In this interview, Tensie Whelan shares her thoughts on sustainable tourism, Costa Rica, and the challenges involved in promoting sustainability.
- How Tensie Whelan’s view of sustainability and tourism changed since she wrote her first book on the topic in 1991;
- How Costa Rica has been pioneering ecotourism, and which challenges the country faces as destination;
- Her main lessons as sustainability leader and President of the Rainforest Alliance;
- Why Tensie decided to lead RA, rather than continue work as journalist, researcher or management consultant;
- Her favorite book on the topic of tourism and sustainability.
Tensie, in 1991 you wrote your first book on sustainable tourism – what was your view of sustainability and tourism back then?
I saw both the negative impacts of mass tourism (on water quality, fragile ecosystems, cultures) and the opportunity to do it right, as I was living in Costa Rica at the time, which was pioneering ecotourism.
Now at the beginning of 2015, what has changed?
Well, Costa Rica, unfortunately, has begun to turn to mass tourism on its coasts, which demonstrates the pressures that the continued increase in travel brings. Tourism is becoming a greater part of many countries GDP, so environmental and social consideration often take a backseat.
On the other hand, there has been high level focus on improving the sustainability of tourism in Mexico, Ecuador, Kenya and other countries. The industry is also beginning to take it on—Travelocity has a green travel site, many hotel chains are incorporating sustainable practices, and ecotourism has grown substantially.