Dave Sollitt joined The
International Ecotourism Society (TIES) in February 2007 as the new Executive
Director. With his extensive experience in regional, national and
international marketing and communications as well as conservation
background, Dave brings exciting and innovative solutions and
opportunities to TIES and its network. After a 20-year career in
international advertising in New York and Chicago, Dave and family
moved west. With his own agency and consultancy in Jackson
Hole, WY, Dave worked with such clients as Grand Teton Lodge Company,
Vail Resorts, Rockefeller Holdings, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort,
Wyoming State Tourism, Marriott, and, most recently, TIES-member
Papoose Creek Lodge in Cameron, MT. Dave also consulted for a variety
of conservation organizations including Trout Unlimited, Deschutes
River Conservancy, Yellowstone to Yukon and others. He holds a BS in
Environmental Science from Arizona State University and a Masters in
Communications from Northwestern University. He has enjoyed travelling
to every continent except Antarctica and sailing extensively around the
International Ecotourism Society (TIES) (Web:
a global network of
industry practitioners, institutions and individuals helping to
integrate environmental and socially responsible principles into
practice, while promoting responsible travel that unites conservation
TIES promotes responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the
environment and improves the well-being of local people by creating an international network of individuals, institutions and
the tourism industry, educating tourists and tourism professionals and influencing the tourism industry, public institutions and donors to
integrate the principles of ecotourism into their operations and
TIES has an extensive Training and Education program that provides
consulting Services, international training programs, distance learning
courses, advocacy campaigns, UCFC program, conferences, public forums
(The Interview follows:)
made you assume the big ecotourism helm of The International Ecotourism
Society? Did you bring with you a "100-day" plan for changes, or are
you rather the consensus-seeking type?
David Sollitt: I’ve
always been passionate about conservation. My degree was in
Environmental Science and at one time, I was set on being an
environmental lawyer to save the planet. That was until I concluded
communications was both my forte and an effective means of preserving
our natural world. I worked in the private sector most of my
career, and I feel strongly that conservation programs that integrate
public and private partnerships and constituencies are the best way to
ensure preservation of the world’s last best places.
Ecotourism provides perhaps the best model to demonstrate that wild
places and biodiversity have both tangible and intangible value.
Any thoughts for a 100 day plan were pretty much killed when I realised
how much there was to do in my first 100 days, including Oslo, a major
fundraiser, and board meeting. But there are plans in the works to
dramatically improve our service to our members and our ability to
serve the Ecotourism community. I am pleased to say my 100th day at
TIES will be spent in Oslo, surrounded by the best and the brightest in
global Ecotourism at the Global Ecotourism Conference, 2007.
ECOCLUB: Do you
view Ecotourism, as a tourism movement, or as a tourism niche?
David Sollitt: Niches that reflect real,
compelling human needs and values become movements. It’s only
a matter of size and critical mass. Ecotourism is one example of a
niche that has become a movement.
ECOCLUB: Is Ecotourism certification a useful and
David Sollitt: Yes.
For all the growth that ecotourism has enjoyed, it is still a young
industry, encompassing both experiential and operational guidelines to
legitimately deliver what we call Ecotourism. In a world where few
people have the time and resources to fully research their travel
choices, certification programs that are verifiable and measurable
provide a very real service to both the traveller and the Ecotourism
operators that indeed operate sustainably and responsibly.
Ecotourists care about human rights at a destination, or about not
upsetting the local status-quo, leaving only footprints?
Ecotourism reminds us that we share this planet with a
variety of peoples, communities as well as other life forms. People,
especially Ecotourists, should care about human rights everywhere.
argue that most tourists who opt for an eco-holiday do not really feel
accountable to the poor, the disenfranchised, or to the environment,
during their 'hard-earned' holidays. They mainly choose an eco holiday
by accident, on the grounds of price & novelty. Do you agree?
David Sollitt: I
don’t think people choose an eco-holiday by accident. I think
people plan their vacations based on a desired set of experiences. Most
of those who wish to experience nature, wildlife and wild places want
to know that their experiences aren’t contributing to the
destruction or degradation of those places and are ideally helping to
I also believe that to be fully enriching, travel to faraway places
encompasses interaction with the cultures and peoples that help define
those places. To the extent that those cultures and peoples
are poor or disenfranchised, it will have an impact on the experience
of that place.
That said, I think many discover that true ecotourism practice can
dramatically enhance that experience, but that discovery comes largely
through the experience itself. Prior to going to TIES, I
worked at Papoose Creek Lodge, an ecolodge in Cameron, MT. Many guests
came to the lodge knowing we called it an ecolodge, but not truly
knowing what that meant. In the course of their stay, they learned and
experienced the things that the Lodge does to protect wildlife, the
magnificent Madison Valley and the greater Yellowstone ecosystem and
they told us repeatedly that knowledge dramatically enhanced their stay
and made it a truly special experience. In the same way, knowing that
your travel choice helps the people and the communities that made your
vacation a unique and rewarding experience can only be an enhancement.
