How to develop a successful sustainable tourism business? The 2017 NatGeo World Legacy Awards winners share their tips

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As part of our recent interview series with the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2017 winners and finalists, we asked them:

What’s the best lesson you have learned over the years of developing a successful sustainable tourism business?

This post gathers the key lessons learned from the winners: Cayuga Collection from Costa Rica, Slovenia Tourist Board, The North Island Seychelles, The City of Santa Fe and The Lodge at Chaa Creek.

Cayuga Collection Hans PfisterHans Pfister, Cayuga Collection: It takes time. It takes passion. It takes a lot of patience. But is the most rewarding process in the world.


Chaa Creek Mick and Lucy FlemmingLucy Flemming, Chaa Creek: Happily, that many of today’s travellers share our concerns about the environmental and social impacts of tourism, and respond favourably to the philosophy and practices driving sustainable, responsible travel. Guests report that, when they learn that 10% of their room rates go directly towards environmental and social programs under our Chaa Creek Cares initiative, they feel better about their stay here.

Simply put, we have learned that green operations can indeed go hand-in-hand with the highest levels of quality accommodations, hospitality and service, and can actually improve a business’ bottom line. We have also learned over the years that the things you believe in, and are passionate about, will come to define who you are as a business, employer and as people. Our experience has shown that supporting the environment and local communities has a profound, positive effect on everyone involved.

Santa Fe Randy RandallRandy Randall, Tourism Santa Fe: Sustainability is not about just the visitor but about a quality of lifestyle for the citizens of the city that is deeply connected to their history and cultures. A few lessons that have guided our efforts:

(1) Know who you are and your value.

(2) Care and invest in your culture and history

(3) Listen to your local citizens (4) Do not be afraid to share ideas or try new things

(5) Respect for those that came before and room for those coming now!

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Slovenia Tourism Board Maja PakMaja Pak, Slovenian Tourist Board: For the successful implementation of green tourism it was important to communicate with stakeholders, to raise awareness, and to explain them benefits of going green. It was important to create a clear positioning of Slovenian tourism that goes in line with developing these green products. The most important thing was to create a unique model that unifies all our efforts in the field of sustainable tourism.

North Island Bruce SimpsonBruce Simpson, North Island: Nothing is a short project – if you are not committed and don’t continuously instill the values that support any individual project, you will find things hard and even going backwards. Commitment to a vision or project is a full-time initiative if you want to be successful.


To see what other winning organisations have learned while developing a successful sustainable tourism business, check our interviews with NatGeo World Legacy Awards winners and finalists.

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