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From decolonizing museums to urban biodiversity hotspots, 2020 moved the needle forward in a meaningful way. | Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

The Best Readings, Ideas, and Solutions of 2020


Published on December 29, 2020


Welp. We’ve almost made it through 2020. And what a year it has been!

I’m pretty sure there aren’t many people eager to relive this one — especially those working in the tourism industry. But even though it’s been a rough year, I personally think it’s also brought about some much-needed space and time for the tourism industry to think carefully about the way and direction in which it wants to flourish. Coming into 2020, the industry was headed toward uncontrollable expansion, putting the environment, people, and the places they call home in danger’s way.

For better or worse, the pandemic has given us time to sit with this and chart a better path forward.

During this great pandemic pause, there have been seismic shifts in the tourism industry. It has shown incredible resilience, collaboration, and generosity. Even without any bookings or money coming in, travel companies and professionals rallied to support each other and local communities dependent on tourism. The climate emergency, once a tangential issue to be addressed, now leads conversations about tourism.

I am not dismissing the incredible difficulties people have faced, as individuals and communities. Yet, I am a person who turns toward optimism, so I find strength and power in the good things that have come out of 2020 for the tourism industry.

With that in mind, if you find yourself with spare time this holiday season, catch up on some reading. Here are hand-picked favorites and lots of inspiring solutions shared over the course of 2020 in the biweekly Rooted newsletter to get you started.

Food for Thought

What an Ancient Cave Can Teach the Tourism Industry (Rooted) - “Lost under all those numbers and statistics is a value that can’t be plugged into a spreadsheet: The value of places, of people, and their stories. The value of history and culture. The value of awe, curiosity, wonder, and delight. The value of something simply existing.”

Can Indigenous tourism help protect the Great Barrier Reef? (Adventure.com) - “From cultural sea rangers to specialized marine biologists, the aim is to put the story of the reef in context and hope that if people see it, and learn about it, they’ll want to save it. But despite all the good news, the challenges facing the reef aren’t insignificant.”

The Tangled Narrative: Why Human Connection is Important in Travel (Rooted) - “But that’s a good thing: Life is inherently complicated. We learn and grow in large part by having conversations, seeking out more information, thinking about problems, and participating in solutions.”

Rebecca Solnit: When the Hero is the Problem (LitHub) - “There is no solution, but there are many pieces that add up to a solution, or rather to a modulation of the problem of climate change.”

Botswana’s Radical Experiment in National Unity (We Are Not Divided) - “In this way, Botswanans have made a monumental sacrifice for the tranquility of their nation — they have deprioritized their deeply held tribal identities for the sake of societal stability, and in the process, formed a unified state out of a multiethnic, multilingual, partially hostile tribal society.”

The Most Important Thing About Regenerative Tourism is That It’s Not About Tourism (Rooted) - “Yet, what we continue to emphasize in our conversation about regenerative tourism is how tourism can be developed in destinations to create experiences and conditions that are regenerative rather than seeking out and supporting those aspects of regeneration that already exist.”

Art historian Alice Procter is on a mission to decolonise museums and galleries in her 'Uncomfortable Art Tours' (ABC News) - “She wants museums and galleries to "display it like you stole it" and make the acquisition history of objects transparent.”

Are cities Europe's new biodiversity hotspots? (DW) - “Vondelpark definitely might not seem like the ideal place to look for new species of insects, but biologist Iva Njunjic begs to differ.”

Global Solutions

Should Public Transit Be Free? More Cities Say, Why Not? (New York Times) - “What I like is the doability of this, the simplicity of it,” Mr. Rivera said. “We are already subsidizing this mode of transportation, so the final mile is very short. It isn’t a service people need to pay for; it’s a public good.”

Innovative Solutions for Curbing Tourism’s Food Waste Problem (Rooted) - “When travelers are made aware of a challenge — and invited to be part of the solution — they not only take action that benefits the planet and promotes sustainable development, but they also take home a unique story about how they intimately connected with a destination and its people.”

The digital building blocks of better communities (UN News) - “The community has since seen a marked improvement to their environment: solar lights have been installed in the public spaces, and more than 500 trees have been planted, providing the shade requested by Mr. Joseph and others, and improving the area’s micro-climate.”

