If our interviews with sustainable tourism thinkers, shakers and doers have taught us anything, then that the extent to which sustainable development is practiced and sustainability applied as business strategy varies considerably across world’s regions. While in Europe momentum for sustainable tourism is growing, Latin America still has a long way to go, as Eduard Mueller tells us in this interview.
Education is key to turn the laggard into an eager follower, and Professor Mueller has been a leading figure in educating and training Latin American tourism managers, entrepreneurs and future leaders through the University for International Cooperation.
- When and how Eduard Mueller discovered his passion for sustainability;
- How his view of sustainable tourism has changed over the years;
- His successes and challenges working for international organizations;
- The main reason why sustainability in tourism isn’t happening as fast as it should;
- Which book tourism professionals shouldn’t miss;
- The key to communicating the need for sustainability;
- What he’d do differently given the chance to start his career all over again.
Eduard, when and where did your sustainable tourism journey begin? When did you discover your passion for sustainability?
I have been working on sustainability since 1980, initially on systems approach for farm systems. In 1987 I started working with wildlife management around a protected area and was invited to become a member of the local advisory committee.
When I started, we had 3,000 tourists per year in our protected area. three years later we got to 36,000 tourists. This made me realize the importance of working on tourism and protected areas and the surrounding communities.
In 1996 I was director of a master’s program in ecotourism and by 1997 I launched a master’s degree in sustainable tourism management, which was delivered on-line to students all over Latin America. I also did a lot of consulting and training during 1997 and 2007, and have worked in over 10 countries.
Being native to a developing country and having lived in several different countries and continents and traveled throughout the planet, I was able to witness first-hand how the developing model imposed by the North has impacted so negatively all aspects of society in the South (Economy, Environment, Society, Culture, Politics and policy and Spirituality).
After the Rio meeting in 1992 I started actively working in holistic approaches, especially in education, which led me to found the University for International Cooperation in 1994, focused on “different” graduate programs to “recycle” professionals that were educated in a technocratic world that was leading us to global destruction.
Now, after 22 years of active negotiations within the Rio Conventions and no true curbing of biodiversity loss, climate change or desertification, I am working on regenerative development – which goes beyond sustainable development, which sadly cannot be achieved any more.