Megan Epler Wood in this interview reflects on the many initiatives and programmes that have evolved under her leadership – including The International Ecotourism Society, and more recently, the very promising International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at Harvard.
Megan Epler Wood is also a senior fellow at Cornell University and just about to launch an exciting programme there.
- What brought Megan Epler Wood to sustainable tourism, and what motivated her to found The International Ecotourism Society;
- Which issues ecotourism and community leaders struggle most with;
- Why Ecotourism has to be a successful form of commerce first, before it can be a conservation tool;
- The role entrepreneurship and women play regarding the advancement of sustainable tourism;
- The best way to measure sustainability in travel and tourism;
- The main challenges public and private organizations encounter on the sustainable tourism front;
- Her (career) advice to professional and academic newcomers to sustainable tourism;
- Megan’s favorite books on tourism, travel and sustainability.
Megan, when did you discover your passion for sustainable tourism?
In 1986-7. I received a Fulbright Scholarship together with my husband to film for six months in a remote private reserve in the Andean cloud forest with extraordinarily high biodiversity in Southern Colombia. We made a documentary for a television special in Colombia broadcast on Earth Day and distributed it to non-profits throughout the region as a result of the funding we received.
Our task was to communicate why and how local biodiversity could be preserved. The reserve, La Planada, where we filmed had been funded by WWF-US, via donations in the U.S, but there were many limits to funds for maintaining essential reserves like this throughout the region.
During our six months immersed in this remote wildlife refuge, we were able to reflect on the challenge of preserving this extraordinary biological treasure. Threats of logging and extensive slash and burn farms were all around us.
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