rania

Queen Rania of Jordan

by Beata Loyfman

The energy level of the World Savers Congress has just jumped ten-fold. Why? Because we are in the presence of royalty. Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (what I would do for a title like that!) has just taken the stage to announce plans to develop nine new wildlife parks and sanctuaries throughout Jordan. "We want to transform Jordan from a place to visit, to a place to experience," said the queen.

World Savers

Together with her husband, King Abdullah II, the queen has dedicated herself to improving the lives of her people and dispelling stereotypes of the Arab world. With messages of understanding and communication on her You Tube channel, the queen is personally undoing years of tension between east and west.

Her Majesty invited everyone to visit her beautiful country, touting the hospitality and good will of her people. She quoted a famous Bedouin mantra: Every guest is a guest of God. She asked the travel community to "help me rebrand the place I call home." We're looking forward to it!

Further reading:
* 2008 World Savers Awards
* Make a Difference: Your online guide to responsible travel
* A Conversation with Queen Rania
* A Conversation with King Abdullah II

 

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Women of the World: Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd
World Savers

by Beata Loyfman

Actress and activist Ashley Judd, the spokesperson for Population Services International (PSI), has just announced that Crystal Cruises, Beam Global Wine & Spirits, and The Inn at Blackberry Farm will become the founding partners with the Condé Nast Traveler's Five & Alive Fund.

These companies have pledged to work toward increasing Five & Alive's programs throughout the world to benefit its youngest inhabitants.

After hearing of Ashley Judd's experiences in Rwanda and seeing her live demonstration of the amazing effects of PUR water-purifying sachets right on the World Savers stage, we were all inspired to contribute to this organization. To think that one tiny sachet of PUR can make enough safe drinking water (even out of the foulest river sludge) for a family of six is amazing. Try it for yourself here. And even more incredible: PUR costs mere pennies to produce. Not a dry eye was left in the room by the time Ashley took a sip.

Further reading:
* Read Judd's PSI travel journal to Rwanda and the Congo

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Technology: How Green Can You Be?

World Savers

by Julia Bainbridge

Every travel company wants to reduce energy consumption. But does sustainability go beyond conservation? This morning at the World Savers Congress, Condé Nast Traveler Consumer News Editor Kevin Doyle moderated a panel of travel industry professionals, asking, among other things, how they determine which expensive new technologies to adopt.

The word of the morning was "future proofing," which panelist William McDonough, architect and author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, said "grows out of anticipatory design science." He said we're getting to the tipping point where technologies like solar power are becoming commonplace--which means they'll be more cost-effective and hotels will start using them heavily.

McDonough stressed vocabulary in another way: "If I ask you how your relationship with your wife is and you say 'sustainable,' I'd say 'I'm sorry.' Instead of 'sustainability,' we talk about a 'sustaining' thing. We use 'eco-effective' instead of 'eco-efficient.'" Being less bad isn't being good, he said, being good is good. "This whole thing has to be characterized as the intelligent business doing the effective thing--the right thing."

An example of something that's eco-effective? The golf course at Four Seasons Papagayo in Costa Rica is seeded with a species of grass that lives off of sea water. Other courses use gray water, as well, according to John MacKinnon, senior vice president of the company.

Several Four Seasons properties are also giving guests the option to not have their linens washed in the evening. This garnered a response from McDonough, who said if we find a green way to wash towels, washing them can, in and of itself, be efficient. "Solar water heating is very cost effective. If the water is solar heated and you're providing jobs for people by washing towels, that is something to be celebrated."

He closed with a positive thought: "A twist should be brought to the sustainable movement: It can be delightful. You don't have to go without."

But perhaps one of the more powerful closing statements came from CEO and Chief Design Officer of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels Dennis Quaintance: "We are empowered. We can affect the market with our proactivism--we respond to what you want. Capitalists always respond to market demands. Demand it."

Check back here for more news from the World Savers Congress.

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Socially Responsible Travel

World Savers

by Beata Loyfman

The first panel of the World Savers Congress has just concluded and we've had some fascinating insights from leaders in the area of social responsibility in travel.

The initiatives of Sandals International and its CEO Adam Stewart were particularly impressive.

Check out some of the programs at his resorts:

* Sandals currently contributes $10 million to communities annually. A new foundation will bring the total annual contribution to $30 million to help the environment, education, wildlife conservation, and other causes.

* Thousand Smiles: This program brings North American dentists to treat Jamaican people. "After this experience," says Stewart, "it becomes much more than a job for them."

* Stewart brought up a startling statistic: 10 billion plastic bottles get deposited into landfills every year and stay there for 500 years. Sandals has shifted to mounted dispensers so as to avoid this unnecessary waste.

* Did you know that you can use cooking oil to power trucks and cool a hotel room using solar energy? We didn't either. But Stewart says that his company is currently developing solar-thermal cooling systems and refining deep-frying oils. Back to the future!

Check back here for more news from the World Savers Congress.

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

World Savers Awards

World Savers

The World Savers Awards recognize companies that are innovating in five key areas: poverty alleviation, cultural and/or environmental preservation, education, wildlife conservation, and health. This morning at the World Savers Congress, six companies were named winners. They include:

* Campi Ya Kanzi (Kenya), for Poverty Alleviation. The solar-powered safari camp is a joint partnership with the Masai community and is staffed primarily by local tribesmen.

