Home sharing can help preserve authenticity in travel

In their latest expert interview for “The Future of Sharing” series, Reinvent talks with Jonathan Tourtellot, CEO of the sustainable tourism consultancy Destination Stewardship Center and a longtime veteran of National Geographic. Tortellot discusses the origins of overtourism and how treasured historic and scenic parts of the world can be protected through economic support, local stewardship councils, and home sharing.

According to Tortellot, overtourism can be directly attributed to the origin of the of transatlantic commercial flight in 1958. That year, there were 25 million international travel arrivals. But by 2010, that number had soared to over 1 billion and rapidly continues to climb. “It’s often said that tourism is the fire that can cook your food or burn your house down,” Tourtellot says.

But, there are ways to manage overtourism, he says. With surging international travel contributing to it, dedication to authenticity and stewardship must—and can—help protect against it.

In the interview, Tortellot breaks down National Geographic’s six criteria for sustainable destinations. The criteria evaluate the qualities that make a destination unique by assessing its authenticity and stewardship:

  • environmental and ecological quality
  • social and cultural integrity
  • condition of historic buildings and archaeological sites
  • aesthetic appeal
  • quality of tourism management
  • outlook for the future

To do this, Tortellot recommends the creation of stewardship councils that consist of private businesses, civil society, and government. But that alone isn’t enough, he says. What’s most critical is the involvement of people who care about that place—the visitors and residents who make valuable contributions to the conversation.

Home sharing, Tortellot argues, can lighten our environmental footprint. Hosts and guests, through a shared love of place, can work together to do just that: 72 percent of our guests say the environmental benefits of home sharing were of at least some importance in their choice of Airbnb.

In April, Airbnb joined the World Tourism Organisation’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development campaign to help make travel greener worldwide. #IY2017 is a year-long campaign of the United Nations 70th General Assembly in collaboration with governments, UN agencies, international and regional organizations as well as the private sector.

“The Future of Sharing” series, which looks at how the collaborative economy can work for all involved, is underwritten by Airbnb.