Acclaimed American actor, director and environmentalist Robert Redford, an invited guest of the World Travel & Tourism Council Americas Summit, brought a touch of Hollywood glamour to Thursday morning’s sessions, entertaining the audience with stories of growing up as a rebellious kid in a working-class Los Angeles neighborhood, his rise to superstardom and his longstanding connection to Mexico.
Redford, who was interviewed by Ogilvy Public Relations Global CEO Chris Graves also shared his insight into the increasing importance between tourism and sustainability -- an issue to which he’s long been dedicated, evidenced in part by the solar-powered house he built in Utah in the 1970s. Striking a balance between economic development and protecting the environment -- without sacrificing either -- is crucial for government agencies and tourism organisations, he said.
“Tourism is a wonderful business, and it brings great adventure and experiences to people all over the world,” he said, noting that, historically, “there’s been a separation between tourism and sustainability, [a mentality to] just develop wherever you can, as much as you can, without any concern to what you’re doing to the environment.
However, he also noted that “the dialogue is changing to a more positive [notion] that you can have both sustainability and tourism.”
Redford also described his special connection to Mexico, which started when he was a “rebellious” young boy who “didn’t follow authority well” in a working-class Los Angeles neighborhood. Redford and his family lived in a largely Latin community, and he spent summers with his grandfather in Texas.
It was there, he said, that he’d listen to stories about Mexico from a man whom his grandfather had adopted, in order to prevent him from being deported back to Mexico.
With a nod to the dozens of travel industry executives in the audience, Graves also asked Redford what words of advice that he, as a successful storyteller via the film medium, had for telling the stories of their respective destinations in order to attract more visitors.
“There’s no greater marketing than word of mouth,” Redford responded. “The idea of someone coming to a place, experiencing it, and coming away with a good experience is the best you can do.”
The Oscar winner also provided a brief summary of a movie he’s scheduled to start shooting in Mexico in June, which is titled All is Lost, according to online reports. “It’s [about] a man alone on a boat -- and there’s no dialogue,” he said, followed by chuckles from the audience.