Jet-setting around the world isn't what it used to be. While the travel industry is still contributing to pollution and a global CO2 footprint, the world of travel is slowly undergoing a transition that sees the industry on a path to treading more lightly. As international tourism stays relevant (the United Nations World Tourism Organisation reports a 5% increase in 2013 and forecasts a 4-4.5% growth this year), taking responsibility while travelling is more important than ever. The good news is we do care about staying green while on the go: Lonely Planet reports that 70% of travellers expect companies to commit to preservation of the environment.
The first step towards optimising sustainability opportunities in luxury travel is forging strong business models that prove that sustainable luxury is viable and continuing to innovate to have a positive impact on the host communities and environment. Small but significant steps are being made with brands such as Soneva who's philosophy, SLOW LIFE (Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness and Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences) is pioneering a new form of luxury travel.
The SLOW LIFE Symposium, which was held on 13-16 November in Soneva Fushi in the Maldives, creates an opportunity for the travel industry to facilitate positive business models within a wider context. Founded by the Soneva group, the Symposium is a SLOW LIFE Foundation event that has been forging a more authentic, planet-friendly approach to business partnerships since 2008. Taking the planetary boundaries concept as a guide (a qualified set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop), this year's symposium examined using "disruptive innovation" to maximise efforts towards a more sustainable world. Oceans and agriculture were two of the main focus points of discussion. This year's key themes were marine conservation, energy security, low-carbon infrastructure, waste management, water conservation, sustainable tourism and finance, and threats to biodiversity.
Initiatives such as ocean stewardship focusing on cleaner waters and partnerships to make the hospitality industry more sustainable pave the way for discussions that address global issues and make businesses more sustainable. An example: Whole World Water, a campaign that reaches out to areas that lack clean drinking water. Soneva Resorts' hotels bottle their own filtered water, contributing 10% of revenues to clean water projects around the world, estimating that if the worldwide hospitality industry comes together and adopts this practice, one billion could be raised every year, no small amount!
The development of destinations, solutions and innovative ideas for a world where travel is kinder on the environment is crucial if we want a future where we can continue to enjoy, explore and experience every corner of our planet. The Symposium is only one of many meetings of minds that can contribute to a new way to travel.