The ecotourism conference (ESTC) concluded in Portland with the mantra of innovation and inspiration. Specifically, the morning sessions focused on innovation with participants having the option to attend a field session that emphasized green signature buildings or a voluntourism project at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. For those participants who opted to attend panel discussions, novel concepts including the precise use of social media for ecotourism marketing, the rise in carbon offsetting awareness, and the engagement of communities and travelers to lead sustainable tourism efforts were discussed.
Later, the innovative environmental strategies for tour operators panel provided some awe-inspiring examples of organizations that are utilizing existing tourism resources and tourists to solve regional transportation issues and study dolphins as in the 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project.
Bruce Poon Tip of Gap Adventures provided the transition to inspiration by giving a very moving keynote speech about how his company’s core values emphasize assisting the indigenous populations of the areas where his tours operate. Examples included Gap Adventures’ successes in providing Peruvian street children with a permanent, safe place to live.
Afterward, the global challenges and opportunities for sustainable tourism certification panel featured representatives from Sustainable Travel International and CANAECO (in Costa Rica) who both marked the progress made in the Americas with respect to the establishment, endorsement, and validation of regional certifications.
The closing reception featured speeches by the winners of the 2011 ESTC Innovation Awards for indigenous tourism where recipients such as Time Unlimited Tours of New Zealand discussed the importance of preserving cultural traditions alongside preserving the environment.
With that, the conference concluded with a promise to meet again next year for the ESTC 2011 Conference at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.