We’re not denying that tourism is a big contributor to Climate Change, accounting for 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. As a travel company, it’s important we acknowledge this fact.
That’s why in 2021, we set up our Climate Hero initiative – a project that earned us industry recognition when trade title Travel Weekly awarded Not Just Travel the prestigious ‘Sustainability Champion of the Year’ title at its 2022 Agent Achievement Awards.
As part of the project, at the latest count, our consultants are on course to raise more than £40,000, with money contributing to re-wilding and restoration projects around the world, working closely with environmental partner Mossy Earth.
The initiative has been hugely successful among the consultants who have engaged with the project, with most of their customers happy to make a £5 contribution for every booking, regardless of the destination. Some customers have given over £1,000.
But for one of our consultants, Annika, our Climate Hero project has helped her carve herself a niche within the industry as being a travel consultant who places sustainability as the very cornerstone of her business.
Being one of the very first consultants to help us trial the scheme before it was officially rolled out across the company, Annika not only embraced the initiative, she ran with it.
So far, Annika’s company has contributed over £2,000 as part of our Climate Hero project. “It’s a contribution that I automatically add on to my quotes, meaning that my clients have to request to opt out.”
But it’s certainly not all about raising money for Mossy Earth.
Three years after setting up her business, today Annika’s reputation as a “green” travel agent precedes her, culminating in the honour of being chosen as one of only 20 UK travel agents to be a Sustainable Travel Ambassador for 2023 – a mission embarked upon by industry title Travel Trade Gazette (TTG) to help our industry move towards a greener and fairer future.
We’re proud to say that Annika was not the only Not Just Travel consultant to make it into TTG’s prestigious chosen 20. She is joined by fellow agent Rachel Tredwell.
Throughout this year, both Rachel and Annika have benefitted from in depth training from industry professionals, identifying sustainable suppliers, learning how to market responsible holidays and how to help clients not only reduce their impact while travelling, but also how to have a positive impact on the destinations they visit too.
“I always try to improve people’s plans to make them more sustainable wherever I can, without being pushy. For example, I had a honeymoon couple who wanted to do a multi-centre trip on the east coast of the States. Rather than take internal flights, I persuaded them to do it by rail. Not only was it better for the environment, but it also happens to be a much nicer experience.
“I like to encourage my clients to do something that impacts on the country and community they’re visiting, such as dining in local restaurants, doing tours run by locals and putting money into the local community. Staying in the right hotel is important.”
Annika explains the danger of ‘tourism leakage’. “This occurs when hardly any of the money spent by a tourist stays in the country they’re visiting. This can often be the case if your clients are staying in the big international chains, and particularly those that are all-inclusive, meaning guests rarely step outside the hotel to spend money in the local community. The counter argument is that all-inclusive hotels can provide more employment for the local community. So it’s important to educate yourself about these subjects and how suppliers operate so we can help money get to the right places.”
Annika praises programmes by the likes of hotel chain Iberostar, which runs its Wave of Change campaign, whereby each of its resorts benefits the area it’s in, whether that be re-greening, community projects or zero waste.
She also commends tour operators Intrepid and Audley, both of which meet high standards of social and environmental performance as part of their B-Corp certification.
“It’s about trying to work with the right suppliers that align with my values,” she says.
To aid Annika to do just that, she completed the Sustainable Travel Master Class with Kiwano. The course is designed specifically for people in the travel industry and it gave Annika the confidence to determine her own strategy and create her animal welfare policy using World Animal Protection guidelines, which she outlines on her website.
“This policy clearly states which animal activities my itineraries will never include. So, for example, I will never book SeaWorld. I politely refuse to book it and I am able to direct customers to the policy on my site. Here, customers who are interested in animal welfare, will also find related practical information and things to look our for while abroad.”
Sometimes Annika finds herself selling things she wouldn’t necessarily promote. “If a client asks me to book something that I’m not a big fan of, then I usually don’t refuse (except if it clashes with my animal welfare policy). The way I look at it is, at least if they’re my client then they are, at a minimum, contributing to the Climate Hero project. And, as I build up that relationship with them, hopefully I might be able to influence their decisions going forward so they are travelling more sustainably.
“The main thing to understand is that you can make travel more sustainable without having to compromise luxury or comfort. You don’t need to stay in an eco lodge. At a minimum, I encourage my clients to do local tours and spend money in local restaurants and shops.
“I never pretend to be perfect. It’s about being honest and to do my best to improve things. I would never say I only sell sustainable travel. But it’s about making little, incremental changes and encouraging my clients to be more mindful every time they travel. You’re never going to convert someone from one extreme holiday to another, but you can help them to make incremental improvements. People want to travel more sustainably, so it’s about making it easy for them. That’s how we make a difference.”
Check out Annika’s sustainable travel tips and tricks:
- Choose local hotels where you can, or hotels that support local communities and destinations.
- Book local trips and tours and encourage clients to support local restaurateurs and businesses outside of the hotel.
- Consider alternative modes of travel other than flying – particularly when travelling within a single region/destination.
- Add a contribution to our Climate Hero project to your client’s invoice as standard.
- Devise your own animal welfare policy and make it available for your clients to see.
Annika is just one example of a Not Just Travel agent who has carved her own niche and shaped her business to stand out from the crowd.
And there are others. Take Lisa, for example, who specialises in helping families who have special needs to travel; or Suzy, who sells solo travel especially to widows.
It’s your business and yours to shape.