Travel + Leisure's Global Vision Awards Are a Win for the Planet

Meet the 25 trailblazers paving the way for a world in which travel works in tandem with the planet, not against it.

A woman free diving off the coast of South Africa
Zandile Ndhlovu diving at Sodwana Bay.

Jacki Bruniquel/Courtesy of Zandile Ndhlovu

Travel gets a bum rap when it comes to sustainability. And indeed, exuberant jet-setting has an undeniable carbon emissions problem; even subdued jet-setting has its issues. Yet the world beckons us wanderers, and much of the global economy relies on travel. In 2021, travel and tourism accounted for 1 in 11 of all new jobs created across the world (289.5 million) and directly contributed $5.8 trillion to the global GDP.

The world runs on travel—which can be rough on the planet, but doing so through a lens of sustainability can make it much less so. 

And this is where the Travel + Leisure Global Vision Awards 2023 comes into play. For the third consecutive year, the magazine's editors have honored a selection of trailblazers who are paving the way for a world in which travel works in tandem with the planet, not against it.

"Traveling with positive intent and impact has never been more vital," write the Travel + Leisure (T+L) editors, explaining that the honorees include "25 innovators who are leading the world to a more sustainable future—whether they’re focused on eliminating food waste, creating equal employment opportunities for hospitality workers, or preserving the habitats of at-risk wildlife."

"Their work proves that when ingenuity and imagination meet purpose and grit, the human capacity for problem-solving is boundless."

Travel and Leisure magazine cover with a Joshua tree and sunset behind the text

Travel + Leisure

The awardees are an impressive, inspiring bunch. (And ... pardon my bias! Some of the winners might have been nominated by yours truly, who served as a panelist for this year's awards.) Regardless, it's impossible to select a favorite from a group of people filled with passion for the greater good and that unique dynamic to make it happen.

Consider Thao Phuong, a fashion designer disillusioned by the industry’s notoriously wasteful consumption, who launched a boutique tour operator focusing on Vietnam’s traditional textile artisanship and ethnic heritage. Or Zandile Ndhlovu (pictured top), South Africa’s first Black African PADI-certified free-diving instructor who established the Black Mermaid Foundation, an organization that works to increase diversity and inclusion in oceanography by teaching diving to adults and snorkeling to children.

A man walks with two white rhinos at a conservancy in Kenya
The world’s last northern white rhinos, Najin and Fatu, at Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Justin Mott/Courtesy of Ol Pejeta Conservancy

In the wildlife realm, we have Treehugger favorite, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in Kenya. You may recognize the name, as this is where the world’s last two northern white rhinoceroses reside. Scientists at Ol Pejeta are on a global mission to save the species from extinction, along with other critical conservation work—while the conservancy also hosts upscale camps and safari cottages. As the T+L editors point out, the conservancy "exemplifies how tourism and wildlife conservation can be mutually beneficial."

These are just a few of the stories—reading through the full list of innovators is in itself like taking a trip. It's inspiring and filled with people and places to add to the vision board.

It's easy for eco-minded roamers to worry about travel, given the state of the planet. But with visionaries like this on board, a middle road emerges where slow, intentional travel switches up the paradigm—and heeding the call of the world doesn't necessarily mean harming it.

Read about all the winners at Travel + Leisure.

P.S. When planning a trip, don't forget your carbon offsets! See Treehugger's favorite carbon offset programs.

View Article Sources
  1. World Travel & Tourism Council: "Global Economic Impact Trends"