Dear Advisor Partners,

Do you have a life goal? You know, something you relentlessly pursue no matter what comes in the way and no matter how long it takes? Well, I have a few. One of them is giving a Ted Talk. I’ve even applied a few times and plan on doing it again. What really got me into the Ted platform? Don’t laugh, it was Monica Lewinsky. I’ll wait while you finish snickering, which come to think of it, I was too when I first realized this. You see, I watched a talk she gave on cyber bullying and the impact the famous scandal had on her, (although it didn’t stop her from getting an advanced degree from an Ivy League institute). After that, I was hooked and began exploring other Ted Talks. From a 13-year-old Kenyan Maasai using lights to make peace with the lions, to my relative Dr. Sajel Bellon helping first responders with PTSD, and most recently, my friend Reyna talking about energy independence in the Galapagos Islands, they have all played a part in my inspiration.

Reyna and Roberto opened a camp some years ago in the Galapagos called Montemar, one that Big Five uses proudly and frequently as part of our long-term commitment to land-based Galapagos adventures. The camp was built with the vision of using tourism to protect the long-term habitat of the giant tortoise. However, this expanded to organic farming on site, collecting and using rainwater, and solar energy. In her Ted Talk, Reyna covers where she grew up in the city and some of the conventional items of life like grocery shopping and the power cuts as the electric grid was taxed, a challenge accepted as a part of life. Reyna also talked about trash management and the shortcoming of recycling efforts on the mainland, something I have seen personally.

Now, one could read that last paragraph and say, this is a depressing read, and move on. I wouldn’t blame you, except that it’s not. Rather this is one of our more uplifting blogs because Reyna points out that in a location as remote as Galapagos, she was able to create an experience and a property that actually overcame common complexities with sustainable construction and utilization. The coolest feature here is local lava rock, a major part of the geology of the Galapagos Islands, intricately used as a building material. Solar power provides 99% of her energy, the rainwater is harvested in ways one cannot imagine, and trash is not wasted (pun intended).

Reyna’s Ted Talk is a clinic on sustainable building and if I’m being honest, interior design (something I will never claim to excel at), the talk is in Spanish with subtitles and well worth the read as you watch.

I was mesmerized by Reyna’s talk, and I think you will be as well. So, enjoy her talk in this week’s video and check out our Ecuador & Peru program, part of our our New Energies Collection, which we built around Montemar featuring successful integrations of alternative energy to make an unforgettable client experience.

Dear Advisor Partners,

Back in the summer of 2020, a colleague and I spoke together on a podcast about mental health and the unknown effects the pandemic period would have on us, our children, and on people worldwide. You see events unfolding in areas you expected them to happen, and then you witness them in areas you least expected them to, whether that be in Washington, D.C. around election time, in London a few weeks ago, or in Japan, where last week, the former prime minister Shinzo Abe, was assassinated while delivering remarks in Nara.  This is certainly not the norm in Japan and there are many questions that remain unanswered. That being said, we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture.

This is not the first time Japan has needed to find a path forward. Think back to the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Japan seemingly could not escape the cycle of bad news at that point. I was reminded in 2011, why I loved Japan when I saw the country forge a path forward through tourism. Here’s a great example of that recovery:

-In 2010, 8.6 million tourists visited Japan.

-In 2011, the year of the Fukushima incident, the number of tourists dropped below 4 million.

-By 2015, Japan had 19 million tourists, after heroic efforts by the Japan National Tourist Office (JNTO).

-Then, in 2019, 31 million tourists chose Japan.

In fact, more visitors entered Japan than Japanese visiting abroad for the first time during this period. For a country that imports almost everything, tourism was a major export, and it was amazing to see Japan mobilize and move forward. That window is open now. Japan has had the strictest Covid protocols in the world, and for the right reasons based on their geography and resources. I say without any political motive, now is the time that Japan, as the third largest economy in the world, should relax covid entry protocol and allow the rebuilding of tourism. With the help of JTNO engaging visitors, let the 70% of citizens who work in the services sector return to doing what they love.

Thomas Friedman authored a book I love, called “The World is Flat.” In his book, he argued in detail that countries with a multinational presence are more likely to have stability. Many, including myself, have argued that tourism has the same effect, and to be specific, when responsible tourism makes up 10% of a country’s GDP, the same stability exists. The proof exists all over the globe from Rwanda to Colombia, and yes, Japan as well. In the years after Fukushima, look at how tourism took center stage, showcasing everything from street food tours in Osaka, to the Nakasendo Trail. It is this vision that drew me to Japan 20 years ago, and the same belief that keeps me longing to return.

Japan’s future in tourism remains bright and while saddened by this tragic event, I for one am eager to see the country return with a flourish. I end this with a personal story of prime minister Shinzo Abe as told by Caroline Kennedy.

“Prime Minister Abe was a very formal leader, but in our case, he also had a deep affinity for the United States and a great admiration for our democracy. He and his wife showed me great kindness on multiple occasions that went beyond the official. One of the most thoughtful things he did was to show up at my son’s birthday party, as a surprise. My son had a great admiration for Prime Minister Abe as a leader. He came to the restaurant—I hadn’t told my son and all of a sudden, he saw the Prime Minister walking down through the restaurant and the look on Jack’s face was priceless. The Prime Minister went well out of his way to do that, and it was an incredibly meaningful gesture to me and to our family—a way of him showing how much he valued our personal friendship as well as the relationship between our two countries.”

  • Caroline Kennedy – US Ambassador to Japan 2013 – 2017

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