Today (27 September) marks World Tourism Day, a day which brings into focus the importance of the global travel industry, and of travelling responsibly within the communities, wildlife and environments we explore.
This year, we’re considering all this through a Covid-shaped lens, and never before have so many lives depended on bringing our industry back.
The big question is, how do we build back better? How do we ensure that when borders are fully open and confidence in the market returns, we are making travel matter, ensuring our return is considered and considerate to the places we visit, and the world we call home?
Not only has the absence of tourism been a blow for our airlines, tour operators and travel agencies, but catastrophic for the destinations we serve and their communities.
The local people are a critical part of an immersive tourism experience, and taking guests to visit local projects, enterprises, co-operatives and small or family-run businesses broadens our understanding of cultures, and supports economies.
For example, every year The Travel Corporation (TTC) takes Contiki, Insight Vacations and Trafalgar travellers and guests to visit the Iraq Al-Amir women’s co-operative in the Wadi Seer region of Jordan – an amazing project that is empowering women and transforming lives, as well as preserving valuable cultural heritage.
Or there is Marta Cucchia, who welcomes Trafalgar, Luxury Gold and Insight Vacations guests to her beautiful workshop – Laboratorio Guiditta Brozzetti – in Perugia, Italy. Marta is keeping her family’s ancient hand-weaving traditions alive and thanks to our support and that of our guests over the years, she has been able to turn her lab in to a thriving small business providing a stable source of income for the local weavers.
It goes without saying that they have missed us this year. And the benefit of these experiences is two-fold – these organisations touch the traveller as much as they do their communities. They inform us, and open-minded global citizens have never been as needed as they are in 2020, a year a lot of us are keen to put behind us.
We know that consumers are increasingly keen to make the right choices in all areas of their lives, including their holidays. That requires travelling with companies that have integrity with their sustainability promises.
I am proud to say that despite the fact we have all been completely upended this year, TTC has continued to support its TreadRight projects around the world, and that our sustainability plans have not been hindered by Covid-19.
In fact, they’ve been strengthened. This week we launch our new five-year sustainability strategy How We Tread Right. It started last year with our Pledge, and has been a labour of love for myself and our chief executive Brett Tollman, our steering committee and our entire family of brands.
It aligns closely with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on the 11 where we feel we can affect the greatest change, as they translate into our key pillars of Planet, People and Wildlife. The strategy seeks to address a number of global challenges – Climate Change, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Reduced Inequalities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Affordable and Clean Energy and the Elimination of Poverty, to name a few.
Most importantly our goals are transparent and measurable, and we have clear targets and annual reporting that will hold us to account. To consumers and travel agents who find this space confusing, I would say, look for clear, measurable commitments, the right endorsements and accreditations, and for companies who have produced or committed to producing impact reports.
And look for companies that are changing lives through the enriching and immersive experiences they deliver – we will all be the better for it.
Shannon Guihan is chief sustainability officer at The Travel Corporation