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Meet This League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Eight ecopreneurs making a difference in global tourism


Oct. 22, 2012, Victoria, BC – From creating a new land use policy in Chile, to launching one of the first eco-resorts in Costa Rica more than 20 years ago, to pioneering the art of sustainable adventure travel, sharing best practices for sustainable tourism along BC’s coast and inventing zip lining and canopy walks in the rainforests of Central America, the following businessmen inspired new ways of thinking within global tourism and are leading by example.
 
Global Travel
When Kurt Kutay, CEO and president of Wildland Adventures was asked what principles would guide him as a politician, he answered: “Fostering world peace by reducing military expenditures and bridging cultures through people to people diplomacy, and challenging the premise of capitalism in favor of broader values of success, not only accounting for profit but also people and the planet by reducing the disparity of income, protecting human rights including health, food and housing, and taking care of our Mother Earth.”
 
It’s a tall order but for the past 25 years, Kutay, as co-founder of this Seattle-based adventure tour company, has been carrying out this mission through travel. Together with wife Anne and a team of expert travel planners, he creates life changing travel experiences while supporting conservation and community development in host countries found on five continents, from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco to the steaming jungles of Borneo.
 
With a background in conservation and national park planning, this tour company pioneer is credited by many for defining ecotourism long before ‘eco’ became a buzzword. For Kutay it’s about running a top-notch active travel company (recognized by National Geographic Traveler and Fodor’s as one of the world’s top tour specialists) while giving back to the places and peoples visited by his guests.
 
In 1986, Kutay founded the Travelers Conservation Trust (TCT) with a mission to build partnerships between local communities, conservation NGOs, local government and the tourism industry, all supported by trip proceeds. And, TCT projects are diverse; for example, Wildland Adventures guests have participated directly on Inca Trail preservation projects, supported community-based tiger conservation programs in India, and supported a project to protect scarlet macaws in partnership with Conservation International.
 
Chilean Patagonia
When Warren Adams, CEO and founder of Patagonia Sur, LLC, first travelled to the Chilean Patagonia with his wife more than 10 years ago, he was struck by the richness, beauty and ecological diversity of one of the most magical places on planet. In 2006, the Harvard MBA and social media wunderkind launched Patagonia Sur. This unusual business entity is grounded by sustainable revenue streams from hospitality and tourism, ecologically appropriate development for private residences, carbon offsets generated from native species reforestation, and responsible real estate brokering in the beautiful Aysen and Lakes districts of wild Chilean Patagonia.
 
The company is responsible for reforesting its Valle California property with half a million native trees, which will offset more than 175,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. Its eco-brokerage arm matches investors who have a conservation focus with property investment opportunities in Patagonia. In 2011, Adams announced his Productive Protected Lands (conservation and sustainable land management) framework for Valle California, where the 8,000-acre (3,200-hectare) property will be permanently conserved through an innovative and practical new Chilean legal agreement, the Servidumbre Ecológica. Yet, the framework will also accommodate a variety of sustainable land uses including agriculture, reforestation with native-species trees, eco-tourism, and a limited number of private residences.
 
Patagonia Sur Reserves, Adam’s hospitality arm, currently owns six properties, totaling more than 60,000 acres of stunning river valleys, fjords, coastline and primal forests. Boutique-style accommodations on the Valle California and Melimoyu properties welcome a clientele seeking an unparalleled wilderness and cultural experience. The Melimoyu Ecosystem Research Institute (MERI) funds research and preservation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems while the Patagonia Sur Foundation supports environmental education and sustainable business development in local communities through a micro loan program.  
 
Costa Rica & Central America
Alex Khajavi, CEO of Nature Air, Costa Rica’s premier airline, is a maverick entrepreneur, visionary and sustainable tourism pioneer. In fact he’s on a mission to change the face of tourism in Central America with his leadership in carbon off-setting, fostering trade, transportation links and cooperation between Central American nations, while inspiring a triple-bottom line approach to business.
 
