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TripAdvisor CEO Welcomes More Pressure on the Travel Industry to Develop Green Practices

Dennis Schaal, Skift
TripAdvisor CEO Welcomes More Pressure on the Travel Industry to Develop Green Practices
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In an era when flight shaming is becoming a thing and destinations are becoming increasingly aware of overtourism issues, TripAdvisor CEO said additional pressure on the travel industry to develop sustainable practices can’t hurt.

Asked whether in a few years Big Travel might become akin to a seeming slur like Big Tech, Kaufer said he wouldn’t consider a phrase like Big Travel as disparaging because travel brings people together, but the challenge is to band together to develop more sustainable practices.

Kaufer appeared Wednesday afternoon at Skift Global Forum in New York City and addressed the topic of the “conscious CEO.”

He applauded the UK’s Prince Harry for spearheading the creation of a group, including TripAdvisor, Booking Holdings, Ctrip, and some of their subsidiaries, among others, to collaborate on developing green travel practices. While light on details for now, Kaufer said he hopes Travalyst will have a meaningful environmental impact for a long time.

Asked by Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali to comment on a recent Business Roundtable initiative that had major CEOs agreeing that all stakeholders, and not just shareholders, should be corporate concerns, Kaufer said the Business Roundtable was merely responding to a view that many CEOs have been espousing for some time.

Kaufer has been outspoken in speaking out about the plight of refugees and, in recent years, the anti-immigrant stance of President Trump. He said TripAdvisor sees the refugee issue as a humanitarian issue, not a political one.

His comment followed one earlier in the day by Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian on stage at Skift Global Forum that the public is increasingly looking to CEOs and corporations, rather than politicians and governments, as the moral arbiter of social issues. Walmart, for example, recently tightened some rules on gun sales in its stores.

So what is travel’s responsibility on some of these social issues? Kaufer said Marriott has done an excellent job in training refugees to take entry-level jobs in the hospitality industry; TripAdvisor engineers have mapped where refugees in crisis can find certain resources, he said.

Asked whether CEOs are too highly paid, Kaufer said “yes.” He said recent efforts to make CEO pay more transparent — such as public companies in the U.S. having to disclose the ratio of CEO to average employee pay — “may be helping.”

However, in terms of priorities such as the refugee crisis and green practices, Kaufer quipped that high CEO pay “isn’t an issue I’m working hard on.”

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