Women Make Fuel From Waste and Benefit Environment (Global Press Journal) - “But this summer, Masika and 63 other women in Tshopo’s capital, Kisangani, learned to make clean-burning biomass briquettes, known locally as “makalayabumba,” using household waste. Now she produces and uses the briquettes at home and sells them to other homemakers in the city.”

In Guatemala, refugees find new calling as park rangers (Mongabay) - “For the lucky few who have found their way into the green jobs program, an unexpected doorway has opened up into Guatemala’s natural world. Where once they may have been forced to trek through dense jungles during arduous journeys out of harm’s way, now they protect the forest from intruders.”

New Swedish grocery to price goods based on carbon footprint (Inhabitat) - “I think it will be an eye-opener for many to see how certain choices affect what [they] can afford to get in the same lunch bag.”

From crisis to solutions for communities and African conservation (Mongabay) - “Even before the current pandemic, conservationists working in eastern and southern Africa were increasingly concerned about the need to diversify revenue sources for communities from wildlife beyond tourism, to encompass a wider suite of nature-based products and enterprises.”

Beautiful Mural in Warsaw Eats Up Smog, Purifying The Air Equal to 720 Trees (Good News Network) - “Organized by the sportswear company Converse as part of their City-Forests campaign, the mural was produced using photocatalytic paint with titanium dioxide that attracts airborne pollutants before converting them into harmless nitrates through a chemical process involving sunlight.”

NASA is asking gamers and citizen scientists to help map the world’s corals (World Economic Forum) - “Enter NeMO-Net, a video game in which players identify and classify corals using these 3D images while virtually traveling the ocean on their own research vessel, the Nautilus.”

How Hiking is Helping Wild Brown Bears in the Mountains of Greece (Much Better Adventures) - “For the past five years, having partnered up with outdoor experts, Callisto have also been offering intrepid travellers the chance to track bears in the Pindos Mountains, and using tourism as a tool for conservation in the process.”

Looking Ahead

Turning Words Into Action: 9 Things the Travel Industry Can Actually Do To Build Back Better (Rooted) - Destination representatives, tour operators, accommodation owners, other service providers, and industry thought leaders have declared the importance of solidarity in this moment, but words are only words if they aren’t followed by action.”

How a Women-Run Tour Company Plays a Role in Puerto Rico’s Tourism Efforts (Skift) - “Sustainable growth is especially important as Puerto Rico’s tourism recovers from an array of difficulties, the most recent of which was a series of earthquakes.”

Land acknowledgments 101 (SNEWS) - “Land acknowledgments are a way for companies and individuals to identify to wrongdoing, build new relationships with Native communities, and push for change in how we interact with the land going forward.”

The Travel Content Creator’s Guide to Building Back Better (Rooted) - “In order for tourism to build back better, the tourism industry needs you. This is your invitation to embrace that responsibility.”

Corporate-Wide Impact Programs: Rethinking the Traditional Model (CREST) - “Sustainability is not a niche and, thus, should not be treated as such. Rather than thinking of it as a small component of travel, we need to apply sustainability across the entire industry.”

Social Impact + Storytelling + Sustainability: The Win-Win-Win Tourism Solution (Rooted) - “For tourism to be a so-called “force for good,” it can’t operate in a vacuum. It’s imperative that tourism professionals consider the ripple effects of their offerings across all aspects of the tourism supply chain and ecosystem. They need to take responsibility for their impact and put plans into action that mitigate negative consequences and amplify local benefits.”

Charleston Tourism Is Built on Southern Charm. Locals Say It’s Time to Change. (New York Times) - “But as cultural institutions across the country take a more cleareyed look at interpreting history in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the push to change how Charleston tells its own story has taken on a new urgency.”

The Future (of Tourism) is Female (Rooted) - “I had seen too many beaches littered with plastic; checked into too many Airbnb properties in foreign cities overtaken by stag parties. I witnessed too many locals treated like servants by white Westerners who didn’t even bother to learn the native words for “thank you.”

'Bali is not only about tourism': Covid-19 prompts rethink for island's residents (The Guardian) - “In the past, we thought that tourism is our basic income. But I have learned that Bali is not only about tourism. The agricultural business also can provide life support only if we want to work hard and explore the real potential in our island.”

JoAnna Haugen

JoAnna Haugen is a writer, public speaker, solutions advocate, and founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, storytelling, and social impact. Get in touch with her for partnership and collaboration opportunities.


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