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8 best ways to boost the sustainability in your trips

Over the past two decades, the number of international tourist arrivals more than doubled, surpassing 1.4 billion in 2019. This number is forecasted to reach 1.8 billion people by 2030. While this boom promoted economic growth and personal fulfilment, it came at the expense of local communities and their habitats.  Today, with demand for travel spiking up following restrictions lifts, travel agencies might need to widen the range of their sustainable travel options. 

1/ Why should I promote sustainable trips in my travel agency? 💁🏽🌿

Although staycations (a portmanteau of “stay” and “vacation”) became popular due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people still felt the need to lay their eyes on new horizons. Since sustainability has been one of the greatest challenges of the past decades, the whole tourism industry is facing essential transformations in order to meet the needs of way more mindful clients. 

As of March 2021, 83% of travellers all around the world believed that sustainable travel was important. As a matter of fact, most people want to make the right choice and are inspired by climate change-related news. Indeed, amidst the sanitary lockdown, everyone really witnessed what impacts our everyday lives had on the environment and that it could somehow be controlled and possibly reversed. The only issue is that 37% of travellers mentioned above do not know how to make their travel more sustainable, and due to the lack of communication, 85% of the poll respondents say they have difficulty finding sustainable, attractive, less crowded and affordable destinations, and regret not having access to a specific selection of sustainable and responsible trips.

In an industry worth $7 trillion (10.2% of the global GDP), there is no doubt the demand exists. Now it is up to travel agencies, tour operators and other industry stakeholders to reach to their audience and offer responsible options to book and contribute together to a more sustainable tomorrow. At Ezus, we asked our community of 4,000 travel professionals, the vast majority of whom are convinced that a new form of tourism is possible.

How can we make travel more respectful of the natural, cultural and human wealth of the destinations we visit? How can we support a more balanced and ecological tourism? In this article we will look at the actions that each travel agency can implement to include ecology in travel.

2/ 8 easy ways to include sustainability in your travel products. 🙋🏾‍♂️📑

For modern businesses, sustainability is no longer a meaningless PR strategy. Although there is more than one way to engage your company into sustainability, here are 8 we at Ezus, think will truly make the difference. 

1. GET CERTIFIED

Studies show that 80% of travel consumers look for a positive environmental and human commitment from a travel company before making a purchase. Environmental awareness is on the rise and today, beyond quality products and services, companies need to set meaningful targets.

Do not fall into the “greenwasher box” and get useful and trustworthy credentials: 

  • The B.Corp certification is an international certification that verifies and validates if  companies meet top standards of overall environmental and social performance. Submitted applications are assessed and verified by the non-profit corporation B.Lab.
  • The Travelife Certification is a management and certification initiative for tourism companies looking forward to being more sustainable. Their performance criterias are based on leading international sustainability and CSR standards and guidelines approved by the GRI and GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council) among others.
  • The Green Business Bureau (also known as GBB) has a robust program aiming to help companies of all sizes reach sustainable standards. It includes the online EcoAssessment and EcoPlanner tools as well as a green business certification. 

The benefits of those certifications go well beyond simple ratings or seals. It is a journey to create an ethical corporate culture but also more socially and sustainable businesses. Being certified can also prove influential in inspiring other contractors from your sector which will surely benefit the industry.

2. PROMOTE SLOW TRAVEL

Inspired by the Slow Food movement that began in Rome in the 1980s, the Slow travel trend responds to the negative aspects of mass tourism. With COVID-19, people realised how fleeting life is and wanted to make the most of their time. Although some gave in to "revenge travel" after two years of confinement, others made more responsible decisions about how to travel. The aim of this new form of tourism is to encourage travellers and the travel industry to take part in new practices that are considered sustainable for the environment and humanity in general. The main pillars of Slow travel, or Slow tourism, are:

  • Minimising travel distance;
  • Maximising the time available for the trip;
  • Minimising mechanisation and technology;
  • Eating, shopping and interacting local;
  • Experiencing local authenticity, etc.

Checking this list will considerably help reduce one’s carbon footprint. Developing slow travel options might attract more customers than you might think. 

