The trust actively partners with traditional communities in East Africa to conserve key ecosystems by developing sustainable, natural resource-based economic revenues
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism has pledged a US $1mn donation to support the work of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust in Kenya, on behalf of American actor and philanthropist Edward Norton. The move is said to be part of the ministry’s ongoing commitment to support conservation and sustainable tourism.
Norton is the President of the trust and made the announcement alongside Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism, Ahmed Al-Khateeb, at the 22nd World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Summit in Riyadh.
“The defining challenge of the 21st century is adapting our economies and industries to be ecologically sustainable and to put the brakes on global warming. This challenge has to be met by the global tourism industry as much as any other sector. Tourism gets deserved credit for the positive connections it promotes but it can be an extractive industry with negative environmental and social consequence like any other when not properly held to account,” said Norton.
“We have to raise the bar higher on sustainability standards for the tourism industry and I really appreciate that WTTC invited me to be a little bit provocative in challenging the industry not to accept superficial changes as ‘enough’.”
Norton is a long-standing advocate for conservation causes and in 2010, he was appointed the first United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity by then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who also spoke at the WTTC Summit.
Norton added, “I’m enormously grateful for the contribution WTTC and our hosts at the Saudi Ministry of Tourism have made to the critical work of Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. This organisation is a shining example of how frontline indigenous communities can build transformative new economic opportunity through wise management of natural resources.”
Norton is also President of the Board of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, a Kenya-based community conservation organisation that actively partners with traditional communities in East Africa to conserve key ecosystems by developing sustainable, natural resource-based economic revenues.
Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb remarked, “We are enormously proud to have hosted Mr. Norton at the summit and actively endorse his committed advocacy to support conservation, sustainability and environmental initiatives internationally. The Kingdom’s tourism strategy is built on using renewable approaches to development, preserving landscapes and empowering communities. Mr. Norton’s passionate advocacy can only encourage us here and around the world to follow his example in building a sustainable future.”
Norton was a special guest at the Summit and engaged in a 45 minute conversation on the sustainability movement with Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and member of the board Saudi Tourism Authority. The discussion focused on Norton’s personal experience as a storyteller, environmental activist, and social entrepreneur.
In late November 2022, Saudi Arabia’s DGDA said it had added 16 new global brands to its hospitality portfolio.