In 2001, he purchased the small air charter company in Costa Rica then transformed it into Nature Air, the world's first carbon neutral airline. As he charted new territory with his upstart airline, Khajavi’s business ventures and thought-provoking ideas challenge conventional tourism. Today, Nature Air offers 74 daily flights to 15 eco-destinations in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama formerly accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicles.
 
At the same time,  Nature Air is giving new meaning to green business; it off-sets 100 per cent of its carbon emissions – some 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually – by funding rainforest preservation in the country’s spectacular and biologically rich Osa Peninsula through a government sanctioned program that ensures local landowners are fairly compensated.
 
In addition, Nature Air has converted 95 per cent of their ground vehicles to operate on bio-fuel. Philanthropy and community development are also important aspects of Khajavi’s business philosophy; the NatureKids Foundation funds literacy and ecological education among low income families in Costa Rica.
 
Before Glenn Jampol, president of Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn, became a leader in Central American sustainable tourism, he was a successful visual artist with regular expositions in New York, Chicago and San Francisco galleries.
 
In 1985, he applied his creative flare to the hospitality sector, opening the first eco-boutique hotel in Costa Rica: Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn. Since day-one, leaving a light footprint on the planet has guided hotel operations. Efforts range from the small details, such as linens made from bamboo, to larger impacts like ionization to clean the pool water without the use of chemicals and heating the water with solar panels.
 
Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation & Inn produces and roasts shade-grown certified organic coffee on its plantation, and donates a percentage of its proceeds from its bar and restaurant to the local community and school.
 
In 2003, the hotel earned the coveted five green leaves, the highest rating bestowed by the Costa Rican Tourist Board (ICT) under the Certificate for Sustainability in Tourism program, considered to be the best certification program in the world. It’s the first hotel to ever receive a perfect 100 per cent score from the strict internationally recognized Sustainable Tourism Certification (CST) program. 
 
In 2002, Jampol formed a team of investors to build Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort, which opened in 2007 and is today the only five star, five leaf hotel in Costa Rica. As a recognized ecotourism leader and president of Costa Rica’s National Association of Eco Tourism (CANAECO), Jampol gives presentations worldwide on sustainable tourism development. He also participates as an invited lecturer in INCAE, a Harvard post-graduate business school, speaking regularly sustainable and environmental strategies.
 
Born in Germany and educated at the prestigious Cornell School of Hotel Administration, Hans Pfister, co-founder of Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality, has dedicated his career to the development and management of sustainable tourism in Central America.
 
An interest in sustainability is a good start for a tourism enterprise; however, putting thoughts and words into action is a whole different matter. That’s where Pfister and Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality come in; with their focus on a sound, triple bottom line business philosophy that places community and environment on equal footing with profitability, the firm helps entrepreneurs and managers walk the talk. Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality currently manages and markets nine exclusive hotel properties, among them Lapa Rios Ecolodge in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula and Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua. A Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Award winner, Cayuga fills critical knowledge and management gaps in a hotel’s pursuit of green objectives, specializing in developing community and nature-based activities, identifying and implementing carbon offsetting programs, and raising capital from funding sources specializing in ecotourism ventures.
 
Central America and Caribbean
In 1994, Joaquin von der Goltz, founder of Rainforest Adventures, strung up an aerial tram in the heart of a pristine 200-acre Costa Rican rainforest, all without removing a single tree. The premise was simple genius: provide guests with an exciting option for experiencing the rainforest and in turn get them excited about conservation and the natural world. This novel idea launched an entirely new way of experiencing a forest world; up close and intimate in the canopy with birds and other rainforest species.
 
Nearly 20 years later, Rainforest Adventures has expanded exponentially, with conservation themed aerial tram and zip line experiences on Costa Rica’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts, St Lucia, Panama and Jamaica (famous for its rainforest bobsled experience near iconic Dunns River Falls). With its five operations, Rainforest Adventures employs more than 150 locals and owns 1,627 acres of rainforest.
 
