You may not know it, but Mark Twain and Matt Damon have something in common: a belief that travel can bridge divisions between cultures and broaden our horizons. Twain once said that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, ” and Matt Damon echoed this idea in his opening statement for the recent Condé Nast World Savers Congress.
Dedicated to honoring organizations and individuals that use the $8 trillion dollar tourism industry as an avenue for positive change in the world, the World Savers Congress brings travel professionals, philanthropists, activists, and changemakers together to honor those who are exemplary examples of the power that the travel industry can have for good.
WildChina’s CEO Albert Ng was invited to be on a panel to discuss the future of travel in China. Also on the panel was the distinguished Orville Schell, Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society, Barbara Finamore, the Beijing-based Director of the National Resource Defense Council’s China Program, and a representative from the Marriott International Hotel Group.
Albert Ng at the Condé Nast World Savers Congress: China Panel
The panel attempted to answer the question of how to reconcile the rapid growth of tourism in China with concerns about social and environmental responsibility. The WTO predicts that China will become the number one tourist destination and the fourth tourist generating country by the year 2020. This poses an exciting window of opportunity to shape the still-young travel industry in China for the better.
Albert shared insights about on-the-ground travel operation in China, and the current gap between the strong will to do responsible business and the skills needed for implementation. The solution to this problem lies in productive and meaningful partnerships between organizations like the NRDC and the World Wildlife Fund, corporations like Marriott, and tourist sites like Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan. Orville Schell also talked about the pressing need for cooperation between the US and China in order to develop market solutions to unrestrained development.
One way WildChina is trying to aid the sustainable development of tourism in China is through the immersion training of World Wildlife Fund employees. So far we’ve hosted four WWF guides on month-long stints in the WildChina Beijing office to learn about responsible travel best-practices, marketing and service standards. The goal of this project is to expose local leaders to different ways of operating, and to equip them with the skills to reinvent the way they think about tourism in China. While WildChina believes that this work is vital to the transformation of tourism in China, we’re just one small company, and it will take the work of much larger and more influential organizations to really affect widespread transformation of the industry.