8 Easy Ways Travel Consultants Can Engage in Responsible Travel

Fight against global warming. Enriching local communities in countries around the world. Leaving the places we visit better than we found them.

All goals are lofty, but they are also oftentimes overwhelming. However, travelers – and thus, the travel consultants they work with – have a responsibility to not only minimize their impact as they explore the world, but also give back.

Travel Market Report spoke with three consultants who attended the Meaningful Travel Summit organized by Tourism Cares last month, to find out what steps they plan to take to contribute to responsible tourism goals.

“We all have a responsibility,” said Andrey Zakharenko, owner of Always Travel, and emphasized that helping customers travel “better” does not mean exposing anyone. “A lot of people aren’t aware…we have to give our clients the knowledge we have about doing it better.”

“We started small,” said Felicia Troy, a consultant with AAA Northeast, who said it’s easier to try to get a foothold first, especially when there’s so much going on. “There is a lot going on right now in the world of travel so do something simple and easy to get started… Whatever it is, try to take a step in the right direction. There is no bad move if you have good intentions.”

Here are some ideas suggested by the travel advisors TMR spoke with.

  1. Choose “Sponsorship” of suppliers
    Whether you want to promote sustainability and help fight global warming or you are interested in partnering with suppliers who promote diversity and inclusion, travel consultants decide which suppliers to work with.

“Travel is complicated,” said Christina Turini, travel advisor at Frosch. “As much as we want to say there won’t be a footprint left behind, you do it in nature. It’s about mitigating and minimizing and making sure it’s respectful and making sure you’re engaging with people who can improve it.”

“We can choose which tour companies to use,” Troy said. “We can choose the ways people travel. We can influence millions of travelers.”

Zakharenko agreed. “Travel consultants, we are on the front lines informing, educating and directing our clients to the right companies,” he said.

Choosing the “right” suppliers does not mean cutting out all other suppliers. It simply means that when the opportunity arises, consultants must feel empowered to guide the customer toward a socially responsible resource or product. This might mean suggesting a hotel from four beginnings that you know is eco-certified rather than a hotel otherwise. Or a locally owned domestic tour operator via a global operator with no connection to the land.

Not sure where to start to find ethically minded suppliers? That’s part of the reason they attend Tourism Cares events, said the three consultants TMR spoke with.

“If I know the resource is here, I know this is a step in the right direction,” Torini said. “The more information we know, the better.”

  1. gift carefully
    Many travel advisors offer their clients a little something in the trip. Luggage tags, a bottle of wine, and backpacks, these are just a few of the items usually given away by advisors.

But gifts can also be used to make the world greener or to spread the word about organizations that are doing a good job in the destinations people visit.

Troy suggested giving customers reusable water bottles. For example, customers who travel on a cruise. Tell them, “You don’t have to buy a water canister. You bring your own refillable water bottle and they filter the water right on the ship.”

Turini said she donates to Coral Gardeners, a non-profit organization for restoring Moorea’s coral reefs, every time she sends a client to Tahiti.

“On every reservation in Tahiti I make, I give a gift of coral from the ‘Adopting Coral’ program. This is a way to get them to learn about the organization and support them as well,” she told TMR.

Another gift idea? Carbon offset for your customers’ trips, which can cost as little as $30 or $40, depending on the length of the trip.

  1. Socially responsible packing lists
    Wouldn’t you like to gift your customers a reusable water bottle? That’s fine. Suggest that they bring one instead.

Troy said these suggestions could have a domino effect.

“Now I’ve started their thought process…if I had 500 people traveling during the month, 500 people might be thinking more about sustainability in the world, creating a huge impact on wherever they travel,” she said.

Another packing list suggestion All three consultants TMR spoke with said they offer reef-safe sunscreen, especially for clients on beach vacations.

  1. package for purpose
    Do you have clients who go to Aruba or Jamaica? How about Belize or Costa Rica? Or on a safari in Kenya or South Africa? Tell them about Pack for a Purpose, an organization that helps travelers bring needed supplies to organizations around the world.

It’s something Torini told TMR she does whenever she can.

“It’s really amazing,” she said. “Bring a backpack and they will tell you what they need. Then they deliver it at the participating hotel.”

  1. Suggest public transportation for city trips
    Carrying a reusable water bottle isn’t as convenient as buying single-use plastic bottles, but Troy said it’s important for travel advisors to point out less convenient, but more sustainable options. This includes the use of public transportation where available.

“How do you get from A to B? … If someone is going to Italy, do they need the private transportation from Rome to Naples or can they just take the train? They can definitely take the train. It’s very easy. It’s the idea of ​​getting people out of their mindset.” They need something very comfortable and personalized for them when there is something that is easy for them to do and that will also help the environment. It challenges them to think for the greater good rather than just their own convenience.”

Want to make it easier for them? Include specific public transit directions in your itinerary, buy train tickets in advance, or give them a day pass on the local bus system.

  1. Include carbon offsets in your quote
    It is standard procedure nowadays for most travel advisors to include the price of travel insurance with the total cost of the trip. Customers can choose to accept the quote or say no.

Consultants can do the same with carbon offsets.

Calculating carbon offset for flights is not difficult. You can find a handy calculator here. And if you use a carbon offsetting market like South Pole, calculating the cost of balancing your customers’ trips is also easy. You can even choose different projects to give them a pricing option. Include it in your quote and let them check the box if they’d like to proceed.

Zakharenko told TMR that this is a priority for him and that he is trying to figure out the technology to automate it in his quotes so he doesn’t have to do it manually every time.

“Including the carbon footprint automatically. They can opt out of it, but it’s already there. They don’t have to do anything,” he said, speaking of how he thinks making it easier for the customer increases the likelihood of signing up.

  1. Include the list of nonprofits in the final documentation
    The easier it is, the more likely people will be involved. This is why charities partner with stores to allow customers to bring their purchase closer. Or supermarkets have food bank “coupons” at checkout.

Many travelers may be interested in contributing to the destinations they visit, but don’t have the time or desire to do the research to find the right organizations.

Consultants can do this on their behalf, then provide a list of vetted nonprofits as part of their final documentation.

“Throughout the years of travel, we have always focused on this information that talks about the heart of culture, greeting customers, dos and don’ts,” Zakharenko said. “I think we need to turn that into, this is what you can do to help with that attraction, whether it’s the Colosseum or Lake Tahoe. Here are the grounds you can give back to.”

If you’re not sure which nonprofits are legitimate, ask your partner suppliers. Many of them participate in the communities they bring guests to. Local tour boards often have this kind of inside information. Groups like Tourism Cares may be able to point you in the right direction, too.

  1. Calculate your impact, then spread it
    This isn’t about patting your back for a good job. It’s about spreading the word that it can be done and can be impactful.

“I want to measure so that at the end of the year, I can say, our customers and our organization have contributed a lot to this cause,” Zakharenko said.

Ask your customers to report back if they donate or make up for their trips. Keep track of any donations or compensation you make on their behalf. Then at the end of the year, he summed it up and sent it in a press release to local newspapers. If you are a consortium member or an independent contractor with a host agency, let them know so they can get the word out. Blog about it, put it on a Facebook post, make an Instagram Reel.

Make the impact you and your clients are making on the world visible so that advisors and other travelers can see what’s possible. You can also attract new clients who want to work with someone they know who cares about them.

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