In Maldives, Sir Richard Branson Calls for Sustainable Travel

  • Sir Richard Branson at Soneva Fushi’s jetty.

    Sir Richard Branson at Soneva Fushi’s jetty.

  • On the approach to Soneva Fushi resort, host of the 2011 Slow Life Symposium.

    On the approach to Soneva Fushi resort, host of the 2011 Slow Life Symposium.

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Though he will soon be rocketing wealthy tourists into space, Sir Richard Branson’s more immediate concern is making travel more sustainable

By Ron Gluckman

The travel industry, one of the world’s largest, faces extreme challenges and uncertainty in the future, but it’s a safe bet that billionaire Sir Richard Branson and his multifaceted Virgin empire will play a huge role in shaping its direction and sustainability.

Branson was among dozens of speakers at October’s Slow Life Symposium, a celebrity-studded ecotourism conference hosted by Six Senses Resorts & Spas at its Soneva Fushi property in the Maldives’ Baa Atoll. He was joined by some of world’s most prominent green planners, thinkers, and alternative-energy advocates to discuss climate change and progress toward sustainable business practices within the travel industry.

While politicians continue to debate carbon-reduction schemes, Branson told delegates that the price, in environmental terms, grows steeper every day. “On global warming and climate change, we have already reached a critical point. The time for talk has passed,” he said. “We need action, and we must take action now.” And the cost of inaction, he maintains, is moving the world ever closer to “the mother of all recessions.”

“We’re not going back to the Stone Age,” concurred the Maldives’ environment minister, Mohamed Aslam. “Travel is a fast-growing industry, and the Maldives itself is dependent on tourism. But we must have the kind of travel that helps the world instead of destroying it.”

Despite the concerns, the mood at the conference was upbeat. “I think businesses are moving in the right direction,” Branson told DestinAsian. “On global warming, politicians have failed. But if every company in the world takes on this issue, a lot will get done.”

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