An Education In Sustainability
What is it like to study sustainable tourism both in theory and hands on? Kendall Scott, a former Anywhere intern, has the answers.
An Interview Featuring: Kendall Scott
Continuing with our special ‘Earth Day’ related stories and articles throughout the month of April, we bring to you an ‘Expert Advice’ interview with Kendall Scott—Masters in Sustainable Tourism and former Anywhere Intern. Learn how she became an authority in the field, and why ‘sustainable’ doesn’t just mean environmentally friendly.
Q: So, Kendall, you’ve a Masters in Sustainable Tourism. That sounds absolutely fascinating! Tell us a bit more about your educational background, and how you came to be so interested in sustainability…
A: I received a Master of Science degree in International Sustainable Tourism (MIST) from a joint program between UNT (University of North Texas) and CATIE (The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) in Turrialba, Costa Rica.
I had a friend who had already been accepted into the program, and the more she shared, the more Interested I became. In my free time, I found myself researching hospitality, the impact of sustainable tourism, and I knew I had to discover more in an academic environment.
My undergraduate studies focused on business and film, so being accepted into the MIST program was a stretch. I had the opportunity to meet with the program professors who recognized my passion for sustainable tourism, and I was accepted just weeks before classes started.
Q: You did an internship at Anywhere’s La Fortuna Costa Rica office whilst you were a student. What did you do, and what did you learn?
A: With the MIST program, we combined scientific research, philosophical concepts, policy-making and operational perspectives into our daily studies. The internship at Anywhere gave me the opportunity to see sustainable tourism in practice.
Initially, the internship focused on research to meet degree requirements, but quickly turned into much more. The Anywhere leaders gave me the opportunity to see more than just sustainable tourism in practice, but also how it’s embraced around the country and what their organization has done to promote it through their leading travel services.
Anywhere Costa Rica is a perfect example of a company that not only promotes sustainable practices, but also participates in those efforts. The team in the La Fortuna office taught me things that I couldn’t read in a book or research online. I learned that sustainable tourism can be a difficult subject to grasp from a global approach, but it’s something that many people have already been doing and practicing for years, especially in Costa Rica.
Q: During your time as an intern, you had the opportunity to work on a few video content missions, including the recently released, “Don’t Be A Tourist with Zorinah Juan.” This all sounds very glamorous from afar, but what was the reality of travel show production?
A: The magic about video production is that the audience gets to see what we want them to see, and we edit out the rest. This was not the case for the production with Zoriah Juan. We had a short time to get everything we needed for this show, and the only thing missing for the audience were the smells of the rainforest and the tastes of the food—which are impossible to fully explain through video.
I will say, for this production, our plans didn’t go as smoothly as expected. We kept meeting locals who had more interesting activities and ideas for us, such as the Costa Rican Rodeo that happened to be kicking off in the same town we were driving through. That was something we couldn’t miss!
Fortunately, Anywhere’s travel planners were supporting us throughout, making our travel plans accommodating even when we got off course.
Q: What about the other videos? What were they about, and were they a little more glamorous?
A: The other videos we worked on with Blind Monk Productions were for Anywhere marketing purposes. We captured footage from different aspects of Costa Rica; tourists, business owners, local community members and tons of footage of the thriving Costa Rican environment. We hit almost every corner of the country. We had a longer timeframe to work on these videos and focused more on listening and taking in our surroundings.
It was during this production that I noticed sustainable efforts at the higher-end (the more luxury type hotels and business). It wasn’t just grassroots constituents that promoted sustainable efforts among businesses and travelers. The elite businesses also embraced and understood the long-term importance of the industry in Costa Rica.
We also had the opportunity to visit with ICT (Costa Rican Tourism Board) and learned more about how the country is using education, policy-making, incentives, and certifications to promote a more sustainable industry. This was a powerful connection both ways, as we were able to share our visions for the video project with them.
Let’s switch gears and get into why your area of study impacts us all…
Q: In the words of an expert such as yourself, what is ‘sustainable tourism,’ and why is it crucial?
A: To answer, I offer these words, directly from the MIST program, that got me interested in pursuing my degree:
Sustainable tourism strives to meet present tourist market needs without compromising the resources of future generations. This leading-edge tourism specialty balances environmental, economic and socio-cultural benefits and concerns.
For me, this defines how travelers can positively impact the places they visit. It’s particularly crucial for countries that depend on tourism for their economy. The reason Costa Rica is such an attractive place to live and visit is because of its diverse environment and healthy culture. Without adopting sustainable practices, the country would be putting one of its main industries and its citizens at risk. Especially with the large millennial generation quickly becoming the next tourism market.
Q: A lot of people support ‘sustainability’ in theory, but then proceed to balk at the cost of going green (both on the supplier and consumer end). How much weight does this argument really carry?
A: This argument may have had some weight in the past, but technology is diminishing the cost concern. Think about advancements in other industries where AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning and IoT (Internet of Things) have had an impact. These practices are being adopted for sustainability purposes now and will continue to lower costs as the technology matures. Hotels lowering utility bills and reducing emissions via smart building technology provides just one current example. Worldwide, technology is making big strides to reduce environmental impact, while also helping businesses run cost-efficiently. Soon enough, “going green” will become easy and achievable for anyone adopting a digital mindset.
For now, decision-makers would do well to weigh the risks of “going green” by focusing on long-term goals and not short-term outcomes.
Q: Are there cost-effective ways we can all take part in sustainability—from hotels, to travellers, to individuals at home?
A: Of course! Taking part in sustainability doesn’t mean you need to make huge sacrifices.
Being considerate of your surroundings, doing research on the places you plan to visit, and respecting those you run into all are part of the sustainable movement. These things might sound simple, but they can make marked difference in the big picture. Another easy thing to do is to celebrate sustainability when you do participate. Posting pictures on social media, reviewing companies online, or writing a blog about your time being a “sustainable tourist” are other easy ways you can influence others.
In addition, consumers who care about sustainability can hold organizations accountable for what they say regarding the practice. Online channels and forums are great ways to engage with businesses and point out when you notice practices contrary to the sustainability movement.
Q: Aside from the obvious (destroying the planet), what’s the opportunity cost of not taking part in sustainability? From a purely selfish standpoint, what do you or I, or businesses lose out on?
A: [Laughing…] Yes, the obvious one is destroying the planet. But, what might not be so obvious is that by not taking part in sustainability today, we stand to lose what we value now for people in the future. The natural beauty of our environment, for example, or the wonders of societies outside our own, may be seriously jeopardized by not taking sustainability to heart.
Q: Is there a myth or misunderstanding about sustainability that you’d like to dispel?
A: It’s not just recycling. I think there are some people who associate sustainability with picking up trash, but it’s much more than that. It’s about reducing your “footprint.” For example, your “online-footprint” can be found by doing a web search on your name. Your travel-footprint takes into consideration what you leave behind, not only in terms of the trash you leave, but also how you engaged with people, where you participated in activities, and how you interacted with the environment.
Q: What is the one thing you would like everyone to know about sustainable tourism?
A: Balance. Sustainable tourism isn’t about being able to clean up the entire ocean in a weekend. It’s about doing what you can to not make it worse.
– It’s not about fully understanding a foreign society and their culture. It’s about respecting that others don’t live the same way you do.
– If you choose to purchase local goods or make one person laugh while on vacation, you’re leaving the place better off than when you found it.
– Keep in mind what motivated you to travel, even when you get to your destination.