RE-WILDING THE PLANET

Laura Turner Seydel, spokesperson for Ted Turner Expeditions, talks about the importance of getting back to real nature

At the recent Virtuoso Sustainability Summit in Las Vegas, Laura Turner Seydel, daughter of the US media mogul Ted Turner, was among the most highly outspoken when it came to setting a clear roadmap for the future. After the summit and press conference, she spoke to us about what she sees as being the key motivators for industry players to work towards a more sustainable future.

We need to encourage everybody to take action in their own sphere of influence. That’s what dad has always done the best. He has really been such a visionary on various issues. Now, opening up his properties to share with the public is really something. My father owns two-million acres around the US – primarily out in the west, but some in the south-east. He invested so much in restoring the land and bringing it back that he saw an amazing opportunity to focus on telling the story about conservation, opening his places up to the public and making them best in class. Vermejo Park Ranch, which is 585,000 acres, is the largest contiguous piece of land privately held in the United States. When dad first started acquiring ranches several decades ago, they were largely overgrazed, because they were cattle ranches, and cattle don’t belong here. When dad was ve years old, he learned the plight of the American bison and how 30-million of them had been killed – mostly to control the indigenous Americans, who depended on the Bison for their entire livelihoods, and were thus pushed onto marginal lands and reservations. When he had the opportunity to focus on bringing back the bison, he also realised it would be the best thing for nature, and nature really did come back in full force. He started TTX – or Ted Turner Expeditions – in 2015 – so we are the new kids on the block relatively. At Vermejo Park Ranch, we just hired Jade McBride – a year ago – from Ranch at Rock Creek, who is one of the best in the business. He has put a real shine on the hospitality part of the business.

WE WOULD LIKE, BY 2020, TO BE A “MUST DO” TRAVEL DESTINATION WITHIN THE SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL COMMUNITY

How did you get involved in all this and what is your role?

Dad raised us outdoors, and the worst thing we could hear when we were kids was that it was time to come back indoors. We learned to hunt and sh and sail, and the person who managed dad’s property was like Mother Nature, and any injured or orphaned animal that was found there would be nurtured and nursed back to health – anything from snakes to birds to deer. In the end, we became very aware of our life support system, and I became very passionate about these issues.

Why has Virtuoso been so supportive?

Our “re-wilding” aspect is a great model for their preferred partners and their member/advisors, to say, “Look at what Ted Turner has done and look at what the family is doing. You might not be able to do all of that, but you can do some of it, and it is an important model”.

How do you connect with sales channels to get people to come to your properties?

We are very lucky to be part of the Virtuoso Network and value the support that comes with being a preferred partner. We also go to travel shows in Europe and visit offices, taking agents out to lunch, using the human connection rather than hopping on a phone call. This year we are focusing on bringing a lot of travel advisors out to the properties. The vastness of the properties is very dif cult to explain in a four-minute presentation – just what people feel when they are there. That is what differentiates our properties. So, getting agents out to the properties really makes a difference in helping them sell put our properties in the best light for their clients.

In a day and age when families are going on vacations to see national landmarks that are disappearing, we can provide a hope-filled vacation, in which people can come to magical places that are not being parcelled-out and destroyed, it’s being protected and preserved, practically right back to its original state, and it will be forever with what my dad has been doing, and what the foundations we are working with will achieve. People staying there realise that they are directly contributing back to the conservation efforts of the ranch. That is what the future of travel should be – it should be travelling for a purpose – travelling with meaning.

We would like, by 2020, to be a “must do” travel destination within the sustainable travel community, and be the model of sustainability for peer companies, whether they be big or small, because we are all between a rock and a hard place on so many levels and we need to work as a community to find solutions and share best practices and models that work. Smaller companies can thus avoid having to re-invent the wheel or making the same mistakes that have already been made.


Photo: Laura Turner Seydel, Ted Turner Expeditions