INTRODUCING: JULIA KLEBER
For Julia Kleber traveling and experiencing culture has always been pivotal. I know Julia from a time we were studying together; she’s outgoing, energetic, and has a lot of ideas. Ideas she actually puts into action: she started an organic food market in Ibiza, took over a communication agency with a focus on sustainable tourism and now launched KPRN AQUA, a water recycling technology that can contribute to fight our planet’s water scarcity.
In this interview, she reveals why she’s passionate about what she’s doing, what each one of us can do to travel in a more responsible way and why it’s now time to reshape the future of sustainable tourism.
You’ve been to a lot of places. What does travel mean to you?
I had the possibility to see the world from a very young age on which gave me the opportunity to understand the world from a different perspective. For me, traveling means to open your eyes to the world, to learn about and understand different cultures, to judge differently – or not to judge at all.
It means to interact and engage with people, to understand history, culture, and to see the beauty of the country. A journey is an intangible experience that lives within me and makes me who I am. I think, it’s very important for everyone to go out there and see the world to become a richer person – not by money, but by experience.
A few years ago, you started an organic food market (La Huerta) in Ibiza. What was your background?
Inspired by my journeys and those incredible food markets I’ve experienced in Asia and South Africa, I came up with the idea together with a friend of mine. We were passionate about the idea of creating a place with a real feeling, letting locals and tourists come together in an orange and palm tree garden, to enjoy local food from little food stands with live music.
We worked very hard to make it one of the most beautiful places in Ibiza. The get-together, the mix and mingle of different cultures on the island, it was a wonderful experience. Going back to the routes of Ibiza, the simple life, and its beauty, we shared beautiful evenings under the stars.
How was the experience of starting your own business, which advice would you give women considering this?
Starting La Huerta in Ibiza was a new concept and it took a lot of effort, time and nerves to make it happen. However, it wasn’t an option not to try it. For me, it’s important to be fulfilled and independent in my career. It may not be easy to cope with the different challenges women are facing, but it’s worth it.
My advice would be, just go for it, give it a try. Make sure it’s something you’re really passionate about, because you need a strong will in order not to drown in all the challenges occurring. But it’s worth it. Running your own business gives you a lot of freedom to make your own decisions and live the life you’re passionate about.
Today, you’re the CEO of KPRN (Kleber PR Network). What’s the company’s focus and what’s KPRN AQUA all about?
KPRN is a communication agency in tourism. It was founded 27 years ago by my mother, Hanna Kleber. Growing up in the tourism industry and understanding its impact, I decided to take on the challenge to bring KPRN to a new generation. We represent destinations from all over the world, hotels, airlines, and tour operators in the German speaking market.
We’re committed to the destinations and their sustainable path, to create awareness, also for the lesser known destinations such as Sierra Leone, Uganda. Tourism can be an incredible chance for countries. But it’s essential that the country’s own resources and cultural assets are respected; strengthening and highlighting them internationally is what we’re aiming at.
From my experience, I learned that many countries – especially countries with a major tourism industry – face a huge problem of water shortage. KPRN AQUA focuses on sustainable water management solutions. We’re the first company to recycle grey water for the reuse in showers, kitchens, etc. It’s even possible to purify it into quality drinking water. It’s an innovative technology that can contribute to solve the problem of water scarcity on our planet. Hotels and communes implementing it have their independent water supply, no longer touching our planet’s precious resources.
What’s your vision for sustainable tourism in the future?
Resources become scarcer every day and we have to take good care of them to find our world as beautiful and diverse today as tomorrow. I believe, the water recycling system comes as a way for future intelligent water resource management.
However, sustainable tourism isn’t only about resource management. We should give an aim to understand more about the way we travel, and the effects it has. It’s important, to be aware of where the money goes. Whether it stays within the country and generates further income to local people and fosters development or whether it goes to large, international companies who take it out of the country. There are a lot of hotel and tour operator chains in the world who simply exploit the staff and take all the profit and not giving it back to the country´s economy. Education and awareness are major paths for the development of sustainable tourism, in the present and in the future.
Sustainable tourism can be a beneficial source of income and can help countries to develop well, to create employment, income, education and a prosperous future for local people. However, it’s imperative that the country’s cultural and economical assets are respected and preserved. I see a positive trend that people become more aware of the impact their footprint leaves on the planet. Fortunately, today there are sufficient means to decide on how we want to travel and the footprint we want to leave behind.
In your experience, what can we all do to travel in a more responsible way?
I’m not a fan of low-cost mass travel. I agree, everyone should have the opportunity to see the world and to enrich oneself with those experiences. However, an airplane ticket, can’t be purchased for about nine euros, this is almost the price of going with the underline in your home town. It’s always in discussion whether a long-haul flight can be sustainable and responsible at all. Surely, that’s not the case. However, in my opinion, tourism’s positive impact on the country can outweigh the CO2 emission. In the end, it lies in the hand of each individual and we can choose the way we travel.
We should start by considering, the way we’re traveling. A good advice is, to go local. The money spent in a country should go to its people. Pick a small, local hotel that also makes use of local food supply rather than an international hotel chain. Don’t order bottled water from Italy when you’re in South Africa. Don’t go to Starbucks when you’re in Bangkok. In the end, this is what makes your journey remarkable, the interaction with people, the immersion in culture, local ingredients and goods.
We should keep an eye on the resources. In terms of water, energy, food we should avoid to consume more than we actually need. We should be open for the local culture, learn about the history and people. This way, we become educated humans aware of cultural differences, aspiring to live peacefully on this planet.
If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
I would go anywhere. The world is so beautiful, every place has its uniqueness and is worth an experience. In the end, it’s also about who you come across on your journeys; in the most unforeseen places, I’ve met the most inspiring people. That is what makes a trip unique and lasting.
If I had to pick one place, I’d choose Nicaragua. It’s a place I haven’t been to, but heard of its beauty of landscape. I’m sure, there’re special encounters and new experiences waiting for me. Travel will never cease to enrich my life with experiences that stay with me. In the end, this is what makes a place unique, the experience with the people, culture and customs. There’s something special about each and every place on this planet.