Megan Epler Wood, Founder of the International Ecotourism Society (TIES), received The International Ecotourism Society‟s (TIES) Lifetime Achievement award in Nairobi at ESTC13.
“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 one 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.
About Megan Epler Wood and TIES
A pioneer in her field for over three decades, Megan Epler Wood founded The International Ecotourism Society in 1990, serving as its executive director from 1990-2002. As a young staff person at World Wildlife Fund-U.S. in the 1980s in Washington, D.C., she formulated the idea for the Society and worked with members of the conservation community there to flesh out her ideas. In 1989-1990 she produced a television special for WTBS and the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), The Environmental Tourist, which was broadcast in 1991.
While filming in Kenya, Epler Wood approached Dr. David Western with the idea of founding the Society. Western, who worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Nairobi and who is a renowned expert on wildlife conservation in Africa, agreed to chair the organization. The two worked together to form the first board of directors and raise the essential funds.
She has dedicated her professional career to the creation of professional tools, guidelines, policies and educational resources for sustainable tourism development working in over 30 countries. She has led an international consulting practice EplerWood International since 2003. Currently she teaches Environmental Management of International Tourism Development at Harvard Extension School in a global digital classroom and will co-teach the new course International Development of Sustainable Economies in January 2014.
Epler Wood is also developing tools for sustainable destination development at the Cornell University‟s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management as a Senior Professional Fellow.