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Five Minutes With: Greg Takehara

Five Minutes With: Greg Takehara

Shortly after graduating from law school, Greg Takehara worked for a travel company that owned a tour operation and chain of brick and mortar agencies.

He learned the business and distribution model and—most important—interacted with and was mentored by wonderful industry colleagues. He then spent many years in the travel insurance sector.

Takehara has always been connected to travel and tourism. He became involved with Tourism Cares during its infancy, when Bruce Beckham, executive director emeritus, brought together the foundations of ASTA, NTA and USTOA under one tent. Takehara attended its inaugural cleanup in Ellis Island in 2003, became an active volunteer, acted as a team leader at events, joined the board in 2012, and became chairman in late 2018. He joined Tourism Cares as CEO on May 1, 2019. 

On Changes
I lived in New York City during 9/11. I recall the shutdown of aviation travel following the tragic event and the seeming demise of travel and tourism. The industry had never been threatened before to that degree, yet it showed tremendous resiliency. After that, the industry developed a confidence in prevailing in the face of even the greatest obstacles. It became a given that travel was part of the fabric of life.

On Challenges
We face a sustainability issue that poses an almost equally daunting challenge to the travel products that fuel our livelihoods. Overtourism, single-use plastics, climate change, and environmental impact are entering the conscience of everyone in the supply chain—consumers, travel companies, destinations, and suppliers.

On Opportunities
The travel industry is one of few that can reach some of the world's most remote and marginalized communities. We have the opportunity to use it as a force for good to drive economic, social and environmental impact. By using our business to address the demand for more responsible and meaningful travel, we can create a positive impact on the destinations our industry relies on.

For Newcomers
I encourage looking at the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, part of a 2030 agenda, a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet. SDGs are a call to action as part of a global partnership, which Tourism Cares is committed to. Not coincidentally, our industry is the only one directly or indirectly tied to all 17 goals.

In 2018 we worked with local nonprofits and social enterprises in the Florida Keys to promote healthy oceans and restore the mangroves and coral reef, instrumental in protecting the Keys from hurricanes. We went to Jordan and put a spotlight on social enterprises that promote gender equality through tourism and foster entrepreneurial culture in an effort to expand tourism as part of a Meaningful Travel Map.

Earlier this year we went to Puerto Rico, highlighting Ponce as an emerging destination, introducing our contingent to agritourism in Yauco, and forging partnerships with social enterprises and local nonprofits to the wider tourism economy. Preceding the 2019 IPW conference in Anaheim, we organized a volunteer event exhibiting a thriving local ecosystem by bringing together local and national nonprofits focused on urban agriculture and the homeless—issues affecting tourism nationwide—and raised awareness of tourism's role in advancing the SDGs.

We welcome every newcomer to the Tourism Cares' community.

Written by Amy L Charles, Editorial Director for Groups Today.

This article originally appeared in Groups Today.

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