Tuesday,  November 30, 2021  12:23 pm

Earth Day: How can agents merge sustainable travel into trips? Ensemble panel sounds off

  • Agency
  •   04-22-2021  7:10 am
  •   Pax Global Media

Earth Day: How can agents merge sustainable travel into trips? Ensemble panel sounds off
Dr. Jonathon Day, Purdue School of Hospitality & Tourism Management (top, left); Justin Smith, Evolved Traveler (top, right); Bronwen Hill, Personal Travel Management (bottom).
Pax Global Media

Coinciding with Earth Day (April 22), Ensemble Travel Group has released the third installment of its Restart Sessions Video Series on Sustainable Travel.

Moderated by Dr. Jonathon Day, Associate Professor in Purdue’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, the panel featured two Ensemble advisors who specialize in this growing area of the travel industry: 

  • Justin Smith, Founder of the Evolved Traveler, a 30-year industry veteran who created a firm focused exclusively on sustainable travel as he wanted to both help the industry advance in this area and for personal reasons to make the world a little better.
  • Bronwen Hill, Travel Specialist, Personal Travel Management based in Vancouver. 

Committed to supporting sustainable travel, Ensemble Travel Group previously held a Travel with Purpose themed conference and is the first travel advisor network to launch a partnership with Cool Effect to provide advisors with an online tool to seamlessly offset their clients air travel.

Dr. Day, who is also founder of the Travel Care Code, which provides advisors and travellers alike with guidelines on how they can reduce the impact of their travel on the environment, referred to the triple bottom line of People, Planet and Profit and how they can and need to be addressed holistically. 

We've posted a video of the chat below, but here are some highlights: 

Q: What does sustainable travel mean to you?

Bronwen: While many people think of the environment when they hear the term, it encompasses so much more about the way we travel including supporting the local community you are visiting. By this I mean, staying at locally owned accommodations, eating in local restaurants and even the things you buy. So, instead of staying at a big chain hotel, it’s staying at a local B&B or hotel.  It’s asking the hotel owner for recommendations of local restaurants and it’s purchasing your souvenirs from local artisans.  It’s a holistic approach that ensures that the money you spend goes back into supporting the local economy.

Justin: In addition to the socio-economic issues referenced above and ensuring that tourism dollars stay local, it’s about cultural heritage and protecting both the physical sights and people/culture and, of course the environment.  It’s broader than most people realize.

Q: How can advisors incorporate sustainable travel into the trips they plan for clients?

Bronwen: Often times, I create an itinerary for my clients to travel sustainably but they may never even realize it.  In particular, for families, I try to incorporate educational opportunities as I think that if kids learn when they are young how to be good stewards, they will carry that forward. I also encourage my clients to utilize local transportation in a destination. And, of course, I encourage them to offset the carbon footprint from the flights. Ensemble has a partnership with Cool Effect that makes this very easy to do.

Justin: It’s really incumbent on the industry as a whole to understand what it means to travel sustainably and then to educate the public on what it means.  I think it’s also important in our messaging to convey that traveling responsibly doesn’t require sacrifice but can actually enhance the experience. It’s estimated that between 50-75% of the public doesn’t really know what it means to travel sustainably so there is still a lot of work to do to educate the public on what it is and the small changes they can make to be a more sustainable traveler. I’d also add that it’s important as an advisor to use suppliers who are committed to sustainable travel as well. 

Q: What is regenerative travel and how does it fit into the overall topic of sustainable travel? 

Justin: I think we really need to take a step back from throwing all of these new terms around as the general public is still really trying to understand the basics of sustainable travel and what that means.  I think it’s really important for us in the industry to make it easy and basic and less academic when we talk about sustainable and regenerative travel and focus more on the experience, the goal of making travel more meaningful and beneficial to everyone.  Ideally, we’ll get to a point where traveling sustainably is as basic and just part of how we travel – not unlike how we have all just adapted to routines that are now standard such as recycling. Everyone does it and doesn’t really think twice about it.  It will no doubt be a process to get there, but it’s the goal.

Bronwen: Just adding to that is to encourage travelers to also bring their good habits from home with them. That really goes to the point of regenerative travel and leaving a place better than you found it.  Simple things like turning off the lights in your hotel room when you leave or using refillable water bottles to eliminate plastic waste. And, if you see something in another country that inspires you, bring that habit back with you and pay it forward.

"Green washing" 

Dr. Day also spoke about Green Washing – companies who say they are sustainable but really aren’t and Green Hushing – those who are doing this but not effectively communicating them. 

That is where travel advisors are important in terms of being well educated about which suppliers and destinations are engaged in this area.

Most importantly, all agreed that it’s not hard to be a responsible traveller and that it’s incumbent upon advisors and the travel community to both educate clients and the public on how they can take small steps towards this goal and to remember that anything is better than nothing.

Watch the discussion here!

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