by Jessica Abel, MBA ‘14 (4/30/13)
Megan Epler-Wood spoke about her new role as a Senior Professional Fellow at the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, as well as her career focused on helping to define and redefine sustainable tourism over the years.
In March 2013, Megan Epler-Wood joined Cornell MBA students from the Sustainable Building and Hospitality Affinity Group of the SGE club for a roundtable discussion on sustainable development and tourism.
Megan Epler-Wood spoke about her new role as a Senior Professional Fellow at the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, as well as her career focused on helping to define and redefine sustainable tourism over the years. She addressed the importance of tourism as a positive resource for economic development – the poorer the country, the more important the role tourism plays. Epler-Wood has been challenged with helping to protect areas and culture, while simultaneously encouraging inter-culture.
Epler-Wood discussed a few ideas and ways to involve students at Cornell in her new role as Senior Fellow at the Center. In the past, to complete projects, students helped gather data on specific issues and then worked with her to identify potential solutions to the problem.
One of the biggest challenges facing ecotourism today is ensuring tourism profits go to preservation. As Epler-Wood noted, marketing is often a “big PR machine.” Megan’s work focuses on the dollars generated being properly allocated to the necessary resources. Organizations are quick to leverage the environment for tourism but are reluctant to reinvest in those resources to ensure they remain intact.
Epler-Wood touched on her role advising a prominent New York based developer, Stanley Selengut on a project, Maho Bay Campground, in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. This eco-friendly resort allows guests to stay in solar and wind-powered, “tent-cottages.” Guests can experience the fun and beauty of island living in an environmentally sustainable fashion. The cottages construction included a lot of recycled building materials and solar and wind-powered water heating and electrical systems in each of the canvas-sided platform tents.
Epler-Wood founded The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) in 1990, the oldest and largest non-profit organization in the world dedicated to making ecotourism a tool for sustainable tourism development worldwide. She was President & CEO from 1991-2002. Since 2003, her firm Epler-Wood International has devoted itself to aiding some of the poorest countries in the world with sustainable tourism development; including the nations of Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Mexico, El Salvador, Brazil, Belize, and Honduras.
In late 2010, Epler-Wood became the Director of the Planeterra Foundation, a foundation with projects throughout the world in health, microenterprise development, education, environmental conservation, and community development; all associated with the destination stewardship and sustainability mandate of its parent corporation, Gap Adventures, the largest, independent, international adventure tour operation in the world.