The Green Armada Foundation, a nonprofit organization, is a core member of the Blue Community Consortium, a United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Affiliate, and part of the UNWTO International Sustainable Tourism Observatory. Green Armada began its environmental advocacy in 2007 in Palm Harbor, Florida, initially through clearing the coastline and inland waterways to get rid of trash left by humans. By providing positive action and fostering relationships between organizations and interested people, the company also helps provide transparent access to verified data. Today, the nonprofit group takes their mission to the next level: Protecting Tampa Bay’s fragile marine ecosystem through a global partnership for sustainable tourism.
Green Armada Foundation Co-founder and CEO Vince Albanese discussed the details in an interview with Bold Business. The Green Armada Foundation had the bold idea of working with the Blue Community Consortium and the University of South Florida. “We’ve managed to bring together the first UN World Tourist Observatory in North America to the Tampa Bay area,” he explained regarding the recent collaboration. “That observatory’s mission is to be able to create best practices on what’s happening here in our area.”
Together for A Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism
The Blue Community Consortium of which Green Armada is a founding member was approved as a UNWTO Affiliate at the UNWTO General Assembly in September 2015. It includes a network of various tourism stakeholders, belonging to both the public and private sectors, as well as nonprofits, academic institutions, international organizations, and some of the UN’s agencies and programs. Organizations that belong to this partnership share a common goal and vision: sustainable tourism—transforming and creating bold impacts in tourism not just locally but globally as well. Thus, it comes as no surprise that a global partnership for sustainable tourism is deemed advantageous.
The UNWTO has a network of sustainable tourism observatories. In December of 2016, the USF Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Global Sustainability (PCGs) became host to the Blue Community Sustainable Tourism Observatory and is the first of its kind in the United States. The Observatory has now grown to include communities in six Florida counties and with this growth is now hosted by the Blue Community Consortium.
As part of the UN International Year for Sustainable Tourism, they held the UNTWO conference on October 26 to 29, 2017 on Anna Maria Island, Manatee County. The conference was coordinated by the Blue Community Consortium with Rebecca Tobias serving as Conference Coordinator. Among the presenters during the event were notable USF members: Ed Chiles, a faculty member of USF Patel College of Global Sustainability; Dr. David Randle, Director of Sustainable Tourism at the USF Patel College of Globaland president; Louis Zunguze, the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability Coastal Sustainability Director; Dr. Richard Berman a Professor of the USF Institute for Innovation & Advanced Discovery; and Richard Jordan, faculty member of the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability.
Sustainable Tourism in Action
In addition to talks and panels from them and many other local and international leaders in sustainable tourism, such as Sarbuland Kahan from the UNWTO U.N. Headquarters, Joe Tankersley—author and Walt Disney Imagineer—, Chris Castro—Director of Sustainability for the City of Orlando—, and Sharon Wright—Director of Sustainability for the City of St. Petersburg. There were also several experiential learning sessions that allow people to have a feel of sustainable tourism in action.
The observatory regularly performs gathering and analysis of relevant information regarding tourism and its impacts on the ecosystems and social environments. The initial observatory boundaries were in Pinellas and Manatee Counties, two of the most visited areas in Florida. Together, the two counties welcome over 13 million visitors annually, and tourism generates over 116,300 jobs. As they are home to some of the best beaches in the country, the UN, USF, and Green Armada’s collaborative effort vow to protect this unique coastal environment. In the past year, the Observatory has expanded to the cities of New Smyrna Beach, Key West, and Orlando.
“The Green Armada’s participation in that is focused on the acquisition of the most important resource with the UN is really after is data that can be used for best practices,” Albanese mentioned. “So our ability to collect, collaborate, distribute that data around the world is the bold idea that comes with it.” Notably, Green Armada provides data through all fronts of environmental research, helping both policymakers and tourism managers alike, in crafting and implementing better policies to protect the area with regard to tourism.
Believing in Blockchain
“The United Nations World Tourism Organization has not only adopted and endorsed the program here but also we’re participating in what’s called the Futures Task-force in setting a direction for the UN,” Albanese explained. The Futures Task-force initiative was created in the October 2017 year during the Choices for Our Sustainable Tourism Futures Conference on Anna Maria Island, Florida. The Futures Task-force was created from the International Year for Sustainable Development’s mission: “Travel, Enjoy, Respect.”
Green Armada also makes use of blockchain technology—essentially a transparent, accessible, tamper-proof database. “I have the privilege of representing blockchain on that Futures Task-force as we work to define what’s been called the decade of tourism from 2020 to 2030,” Albanese continued. Through this technology, data on environmental projects have more accountability.
In the interview, Albanese described this technology’s potential, likening it to a three-legged stool. “That includes the fact that transparency is at the core of what we want,” he explained. “The second is trust. And my definition of trust in this particular area is being able to authenticate the source of the information and to ensure that the data that is on the blockchain, on the ledger is in fact from the individual or organization that you expect it to be. The intent of all of these is the third leg, which is to drive accountability around that model.”
Other Details in a Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism
Through teaming up with like-minded organizations, Green Armada promotes the adoption of effective policies backed by solid, untampered data. Albanese affirmed that the foundation’s mission “has always been to support grassroots efforts for positive environmental and healthy change. Health and wellness in my mind are irrevocably linked together.” Through blockchain, there is now a data platform that can advance the foundation’s mission.
Truly, sustainable tourism is not only achievable but also effective. Through a global partnership for sustainable tourism between organizations not afraid to enact bold visions and missions, Green Armada Foundation and its partners can help create a positive change not just in Florida, but also throughout the country and around the world.