Whether that results in a sense of accountability is hard to say, but
Ecotourism has a unique capacity to transform guests into evangelists
for the places they visit and the communities they interact with and we
need to do a better job creating the vehicles to help them along the
ECOCLUB: Should Ecotourism become more mainstream,
or should the mainstream become more Ecotourist? Or neither perhaps?
If becoming more “mainstream” means that Ecotourism
practice would retreat from the principles of sustainability,
preservation and the principles that we in the community hold dear,
absolutely not. If it means that the marketing of true Ecotourism
practice convinces a broader range of tourists that the experience of
true Ecotourism is a richly rewarding experience, then absolutely.
The mainstream is becoming more Ecotourist. We are holding our North
American Ecotourism Conference in Madison, Wisconsin in September. That
State became the first in the US to promote, on a state-wide basis, the
adoption of sustainable practices across their entire tourism industry.
That can only be a good thing. We all have to be concerned with the
state of our planet, so sustainable practices in all industries will
have to play a role. Those in the Ecotourism community can be proud of
the influence they have had in encouraging the mainstream tourism
industry to adopt sound, sustainable practices.
carbon-offsetting by tourists have an effective role to play in
combating climate-change, or is it mostly a gimmick by unregulated
& unaccountable offsetting businesses?
To solve the climate change problem, we will all have to change the way
we think, work and act. Carbon offsetting does a lot of positive
things. It raises consciousness that individual choices matter. It
provides a funding for a lot of very valuable sustainable energy
development programs. It can provide an economic engine for
reforestation and, eventually, preservation of old growth forests. The
impact is relatively small presently, but that’s because the
number of people participating is relatively small. But it’s
growing dramatically and it’s drawing increasingly larger
Remember recycling 30 years ago? Remember when that was the province of
a small “fringe?” Today, it touches everyone.
Reducing our carbon footprint will eventually touch everyone.
ECOCLUB: Do you see TIES
as actively initiating or consulting for ecotourism projects, or should
it rather keep its distances as an impartial observer, monitoring
I’m a marketer by training and experience. As the oldest and
largest organisation serving the Ecotourism community, it is important
that we actively promote Ecotourism, our members, and the benefits of
Ecotourism. That argues against a passive, arms length engagement.
For example, according to our web stats, we get an average of a million
hits on our web site a month with a number of unduplicated visits that
many private sector sites would envy. But our site isn’t very
good. Our site can and will become a much more active presence in the
With regards to specific projects, we will continue to stress training
and education as a critical driver in the advancement of Ecotourism.
There is an enormous wealth of knowledge and expertise in Ecotourism in
our Staff, Board and membership. I bring a different set of skills and
expertise that can enhance that knowledge and its dissemination and
If you were to give one promise to the world of
Ecotourism, about something that would be achieved during your tenure
at the helm of TIES, what would that be?
I think we became somewhat insular as an organisation in the past few
years. This is a community and an industry – a term I use somewhat loosely
– that is remarkably vibrant and passionate. My term will hopefully be
seen as one based on increased outreach and collaboration and a
rededication to the membership that is our greatest strength.
ECOCLUB: Finally what
are the aims of the Global Ecotourism Conference, beyond the obvious
goal of networking? Will there be another conference?
David Sollitt: The
Global Ecotourism Conference 2007 is a remarkable opportunity for the
international Ecotourism community to take stock of where we are and
what we’ve both accomplished and learned in the five years
since the United Nations' International Year of Ecotourism. The breadth
and depth of our speakers and presenters are remarkable. The geographic
dispersion of our conference participants is impressive, and
we’re proud that conference participants integrate both on
the ground operators and staff as well as ministers and other
dignitaries. We and our partners have worked very hard to put together
a conference agenda that meets the needs of Ecotourism professionals
and practitioners from around the world to learn from each
other’s experience, to enhance the capacity to plan and
manage Ecotourism operations in a more sustainable manner, and to
strengthen the collective voice of the Ecotourism community.
A number of leading experts from various parts of the world will
address critical issues, challenges and opportunities in the field of
Ecotourism through workshops and plenary sessions. The workshops are
crafted around the main themes of local sustainable development, nature
conservation, communication and branding, and current trends. These
workshops serve as forum to assess the achievements and challenges in
the field of Ecotourism since the IYE, examine critical issues in
Ecotourism today, discuss the way forward for the Ecotourism community,
and develop action plans to reinforce and expand the process of
fostering joint policies and approaches on key issues including
biodiversity conservation, poverty alleviation, and tourism industry
Yes, there will be another conference. We believe it is critical that
the international Ecotourism community convenes every few years to
assess our accomplishments and challenges. TIES, in partnership with a
national or regional Ecotourism association, will be organising a
Global Ecotourism Conference at least every five years starting in
2007, in the co-organizer’s country.
Thank you very much
complete list of ECOCLUB Interviews here