A Conversation with Dr. David W. Randle

David is Director of the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability Sustainable Tourism, Managing Director International Ocean Institute Waves of Change Blue Community Initiative, and President and CEO of the WHALE Center.

Dave Randle brSB Which are the 2016 key challenges from your perspective for the tourism industry?

DR The key challenges for the tourism industry for 2016 include, responding to the new U.N. Sustainable Development goals (SDG’), preserving cultural and biodiversity resources, and shifting the paradigm of sustainable tourism to include safe operation within the planetary boundaries. The new U.N. SDG’s provide both a challenge and opportunity for the tourism industry.   The challenge is that with tourism being such a large part of the global economy, tour operators, resorts and hotels, destinations, and cruise lines will all have to step up their sustainability programs and improve their sustainability management practices if the SDG’s are to be obtained.   The sustainable tourism opportunity is that there are several examples of best practices that the tourism industry has to share that are proven models for achieving the SDG goals.. Tourism has something to offer for each of the new 17 SDG’s. Cultural traditions are being degraded or lost as well as increased biodiversity loss where we are losing species at a rate of over 100 times faster than nature intended.   Both of these challenges are important to for the tourism industry to address.   Both of these concerns are facing serious threats from the impacts of climate change, unsustainable development, and poor management practices.   This is a major challenge for the tourism industry to address. In recent years the Stockholm Resilience Center has identified nine planetary boundaries that threaten life on Earth as we know it if humans are not only going to survive but also thrive in a rapidly changing world. The 9 planetary boundaries include: climate change, ocean acidification, novel entities, ozone depletion, atmospheric aerosol loading, biochemical flows, freshwater use, land system changes, and biosphere integrity.   With tourism being such a large part of the worlds’s economy and workforce it now has a major challenge to do its part to live safety within these boundaries.

SB From your perspective which are the most significant and inspirational sustainable tourism best practices? 

DR I have had the opportunity to collaborate with the Walt Disney Company over the past few years in developing the 12 Blue Community strategies for tourism to better protect coastal habitat and marine environments. In the process I have learned of the Walt Disney Company’s strong sustainability leadership commitments, goals, and practices.   These include their goals to become a net zero carbon company, have zero waste to landfill, and to not do any future development unless it can be demonstrated that it will have a net positive impact on ecosystems.

SB Teaching the course on sustainable tourism at Patel University, which are the topics your students are most interested in? Also in regards to bridging the gap between studies and the job market? 

At the USF Patel College we have very diverse student backgrounds both educationally and culturally. We have the largest percentage of international students of any College in the University. As a result there are many diverse interests students have regarding topics. Some of the major ones include climate change, sustainable food, renewable energy, management and leadership development, and protection of the oceans, coastal habitat and marine environments that are so critical to our own unique tourism location. In regard to the job market connections, our students are aware that they can not rely on knowledge from the university alone.   It is also important for them to begin developing their own networks, develop leadership skills, and gain professional development experiences.   Our sustainable tourism program is designed to assist with all three of these areas.

SB Blue Economy is a very important working area of the European Institutions and their member states. Based on your experience with the Blue Community Programme from the Caribbean, what would be your recommendations for Europe? 

DR We have witnessed through our Blue Community program that enormous cost savings and revenue increases can be made. Key to success is developing sound sustainable tourism management plans, developing companion cultural change programs to maximize the benefits of the organizational’s culture, and to continue to foster leadership within the organization for effective change and implementation.

SB If you had a wish regarding the tourism industry what would it be?

DR One of the world’s favorite authors, Mark Twain, once said that travel is hazardous to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-minded thinking. So promoting travel in and of itself has great value. My wish for tourism is go a little further so that it becomes the norm within the tourism industry to promote travel that contributes to a peaceful, just, and sustainable world that lives safely within the limits of our planetary boundaries. Together we can make a difference so this wish comes true.


  1. I definitely like this interview and will spread it among our members of Linking Tourism & Conservation. To use the SDGs as THE frame, where everybody in the future should relate and contribute to makes most sense.

  2. Holly Prievo

    I do find it interesting that the foundation of tourism- the environment, people and culture- are the most negatively impacted by the tourism industry, which in turn, will reduce economic gain down the road. It seems a natural progression, now that we’ve learned this, to start protecting those invaluables. And I agree, SDG’s are a great guide for the industry to begin implementing sustainable practices. Great interview!

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