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Want to know how to make your next trip more sustainable? 
Check out these tips from expert globetrotter Mark Johanson

Are you clicking “buy” on those airplane tickets and packing your bags mentally at your desk? According to forecasting by Economist Intelligence, global tourism will rise by 30% in 2023, and many of us are already counting the days to our next getaway.

Austral Group sat down with professional explorer Mark Johanson to get his take on traveling sustainably. Environmental, social, and governance or ESG in travel and tourism is something near and dear to the heart of Austral Group. Mark recently took part in an expat panel discussion when University of Oklahoma MBA visited Santiago, Chile in January 2023 for their global business immersion program. Mark is originally from the USA but has called Santiago home for many years. He helped put Chile on the map when his work with Lonely Planet named Chile the top country to visit in 2018. Mark’s writing has been featured in internationally renowned publications such as National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, The Economist, The Financial Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Newsweek, AFAR, Food & Wine, Dwell, CNN, Bloomberg, and the BBC, among others.

For those mindful of offsetting their carbon footprint, Mark said that minimizing travel impact is always a good place to start. Also, there are companies like Austral Group’s partner MOSS.Earth that sell carbon credits for companies or individuals to buy and offset their emissions, supporting reforestation programs in the Amazon Rainforest. 

Carbon Footprint of Flights - newsletter

Mark said, “I think that there’s been a big discussion in recent years at least about flight shaming and sort of this guilt that comes with travel itself. And I think that that discussion a lot of times misses the point of what travel does, especially in the developing world in the Global South.” He continued, “Because travel can be such a great conduit for supporting wildlife projects or supporting indigenous communities or supporting small artisan craft makers around the world who, you know, entirely depend on foreign tourists to come in and buy their products, see the wildlife and support the local economy.” 

Mark said tourism is the pillar in which a lot of at-risk communities stand. “So, if they don’t have visitors coming, then, you know, a lot of these projects would fail and I think that there’s just such great opportunities if you are traveling to sort of choose the right destinations, choose the right experiences to make sure that when you do travel, you’ll have a positive impact on the places that you go to.” 

If you are trying to be more aware of the effects of your wanderlust ways Mark recommends looking at the places where you can go that can benefit the communities. “Maybe you don’t need to be that, you know, 10 millionth person to visit Venice this week. You can choose another destination that sees less tourists, that’s going to be just as fun. Because at the end of the day, I think most people find that when they’re not the 10 millionth person at a destination and they’re one of 10, it’s such a different experience! Finding those off the beaten path places that could really use your tourism dollars as opposed to those bucket list places that don’t really need you…

Brazil2 (1)

Recently, I traveled to São Paulo and a lot of people go to Brazil to go to the Amazon. When the second biggest forest in Brazil is the Atlantic Forest, and it’s even more endangered and there’s a big push right now to get people to explore the Atlantic Forest. Which is actually really easy to do because it’s just outside of São Paulo, the biggest city in the Americas. We can fly into one airport there, instead of hopping around the country to go all the way to the Amazon. You can see a very similar landscape two hours outside of São Paulo and the conservation efforts that are going on there. 

Another example, is a trip I recently did to Armenia where they’re developing a new multi-day trail that you can follow around the country, and the idea is that by bringing more tourists in, it will give an influx of money to the people who live in those towns by paying for campgrounds, buying some wine from the local wineries on the way, getting some cheese and food in the town. And the more people come through and the longer they stay, the more those communities are going to feel the impact of this new program.

So, I think when I travel or when I’m telling stories, I always try to find those kinds of positive ways of looking at sustainable tourism because if you think about the way the world is going, climate change, etc., you can just get down all the time. But if you can find these positive examples of the way things are improving and places where things actually are working. Of course, those are the stories that people want to hear.”


Austral Group always aims to make a positive impact through their global learning experiences. Mark said he really enjoyed seeing what Austral Group does for its participants, “it’s a good way of opening people’s minds to the rest of the world, into spreading their wings and showing them the way things work in different parts of the world.”