Charting a Course Toward a Responsible and Sustainable Future

Looking back at the recent past and ahead to the future, I’m both awed and humbled by the resiliency of the travel and tourism industry. Clearly, the “right to travel” has become woven into our lives in deep and meaningful ways. As we reemerged from the pandemic, environmental and societal issues from overcrowding to conservation have become increasingly critical to the travel experience and highlight the need for our industry to align with initiatives for a sustainable and responsible future.

Which is why as we celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022, USTOA committed to looking “50 Years Forward.” Under this umbrella earlier this year, we introduced the USTOA Sustainability Policy to all Active and Associate Members marking a significant achievement in our ongoing dedication. The policy embodies a promise from our membership to chart a course towards a responsible and sustainable future for tourism. The tireless efforts of the Sustainability Committee, led by USTOA’s Global Social Impact Manager, have paved the way for an ambitious yet feasible roadmap to bring us closer to our goals.

The USTOA Sustainability Policy is complemented by the USTOA Responsible Travel Promise, a document that serves as a collective commitment to support USTOA’s responsible travel mission. It is designed to inspire members to be proactive and implement sustainability plans within their own companies that align with our organizations as a whole.

Sustainability is a call to action

This policy lays out comprehensive goals that seek to secure a responsible future for the travel and tourism sector and highlights economic growth, environmental preservation, and social well-being. Both the USTOA Sustainability Policy and the Responsible Travel Promise foster an examination of how we can make a meaningful impact.

The introduction of these initiatives marks a defining moment in our association’s history. It represents a commitment to responsible travel and a dedication to leaving a positive and lasting impact on the world of travel and tourism. The policy is not just a set of guidelines, but a call to action for all our members.

USTOA also held its second Sustainability is Responsibility (SIR) Summit in Tromsø and Svalbard, Norway this past April. Tourism Cares with Norway Meaningful Travel Summit brought together industry professionals, government officials, and non-profit organizations came to discuss tourism practices and how to promote responsible travel through learning sessions and local experiences. It was an inspiring event where we examined tourism’s impact on local communities and the environment, sustainable destination management case studies, and technology’s role in our industry. Looking ahead, USTOA’s SIR Summit in Singapore in 2024 promises to continue the important dialogue on sustainability, providing valuable insights and best practices for our members.

Celebrating champions of sustainability

Another USTOA initiative is the Future Lights of the Tour Industry which celebrates individuals who are champions of sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts withing their own companies. The 2023 Future Lights are Julie Higgins, sustainability officer at Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, and Mikey Sadowski, vice president of global communications at Intrepid Travel. Both Julie and Mikey have helped lead their companies toward a more responsible and equitable future and we tip our hats off to their achievements.

I am profoundly inspired by the travel community’s dedication to forging a more sustainable and equitable future in tourism. Witnessing our member’s collective commitment to responsible practices, environmental stewardship, and social inclusion fills me with optimism for the years to come. The travel and tour industry’s ongoing efforts to minimize its ecological footprint, support local communities, and champion diversity and inclusion are not only commendable but serve as a source of motivation to a brighter tomorrow.


Terry Dale is the president and chief executive officer at USTOA. Among Dale’s responsibilities at USTOA are developing the association’s strategic marketing initiatives, leading the association’s government advocacy on issues affecting tour operators, and working with other travel and tourism industry decision makers to identify mutual challenges and opportunities.    With the distinction of being the third president in USTOA’s 50-year history, Dale also serves as a key ambassador and spokesperson for USTOA.

Under Dale’s leadership, the association has seen significant growth in the profile of and attendance to the USTOA Annual Conference & Marketplace, which brings Active Tour Operator Members together with Associate Members in meaningful and engaging dialogue and events.

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