* Cristalino Jungle Lodge (Brazil), for Environmental Preservation. The owner of this lodge, Vitoria Da Riva Carvalho, in one of the most biodiverse areas of the Brazilian Amazon, has almost single-handedly saved more than 25,000 acres of threatened rain forest.

* Journeys Within (Cambodia), for Health Initiatives. The tour operator's non-profit arm has added more than 180 water wells to the landscape around Siem Reap, helping nearly 4,000 Cambodians to escape water-related disease. They also offer scholarships for university students, hold free English classes, and provide micro-loans for small businesses in Cambodia.

* Montage Laguna Beach (Laguna Beach, California), for Education. The hotel's employee-driven outreach effort supports marine and language education as well as arts programs in the local school district.

* Phinda Private Game Reserve (South Africa), for Wildlife Conservation Programs. Phinda has implemented an animal restocking program that added more than 2,000 animals to the reserve's land. Eighteen years ago, nearly all of the animals on its 57,000 acres had been killed by farmers, ivory hunters, and a misguided government tse-tse fly-eradication program.

* Vail Resorts (Vail, Colorado), for Environmental Preservation. The company offsets all of its electricity usage by supporting the development of wind farms which have cut CO2 emissions by 211 million pounds a year--the equivalent of taking 18,000 cars off the road. It also has implemented company-wide energy effiiciency efforts that will reduce electricity consumption by 10 percent in two years.

Further reading:
* 2008 World Savers Awards
* Make a Difference: Your online guide to responsible travel

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Jeffrey Sachs: A Call for Community Engagement

Sachs
Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
AP Photo

by Julia Bainbridge

World Savers

Widely considered the leading international economic advisor of his generation, professor Jeffrey D. Sachs has been, in his words, "at the hands of the travel industry for half a century." As president and co-founder of the Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending extreme global poverty, he has traveled to over 125 countries.

"Travel is the only way to experience the world from new perspectives. No one can understand extreme poverty without seeing it with their own eyes," the keynote speaker at the Condé Nast Traveler 2008 World Savers Congress said.

His main thought for the morning: the notion that the billion people who travel this year can be a billion ambassadors of global understanding and good will. "Each guest in the world--1 billion every year--could be a bit more aware of the local conditions, a bit less afraid of the poverty, and a bit more admiring of the efforts to recover it--and how that local area is trying to combat it." Traveler-community engagement can, in his mind, be life-changing--and perhaps even world saving.

Further reading:
* Jeffrey Sach's Grand Experiment: The economist's mission to eradicate poverty

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

Women of the World

Ws_women
Queen Rania, editor-in-chief Klara Glowczewska, and Ashley Judd.
Photos: (left to right) Condé Nast Traveler, worldhum.com, and AP

by Beata Loyfman

World Savers

Today's World Savers Congress is headlined by three remarkable women: Condé Nast Traveler editor-in-chief Klara Glowczewska, Queen Rania of Jordan, and actress/activist Ashley Judd.

The first of these influential women just took the stage, calling upon the travel industry to harness its formidable power (to the tune of $8 trillion in 2008) and help those communities where it often makes its profits. She cited Marriott Hotels, a previous World Savers winner, which has just made a $2 million investment to save thousands of acres of Brazilian rain forest.

"Nothing opens people's eyes like travel--it breeds empathy," said Glowczewska. "With dialogue and cooperation, we can overcome cultural differences...and take things to another level."

To that end, she announced that the magazine's Five & Alive Fund has raised nearly $1 million within its first year. In a partnership with Population Services International (PSI) the fund supports the needs of children under five years old. It supplies medicines, anti-malaria mosquito nets, water purification systems, and nutritional supplements to young children in 36 countries.

Further reading:
* Condé Nast Traveler Five & Alive Fund
* A Conversation with Queen Rania
* The Week of (Not) Living Dangerously
* Editor-in-chief Klara Glowczewska's thoughts on the power of travel

WORLD SAVERS CONGRESS

World Savers Congress

World Savers

by Beata Loyfman and Julia Bainbridge

Today we are coming to you live from the Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Congress. This annual event celebrates travel companies that are making a difference in areas of health, education, wildlife, poverty, and environmental or cultural preservation. Its goal is, in part, to provide a forum for engaged discussion of the challenges ahead.

We've been up since dawn and are now mainlining caffeine, but even at this early hour, the entire place is buzzing with excitement. Any minute now Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, will make his keynote address. Shortly thereafter, Queen Rania of Jordan and actress/activist Ashley Judd will take the stage to discuss new initiatives for socially responsible travel.

What will they announce? Check back with us throughout the day for breaking news and updates from the World Savers Congress.

Further reading:
* 2008 World Savers Awards
* Make a Difference: Your online guide to responsible travel
* A Conversation with Queen Rania
* Jeffrey Sach's Grand Experiment: The economist's mission to eradicate poverty
* Editor-in-chief Klara Glowczewska's thoughts on the power of travel

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