Environmental concerns – A message from Sue Ockwell

January 8, 2019

environment concerns

In 2018 there was a great deal of focus on environmental concerns. We learned about the dangers of plastic in our oceans, the disappearance of coral reefs, carbon emission limits, extreme weather and more. As we look to the year ahead, these issues are predicted to continue to be topics of interest and concern worldwide.

The following is a transcript of the speech given by Travel PR’s founder director, Sue Ockwell, at the November 2018 British Guild of Travel Writers Awards. We hope that you will join us in spreading this important message and taking it to heart in your personal lives and your professional endeavours in the year ahead.


Good evening everyone.

In the last six months, we’ve had two serious environmental warnings.  Firstly, scientists have announced that we have a narrow window of just 12 or so years to get carbon emissions under control and to keep global warming within a barely-manageable window of 1.5 degrees Centigrade. That’s a deadline of the year 2030, which will be here in a flash.

Secondly, we have learnt that plastic is now so prevalent in our oceans worldwide that it has invaded our food chain and is now present in our own bodies.  Plastic is floating in huge whirlpools in all the world’s oceans, affecting wildlife in awful ways.  What a mess, quite literally.

Are we, the travel industry, listening to the scientists’ dire warnings and taking action?  Venice has just been flooded to levels not seen for a decade.  We’ve had more hurricanes and extreme weather than are the norm.  Earthquakes and tsunamis are becoming regular.

Our travel writers here tonight have two important missions.  Firstly, to keep up the pressure on all tour operators, tourist boards, airlines and accommodation providers, to ensure that they all take seriously the vital role that they play in controlling growth and protecting our planet.  And, secondly, to convince their audiences that we all have to play our part, too.   The billions of one-use-only plastic bottles should be our first target – let’s stop buying them and clean up, both at home and abroad.

Now, to travel writing at its best:  tonight’s Travel Writer of the Year Award.  The judges had a tough challenge this year, but one name kept cropping up.  The writer in question has had an action-packed year, it seems, having produced many excellent articles.  Remote jungles have been explored – happily, with a distinctly responsible tourism angle – and the descriptions crafted by this writer create wonderfully evocative pictures that envelop the reader.

I quote: “The jungle is half the size it was before the oil companies arrived.  For all its sorcery and stagecraft, the rainforest is powerless against the anaconda pipeline.  This is a modern threat that requires a human solution, and Fredy’s family are training guides and teaching the community about tourism, preparing their forest guardians. Every villager recruited is one added to the total.  Only time will tell if Fredy can work his magic…”

From derring-do articles on the South American jungle to city breaks in search of canal lobsters – not forgetting an unwelcome souvenir in the form of a parasitic botfly worm that emerged from an insect bite on his thigh – this year’s British Guild of Travel Writers’ Travel Writer of the Year 2018 is … Mr Adrian Phillips!  Bravo Adrian.

BGTW dinner