Giving back is a key facet of Rainforest Adventures. The company has protected 1,000 acres in perpetuity, securing habitat for 950 birds and more than 2,000 endemic plant species. At the St Lucia park, the Our Planet Centre provides an interpretive experience that educates guests while donating proceeds to local conservation initiatives. Rainforest Adventures also supports local children and teens with its Youth Leadership Program for Sustainable Development. Park staff at Costa Rica Atlantic work with students who attend one of five schools located within the buffer zone of Braulio Carrillo National Park. Designated as, “guardians of the forest,” the students are inspired to improve their surrounding rainforest and preserve at-risk resources for years to come.

British Columbia, Canada
Kevin Smith, captain of the SV Maple Leaf and co-owner of Maple Leaf Adventures, grew up on the West Coast of British Columbia, exploring islands and inlets and getting to know the rainforest and whales that also live there. Later, as a backcountry and marine park ranger, Kevin prided himself on never issuing a ticket; instead, he educated visitors so they understood how to protect the wilderness they vacationed in.
 
Smith was involved in creating the historic land use agreements for the world-renowned Great Bear Rainforest, the last stand of the Great North American Rainforest, on Canada’s West Coast. This experience, as well as his entrepreneurial spirit and an appreciation for deep ecology, set Smith up to become one of Canada’s top ecotourism operators. In 2001, Smith jumped feet first into ecotourism, by purchasing the 92-foot, classic schooner SV Maple Leaf, and taking the helm of what today is considered one of the best and most sustainable sailing expedition companies in the world.
 
It was an ideal opportunity to share with visitors one of the world’s most ecologically and culturally rich places, an environment that is Kevin’s true home. And it was the perfect way to create an example of the world he’d like to see – one where sustainability is considered in all decisions and is seen as a positive, successful thing.
 
Instrumental in the formation of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC, and one its first certified guides, Smith continues to introduce an exclusive clientele from around the world to BC and Alaska’s bears, whales, and coastline, with the smallest footprint possible. Maple Leaf Adventures is continually recognized for its commitment as a company to sustainable tourism best practices and has been selected as one of Canada's Signature Experiences by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC).

Some people develop a love of the natural world through books and pictures; not so for Fraser Murray, owner and manager of Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, and a next generation sustainable tourism operator. Maintaining the legacy created by his parents, Murray is taking over the running of one of the most famous fly-fishing resorts in North America.  Some would say this is a perfect example of the apple not falling far from the tree. Murray spent most of his life on the ground, out on the water and with the salt spray of BC’s West Coast in his hair.

Murray began his hospitality apprenticeship as a youngster, learning the ins and outs of the remote high-end fly fishing, wildlife viewing and ecotourism lodge established in the mid 1980s by his father, Craig Murray. Also recently designated as one of Canada's Signature Experiences, Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort is set at the foot of Mt. Stephen, in the Great Bear Rainforest and not far from famous First Nations communities like Kingcome Inlet and Alert Bay.

Murray, a talented musician and creative thinker, continually brings new ideas to resort operations, upholding the family legacy that puts green thinking and sustainability at the heart of all decisions. For example, drinking water is drawn from a pristine waterfall that also supplies green hydro-electricity for the lodge. Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort practices a strict catch-and-release fishing policy and seafood served at the resort is sourced from local commercial fisherman. An intensive recycling and reduction program, and a wastewater treatment facility that produces nearly pure water, furthers the resort’s sustainability mission. Nimmo Bay’s Future Forever Fund channels guest donations toward purchasing carbon offsets, supporting Raincoast Research and its monitoring of the ecological impacts of salmon farming, and supporting the sustainable tourism advocacy work of the BC Wilderness Tourism Association.

Media Contacts:

Deirdre Campbell
Tartan Group
250-592-3838
deirdre@tartangroup.ca

Brian Cant
Tartan Group
250-592-3838
brian@tartangroup.ca

 


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