Creating a sustainable tourism model


THE 2013 SLOW LIFE SYMPOSIUM hopes to bring more of the world’s CEOs to the table through targeted events as part of a campaign to prove that a sustainable model of tourism can have a positive impact on business and provide a model that can be scaled up. The 2013 symposium, the fourth, was held at Soneva Kiri, Thailand.

Participants agreed that such efforts can only reach a global level by tapping the huge potential of China. Peggy Liu, chairperson of Chinese NGO JUCCCE, told participants: “Many of you have issues that need to be amplified in China, and I’m offering an environmental gateway.”

With the support of Leo Johnson, visiting fellow at the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at Oxford University, and actor and activist Daryl Hannah, plans were made to lead up to the 2015 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris in a way that ensures China is at the table.

Hannah also raised the question of messaging. “We need to catalyze global consciousness through a shift in communication,” she said, “and I want to offer myself as an active enabler.”

On day two, Pavan Sukhdev had talked of “time bombs” waiting to happen if global sustainability is not achieved. Adam and Jessica Sweidan of Synchronicity Earth pledged to facilitate the creation of a “bomb disposal timeline plan” – a “wire map” of Johan Rockström’s nine planetary boundaries in a way that would captivate broader audiences, identify the deadlines and concentrate minds.

Dorinda Elliott, commissioning editor of Condé Nast Traveller, reinforced this point. “We have to throw a better party. The language and brand of sustainability needs to change to reach far broader audiences.”

Jenifer Willig, co-founder of WHOLE WORLD Water, focused on transforming the engagement of the millions of employees in the travel and tourism industry from passive to active motivation as a business driver.

Chris Gorell-Barnes concentrated minds on the problem of traceability in fishing. “We know what fields cows come from, but with fish, we sometimes don’t even know their species.”

Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, proposed what he called the Big Ten Initiative. “The global fishing industry operates as roving bandits. But they are controlled by just 10 companies.”

In partnership with economist Pavan Sukhdev, Rockström pledged to “invite these companies to a Soneva-style dialogue under the banner of CEOs for a sustainable world. Companies demanding a lion’s share will work far better as a club.”

Summing up the hopeful mood of the Symposium, host Sonu Shivdasani, CEO of luxury resort company Soneva, said: “It has surpassed all of our expectations. This was a great group of people working with cohesion and connection, complementing each other’s fields. Before we start working on the next Symposium we’ll be focusing on how we can drive these issues forward by offering the support of the team at Soneva.”

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