From biologist to business consultant, Ariane Janer has spent decades developing an in-depth understanding of sustainable tourism and the complexities of the industry that surrounds it. In this interview, she shares with us her journey from conservationist to sustainable tourism leader and innovator, thanks to her work as co-founder of EcoBrasil (The Brazilian Ecotourism Association), as a founding member of the Global Ecotourism Network (GEN), and as the owner of the successful sustainable business consultation firm, Bromelia.
Ariane also explains the challenges of positioning a country as large and diverse as Brazil as an eco-destination, and how GEN will draw on its vast accumulation of experience to help guide the international sustainable tourism industry in the right direction.
- The key elements in improving the quality and sustainability of tourism businesses;
- Why location and cost affect sustainable tourism development in a country as large and diverse as Brazil;
- What to keep in mind when partnering with government, tourism trade and conservation NGOs;
- Key challenges of maintaining the appeal of a good ecotourism product;
- How the Global Ecotourism Network (GEN) helps the ecotourism industry to focus and progress.
Ariane, as a biologist, you were probably aware of the concept of conservation and sustainability early on. When, however, did you first learn about sustainability in relationship to tourism?
First I learned about “the dots”, and then I managed to connect them.
Ever since I was a child, I was interested in animals and nature. My aunt gave me a gift membership to WWF Holland. My parents traveled to far-off places when we were very young and always came back with lots of stories. We avidly read National Geographic, learning about places all around the world.
When we started to travel as a family, there was always an itinerary with a narrative and a learning experience, and it combined nature, culture and relaxing at the beach. My parents planned everything in detail. In those days, you did this by letter, telegram, a fixed phone and a guidebook. Sustainability was not an issue then, there seemed to be a lot of space in the world.
During high school, I became increasingly aware of environmental issues. Things like Limits to Growth, the oil crisis of 1973 and the car-less Sundays, acid rain, a heavily polluted river Rhine and a major toxic waste scandal come to mind.
My “sustainability in tourism moment” probably came in Mexico. I did my final thesis for my MSc in biology on sea turtles and spent a year in Mexico. We patrolled and collected data on many beautiful beaches. When I visited Cancun in 1981, it was still under construction.