Responsible and sustainable tourism is not just a trend, but a fundamental shift in where many are choosing to travel. On French Polynesia’s beautiful private island of Tetiaroa, The Brando is a paradise for those looking to escape it all, and a beacon for eco-consciousness and slow travel.
The late Marlon Brando was enamoured with Tetiaroa when he visited to film Mutiny on the Bounty, and subsequently purchased the island in 1967. Of his affection for Tetiaroa, Brando proclaimed, “my mind is always soothed when I imagine myself sitting on my South Sea island at night.”
Brando’s vision for Tetiaroa – to preserve its natural beauty, biodiversity and cultural richness – led to the establishment of the resort, championing a barefoot luxury approach to the guest experience.
The Brando has long been ahead of the curve with its green innovations. It was the first resort in the world to obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)’s Platinum certification, the highest accolade for achievement in green building. Renewable energy initiatives on the island include seawater air-conditioning, which harnesses the cold of deep-sea water and enables low-energy, highly efficient cooling for all the buildings; solar-powered electricity which provides more than half of the resort’s energy needs and all of its hot water; coconut oil biofuel used in the power station; and flow-batteries for storage of energy from solar which are made from recyclable materials. Bicycles are provided to all guests for getting around the island, and the resort has plans to make all of its vehicles solar-powered.
Brando believed that tourism is a powerful agent for sustainability and dreamt of creating a ‘university of the sea’ that would educate others about the many facets of Tetiarosa. The ‘Ecostation’, established to fulfil this inspiring vision, is a hub where scientists from around the world lead research into sustainable interdependence, implement these lessons on Tetiaroa, and teach them globally to improve our relationship with nature. Dedicated to education, conservation and sustainable interdependence, the Ecostation also provides a unique guest experience. Activities include interacting with scientists in the field and getting involved with studies conducted by some of the world’s leading research institutions.
Co-founder Richard H. Bailey, Chairman and CEO of Pacific Beachcomber, S.C. argues that incorporating genuinely sustainable practices into a tourism business model is intuitive given that the very nature of travel is about deeply engaging with your surrounds. “What I believe is that, in this business, the planet is our product. Discovery of the astonishing natural and cultural wonders of our world, how we fit into it, whence we came, what our future holds – these transformational experiences are the value proposition of our business. We damage or lose these at our peril. So, tourism is the perfect laboratory for sustainable technologies and concepts.”
Bailey says that advancing a business of conscious tourism is a collective industry responsibility. “For me, doing well by doing right means making a business out of saving our world and ourselves – one precious island, river, plain, reef, custom, legend, habitat or village at a time,” he says. “By preserving them we not only perpetuate our business model, but we also build knowledge about why preserving them is so important to our own wellbeing.”
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