Kelly Galaski is a passionate sustainable tourism professional with 25 years of experience across the hospitality and tourism for-profit and non-profit sectors. She currently works as a sustainable tourism specialist at the Travel Foundation (external link, opens in new window) , a leading international sustainable tourism organization. The company works with destinations globally toward achieving climate-positive and equitable tourism goals through destination stewardship strategies and capacity-building programs.
Prior to this, Galaski was at Planeterra for over a decade, working with rural and Indigenous communities on community tourism experience and enterprise development. She also worked on the development of responsible travel policies and supply chain assessment systems to measure local impact and sustainability at G Adventures.
How did you become interested in sustainable tourism and why are you so passionate about it?
My interest in the sustainability and responsible side of tourism was sparked with a sustainable tourism course I took in my final year at TMU. As part of this class, I took a field trip to Jamaica where we visited rural villages and community tourism development projects, as well as large-scale, all-inclusive resorts, and learned about the tourism system in the country and the benefits of community tourism. I later went on to do my master’s degree in environmental studies.
I have a passion for nature and the power of conservation and restoration of our planet’s ecosystems to benefit humanity and wildlife, as well as our climate, air, water and oceans. Because of this, I am dedicated to doing work that is tackling the global challenges of climate change and equity, by helping the businesses responsible for tourism development to have the tools to improve practices and ensure tourism is doing its part for our world.
Tell us what you do in your role as a sustainable tourism specialist.
Sustainable tourism specialists at the Travel Foundation work to ensure communities around the world benefit more fully from tourism. One of my main projects over the past year was contributing to the Town of Vail’s Destination Stewardship Plan (external link, opens in new window) . The Travel Foundation’s role was to conduct an analysis of Vail’s sustainability initiatives to date — toward their sustainable destination certification — and help identify priority actions to be included into their long-term plan. We used our Optimal Value Framework to conduct an analysis across 24 impact areas of sustainability to provide recommended actions, as well as indicators for ongoing monitoring of destination health.
When I worked at Planterra, one of the community tourism projects I developed was the Parwa Community Restaurant (external link, opens in new window) . We worked with the community to establish their vision of hosting travellers in their village, alongside G Adventures’ need for a meal for tour groups en route to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. We designed the restaurant and trained primarily women to manage, serve and cook there. The menu was based on locally grown ingredients showcasing the culture of the region and this particular Quechua community, called Huchuy Qosco (which means Little Cusco in Quechua).
How have you seen sustainable tourism develop since you started, and what more needs to be done in the future?
In the beginning, it was often focused on environmental management, which was a practical way (and still is) for tourism and hospitality businesses to get started on reducing their impacts from water, waste, energy use, etc. It has evolved to be much more holistic now, with looking at supply chain impacts, benefits and impacts on local people — both residents and service providers and suppliers. The most recent developments are around climate action, understanding carbon footprints and taking measures to reduce emissions.
I think there needs to be more collaboration and bigger and bolder initiatives by all parts of the sector. But most of all, reminding ourselves that we cannot have tourism without communities that are healthy and happy places to live in. So regardless of what role we have in tourism, we should be thinking about how we can better and more positively impact the places and people we depend on.