Megan Epler Wood, Founder of the International Ecotourism Society (TIES), received The International Ecotourism Society’s (TIES) Lifetime Achievement award today in Nairobi, Kenya, at the annual Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC).
Founded in 1990, TIES was the first non-governmental organization in the world fully dedicated to the sustainable development of tourism.
“TIES Lifetime Achievement Award was created to celebrate the commitment and thought leadership of true pioneers within eco and sustainable tourism. Megan led TIES from 1990-2002, when its programs helped to define ecotourism as it is known today,” said Kelly Bricker, chair of TIES.
Epler Wood spoke to over 300 delegates from around the world at ESTC. She highlighted the valuable contributions that ecotourism has made to conservation of wild lands around the world, presenting examples from Latin America, Asia and Africa. However, she expressed concerns that the growth of tourism now overshadows these efforts and that new, more robust tools are needed to oversee and manage the impacts of tourism growth.
With over 1 billion international tourists in 2012 and projections for 3-4% annual growth, the tourism economy is expanding at nearly double the rate of the global gross domestic product. Epler Wood underscored that tourism growth lacks proper oversight worldwide. Severe lack of land use planning, unmanaged waste, poor sanitation, and overuse of water is causing conflicts with local needs and escalating impacts worldwide. Epler Wood called for new international and national protocols to monitor the industry’s growing planetary impacts.
Before the event, she visited a positive example of ecotourism, led by the Maasai in Kenya’s Southern Rift Valley. The South Rift Association of Land Owners manages over two million acres of land via a land trust that allows them to manage their ranches sustainably and use tourism as a means to support their traditional way of life.