Tourism Cares 2022: Beyond the Virtual | Travel Research Online


Tourism Cares 2022: Beyond the Virtual

When Tourism Cares was formed in 2005, it was called Tourism Cares for Tomorrow. Now 17 years later, we find ourselves in that tomorrow. The environmental protection issues the organization was founded to address are no longer concerns for some distant future. They are extremely pressing issues that are right on top of us.

The vision Tourism Cares was founded on looks even better in hindsight than it looked at its inception. It was a mobilization based on the realization of people in the travel industry that environmental degradation, if allowed to go too far, would destroy their businesses.

It was the travel industry stepping up and taking responsibility to protect the environmental and cultural resources it depended on to operate its businesses. In the face of decades of inertia and failure in the public sector to take meaningful action to confront the problems of environmental destruction, it was an industry saying, “If not us, who? And if not now, when?”

The Roots of Tourism Cares

The origins of Tourism Cares go back farther than 2005. That was the year Tourism Cares was formed from the merger of two previous organizations that grew out of the two major tour operator trade associations. They were the National Tour Foundation (NTF) of the National Tour Association and the Travelers Conservation Foundation (TCF) of United States Tour Operators Association.

Travelers Conservation Foundation was formed within the USTOA in 1998. Its initial advocate, who pushed for it within USTOA, was Sven Lindblad, founder of Lindblad Expeditions. He was soon joined by other environmentally-concerned tour operators, including Arthur Tauck of Tauck, Dan Sullivan of Collette, John Stachnik of Mayflower Tours, and others.

The National Tour Foundation, the other parent of Tourism Cares, goes back even further. It was founded in 1982 to promote education and research in the travel industry.

Tourism Cares combined the functions of its two predecessors. It continued NTF’s mission of awarding grants and scholarships to support education and research.

And it also continued the mission of TCF, for the travel industry to help support the cultural and environmental sites the industry depends on. The centerpiece of its activities was the organization of volunteer projects to help restore sites that were vital to tourism.

The executive director of Tourism Cares was Bruce Beckham, who had headed NTF since 1984, two years after its founding.

Soon after the formation of Tourism Cares, the tour operators were joined by companies from every segment of the travel industry. It became a truly industry-wide organization.

Tourism Cares mounted muscular efforts to restore sites in need, gathering hundreds of travel industry professionals together to provide the labor required to clean up and maintain places in need.

The restoration projects not only made tangible differences in the sites they worked on, they also engendered camaraderie among professionals from different companies and industry segments, often from competing companies, who joined together in a shared cause. I was among many people who participated and found the events to be among the most satisfying experiences of their lives.

At the events you would join together with others, organized into groups, to accomplish different tasks and engage in basic physical labor. By the end of the day, you would be physically tired, but there was a sense of elation from the communal experience of working together, and from the clearly visible difference the group had made to the site in question.

The sites became the beneficiaries of many man-hours of labor applied over a concentrated period of just a few days. Tourism Cares has organized some 30 such volunteer clean-up and restoration events.

Tourism Cares Post Pandemic

The first chairman of Tourism Cares was Arthur Tauck, chairman of Tauck. The vice chairman was John Stachnik, president of Mayflower Tours. Fast forward to 2022 and now Robin Tauck, the daughter of Arthur Tauck, is chairman of Tourism Cares.

Besides being part of the Tauck organization and one of the drivers of its conservation efforts, Robin Tauck has a rich pedigree in environmental protection, working with Bill and Hillary Clinton on Save America’s Treasures, helping to found the TRIP Foundation, and her own organization, the Robin Tauck Foundation.

The organization has solidified and strengthened its mission, even as the need for environmental protection has grown more urgent. The website of Tourism Cares now proclaims, “We believe we can change the world through travel… by inspiring the travel industry to put people and places first.”

It defines itself as “a non-profit organization dedicated to the long-term survival of the travel + tourism industry. By inspiring each other to make travel a force for good, we can ensure the future prosperity of the people and places who rely on it. And by creating mutual respect and commitment between people and the planet, we believe we can change the world through travel.”

Of course, the COVID pandemic put a hold on some of the organization’s activities, but it’s continued to be active, with various projects. It had to postpone the in-person component of some of its Meaningful Travel Summits and instead conduct them virtually. The in-person summits began again in November 2021 with a conference in Bogota, Colombia. And the organization held its Tourism Cares with North Lake Tahoe last May 18-20.

Among the changes brought about by the pandemic, as well as three more years of the accelerating effects of climate change, Robin Tauck believes the mission of Tourism Cares has even more resonance than before.

In a recent interview, Robin said, “As travelers return to travel they are feeling differently, with a desire to help local communities, local businesses, and families. This post-pandemic world has truly brought us together in new ways.”

Those ways tend to bolster the mission of Tourism Cares.

The Meaningful Travel Summit

Tourism Cares will hold a Meaningful Travel Summit on Sept. 28-30 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It will be a three-day event that will include networking opportunities, volunteering and educational sessions on subjects such as conservation, biodiversity and nature positivity, responsible hotels and accommodations, and indigenous tourism.

According to the TC website, “Our goal is to learn from one another, infuse more sustainability into our businesses with the knowledge we’ve gained and roll up our sleeves to volunteer in and with the local community.”

Should be fun, educational, and productive.

The climate change disaster has crept up on us, and suddenly has reached a threshold where it passes from something subtle enough that it can be denied to exist—to something that threatens the foundations of our civilization.

The significance of Tourism Cares has expanded at the same rate. What once seemed like a very nice, rather altruistic mission has now become clearly an urgent matter of survival for our species, or for our civilization.

It is said that tomorrow never comes, but the tomorrow Tourism Cares was founded for is now the present.

Seventeen years doesn’t seem like a long time in historical terms but, in terms of global warming, it’s been long enough that the world is very different from what it was in 2005.

I’m happy that Tourism Cares is there. It bolsters my confidence that humanity can find ways to deal with the most threatening problems we have ever faced.


David Cogswell is a freelance writer working remotely, from wherever he is at the moment. Born at the dead center of the United States during the last century, he has been incessantly moving and exploring for decades. His articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Fox News, Luxury Travel magazine, Travel Weekly, Travel Market Report, Travel Agent Magazine,,, and other publications. He is the author of four books and a contributor to several others. He was last seen somewhere in the Northeast U.S.

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