The president and CEO of one of the largest travel recommendation engines in the world is well aware that over-tourism and "flight shaming" are trends that have the potential to impact the travel industry in the years to come. After all, for most people, air travel is the biggest contributor to their carbon footprint.
Historic city centers from Bali to Paris to Barcelona are straining under the weight of selfie-seeking vacationers, as a relatively strong global economy and the age of Instagram has led to an explosion in global tourism. Stephen Kaufer, who co-founded TripAdvisor ($TRIP) nearly 20 years ago, told Cheddar in an interview from the Skift Global Forum in New York that he believes tourism remains a critical way to make the world a better place ーbut there needs to be a new emphasis on how to do it sustainably.
"Experiencing other cultures is a fabulous thing ー literally for the world," he said. "Travel brings people closer together," said Kaufer. "It's harder to hate that foreigner when you've been to their land."
How to preserve that in the long-term is why Kaufer is among the industry CEOs who have partnered with Prince Harry's environmental activism organization to launch Travalyst, a sustainable travel initiative that is working to develop green practices for tourists, popular tourist attractions, and travel companies.
Even though there is a growing movement, spurred by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, to get people to question their personal air travel, Kaufer said he doesn't expect a tourism backlash ー or "travel-lash" ー at least on the scale of the "techlash" that has gripped Silicon Valley. Tourism is inherently aspirational, he said, and in a strong economy it will always be a major part of people's lives. On that note, he added that despite growing concerns that the global economy may be heading toward a downturn, the data from TripAdvisor does not indicate that a widespread slowdown is imminent.
"What we see are ups and downs, and we're very used to that," he said.