by Erika Harms

Goodbye to a legend and a friend

“Finding market solutions to environmental problems is the only way we will succeed”. This was the mantra by which Amos Bien practiced sustainable tourism.

In 2006 when we at the UN Foundation embarked in the process of developing a set of sustainable tourism criteria with the purpose of enabling companies to have a common language to address tourism development in a sustainable manner,  Amos Bien was the perfect person to design the criteria. Not only an expert in the field, he was a businessman who had pioneered the concept of sustainable tourism in his own hotel. This was the beginning of our joined paths with the mission to change the way tourism is done.

In a process that took 18 months, Amos worked with over 160 stakeholders, analyzed over 4000 criteria and effortlessly came up with an initial set of criteria and a process to ensure compliance with international regulations for creating the first ever global sustainable tourism standard. The process was not easy, but Amos knew exactly how to navigate the delicate balance of private interest with public need. We traveled the 5 continents, met with experts and businesses alike.

After the successful launch of the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria in 2008. Amos was the right person to help us build what is known today as the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. He designed the framework for the recognition and accreditation process that had been in place until this year. This process also was impregnated by the balance between the need of strict adherence to international processes, with the reality of the small tourism businesses. Amos always advocated for a process that would enable the majority of the people to seek sustainable practices, rather than the perfect system for a few that could pay.

Building a global organization was no easy task, so when entrusted with it, I could not see any better person to walk down this path with me than Amos Bien. He had been working on this vision all his life. He had the expertise but most importantly he had gained the respect and trust of those we needed to join the process.

In 2014 Amos and I embarked on another adventure,  creating Planet4People,  a network of consultants working towards achieving a better planet through market approaches.  We designed the organization to look at issues from a different perspective, seeking to partner with local experts and contributing our international experience.   Amos was a sounding board.  He knew the field better than anyone and made sure that the proyects we undertook made a difference.

Amos Bien was a pioneer, but above all, he was a change maker. He believed in sharing his knowledge with all.  During my last visit with him at the hospital, he was telling me about mentoring the son of his doctor on environmental practices at school.  No time was wasted and no soul untouched in the name of sustainability.

Many have  been touched by the work of Amos Bien and those who had the pleasure and honor to work closely with him, knew he was a friend for life.