In this interview, Sustainable Travel International (STI) founder Brian Mullis – a proud father of two children from the Gambela Region of Ethiopia – reflects on over 13 years dedicated to promoting sustainability across the tourism value chain.
- When Brian Mullis discovered his passion for sustainable tourism;
- How tourism can drive the protection of our natural heritage;
- Why he founded Sustainable Travel International in 2002, and the organization’s impact since then;
- How his view of sustainable tourism has changed since he started STI;
- What successful sustainable tourism actually means;
- The best way to measure sustainability in travel and tourism;
- His main insights and “aha moments” as leader in the sustainable tourism field;
- Examples of destinations particularly successful in implementing sustainable tourism policies and practices;
- Which sustainability areas destinations struggle most with;
- His (career) advice to newcomers to sustainable tourism.
Brian, when did you discover your passion for sustainable tourism?
I began my career working in national parks in the United States – first as a dish washer in Yellowstone, and later as a line cook and a part-time guide. There, I learned that tourism can drive the protection of our natural heritage.
Later, I owned and operated an international adventure and eco-travel company for eight years. While we made a concerted effort to adhere to the tenets of ecotourism, I realized I could potentially have a much greater impact in mainstreaming sustainability through another means.
I first considered getting another graduate degree, but then decided to follow Paul Hawken’s advice: “Just get started.”
Why did you found Sustainable Travel International back in 2002?
I incorporated Sustainable Travel International in September of 2002 to create simple tools that could be replicated, contextualized and scaled up across tourism businesses and destinations.