Is Collaboration Sustainable Tourism’s Currency?

Is Collaboration Sustainable Tourism’s Currency?

Creating a rescue mission for travel. Building relationships with travellers who care about their impact, and finding a new path forward!

A communicator with a career in journalism and education, Deb is building a future that is full of collaboration and growth, with the goal of contributing to a healthier planet through travel. The vision is: a world full of safe and thriving people sharing our gifts, whoever we are, wherever we live, and whatever our resources.

Deb Lace-Kelly
Deb Lace-Kelly

Communications Consultant at The Lost Compass

As travellers we’re all interested in paths. How did you get there, was it fun, did you do anything along the way, would you do it again, what was the view like when you got there?

A journey toward sustainable tourism leaves no less questions, and like any adventure, the answers will be different for everyone depending on where you start, and what your means of transport is. My journey started in story-telling, and it’s what led to working with Hidden Lemur, a sustainable travel platform, as the Managing Editor working with a network of travel writers around the world. It’s been rewarding, yes, but it’s also been really fun.

I am fortunate to have two pretty long-ish careers in my carry-on bag. One in daily television news, and the next in education. Looking back, each of these careers was nudging me toward doing this work in sustainable travel, and provided me with the skills and experience (and most of all the desire) to do it confidently. Does that mean I was confident in tip-toeing into sustainable travel? Not at the beginning, no. That confidence grew thanks to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and the training programs they provide.

TV news showed me that the world needed help. It needed to change. Teaching journalism and media production at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) showed me that through education and creative storytelling we all have the power to make incredibly positive shifts in the right direction.

I got involved in sustainable tourism because I became restless. Restless with the rules, with the behemoth structures that couldn't allow growth and change. I wanted to go exploring to create positivity. Most places I visited in my life left me curious to know more, and made me want to offer something back to the people I met and to their environment. I always wanted to see behind the scenes, to real people. I was less interested in the false fronts erected by travel operations that took over the places they existed in, and forced them to be something different from what they were naturally.

Everything in my professional life and my travel experience collided in a beautiful way. What resulted was the knowledge that I wanted to contribute to positive change in the world, by using the skills I had in education and journalism, and getting out there and doing it.

I didn’t know it at the time but my passion for wildlife conservation, social justice, love of exploring history and culture mixed with travel, is called: Sustainable Tourism.

Once I figured that out, I connected with the Global Sustainable Travel Council. I love the GSTC because it is a global organization - that’s what this movement is all about. It’s about crossing borders and boundaries and growing and creating change from a united position of sharing and learning. I found out that they offer programs in Sustainable Travel and in 2020 I earned their Professional Certificate in Sustainable Tourism.

I was already a communications consultant working with Naturalists’ organizations, global health not-for-profits, and travel outfitters, so the next step for me was to put out my flag and start waving it. I developed The Lost Compass to act as a beacon. I wanted to call in my people - like minded people who wanted to work and collaborate in Sustainable Travel. I wanted to learn from them, support them, and move forward with them.

Through The Lost Compass I have met and worked with some incredible people working in diverse ways toward raising the profile of sustainable travel so that one day sustainable travel is just called: travel. There are of course the teachers and fellow students in my GSTC program, from whom I learned so much. From there I’ve had the chance to collaborate with Nora Livingstone, the Founder of Animal Experience International, Chantel Beuvink, the Founder of Natural Greece, an endless amount of local colleagues here in Canada, and of course with Hidden Lemur, the sustainable travel platform.

For a year and a half I’ve worked alongside some wonderful people at Hidden Lemur. The work on this platform to promote sustainable travel is incredible, and there has been so much growth that it has admittedly pulled me from my own work with The Lost Compass. But that’s what this is all about! Growth, expansion, change and finding better ways to not only travel the world, but be in the world.

From here the network of writers I’ve met and worked with are providing additional gateways and avenues of expansion and possibility within sustainable travel. Like a living organism, as sustainable travel grows as a movement, as a way of thinking and being, its arms and roots are expanding, adapting and evolving as nature and people thrive within its canopy.

From my experience so far, what I think sustainable travel needs now is the support of financial resources. People are growing this industry, but people need resources to sustain themselves within the work. I see it happening, slowly. More and more financially secure entities are investing in the vision of a better world through travel. This is important and needed. What sustainable travel has already though - is people power - collaboration. People united by the goal of seeing a better, stronger, healthier, safer world through travel.