any travel professionals probably don't realize it, but the industry recently marked what could become an important anniversary -- the first anniversary of BEST, a travel industry acronym that isn't nearly as well known as it ought to be.

It stands for Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel, a joint effort of the Conference Board and the World Travel and Tourism Council that is funded by, among others, the Ford Foundation.

Who are these people, you might ask?

The Conference Board is the nonprofit business research organization that tracks consumer confidence and the leading economic indicators. It also engages in research and educational projects aimed at improving the business climate and enhancing the contributions that the business community can make to society at large. The Conference Board is run by senior executives of major corporations -- its trustees include senior executives of companies like Ford, Texaco, General Mills, Goldman Sachs and Unisys.

Just about one year ago, this organization launched the first industry-specific initiative in its 84-year history -- and that industry was travel.

BEST capped its first year by holding a global sustainable tourism summit in South Africa that focused on curriculum guidelines for college degree programs in hospitality and tourism management and other tourism-related educational programs. The idea, according to BEST, is to give a new generation of travel professionals the tools to pursue their careers "while contributing to the well-being of the destination communities and environment."

The Conference Board's unique commitment to such an enterprise speaks volumes about the importance of this industry -- our industry -- to global commerce and employment and to society at large.

You can, and should, learn more about BEST at

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