3. HOW CAN I REDUCE THE CARBON FOOTPRINT OF MY TRAVELS?

Starting to sell the advantages of low carbon travelling is probably the best thing to do as it probably will be a standard practice in the years to come. Taking the train instead of a car cuts carbon emissions by approximately 80% thanks to the sharing factor; and up to 84% if taking the train instead of a domestic flight. If travelling locally, try convincing your clients that choosing to jump in a bus has a drastic positive impact on the environment.

Unfortunately, if not flying, many places in the world are not reachable within reasonable time, or safely for that matter. And eliminating air travel would be calamitous for people whose life depends on tourism. One of the easiest ways for travellers to offset their carbon footprint is by selecting an eco-friend airline, flying economy class, and choosing direct flights as it is more fuel efficient. A lot of renowned carriers such as Air France – KLM, Qantas or Delta Airlines did transition to biofuel. The website skyscanner ranks airlines based on the quality and quantity of the fuel they use, while Atmosfair helps you calculate the carbon footprint of a flight you are about to take, and allows you to make a donation to climate protection projects.

Some incumbent operators are adapting their offers, such as the new brand Discovery Trains, the French travel agency specialising in train holidays, which offers itineraries exclusively by rail.

4. OFFER CLOSER & SUSTAINABLE DESTINATIONS

Unless you wish to send your travellers amidst wild crowds of fast travel aficionados whose goals are to take that famous picture we saw a million times on social media, you might want to create bespoke itineraries for them, both meaningful and sustainable. For it to be unforgettable yet responsible, develop partnerships with locals that value sustainability. First of all, you will undoubtedly help boost the local economy, but at the same time make sure your clients will enjoy an authentic and original stay. From tour guides, who obviously will know way more about the surroundings, to catering, accomodation and mobility… Each and every of those travel essentials can be managed by local stakeholders.

5. TAILOR YOUR TRIPS TO THE SUSTAINABILITY NEEDS OF YOUR TRAVELLERS

After a two years lockdown, travellers are more and more eager to be able to travel again and take their time to do so, but not at the expense of the environment.

Instead of the usual quick tasteless visits of everlasting tourist traps, try and incorporate in your tours unusual but authentic experiences. How about hiking and biking in Provence’s lavender fields? Slow cruises along the Danube? Many amazing places are forgotten due to travellers not Simple, yet overlooked: polls. Do ask your clients what experience they want to live, what they want to see. Give them the possibility to be direct actors of your new sustainable efforts.

You will definitely meet more success if you highlight the local and sustainable factor of your offer.

6. EDUCATE YOUR CUSTOMERS WITH THE RIGHT MATERIALS

What better way to introduce novelty than with a tutorial? Well, sustainability is not a novelty per se, but concerning some travel agencies, it might. 

The problem is that agencies that do not specialise in sustainable travel do not communicate enough about it. They may have a la carte options, but they don't highlight them in their communication strategy. Even for regular travel offers, slipping in a leaflet on sustainable travel and its best practices can make a big difference. Of course, this is a leaflet sent by email with all the documents related to the booked itinerary. The leaflet should include reminders on how to be a better traveller. Why you should buy and eat local, where you should go to do it... All this information should be made available to them so that they question their habits, change them and get used to them. 

With Ezus software, you can add customised documents to be sent automatically to your customers, who will find them on their phone directly. Customise and modify them at any time, at your convenience.

7. SET THE EXAMPLE!

As an agency, you cannot push your customers to be more sustainable without setting an example yourself. 

Join and fund environmental projects focused on reforestation for example (Have a look at Treedom), fund wind farms or better yet, assist the local communities with whom you work in making their everyday lives and collaboration with you more sustainable. Many offsetting organisations are non-profit, which means that by funding them, you will qualify  for a tax-write-off. 

Although offsetting is a noble thought, it is not quite yet an optimal solution to our carbon emissions. It is better to act upstream in the process and consider the necessities of our trips, of what we are packing, of what mode of transportation we will be using, and how we will act locally.


8. EMBRACE SMART TOURISM

While the sanitary crisis has had the strongest impact on the tourism sector, it is clear that it also helped create new ways of doing business. The use of digital tools has more than ever been reinforced and it is obviously impossible to ignore. Online search and booking was already a thing, so why not expand the choice of features?

Smart Tourism appeared with the need for more advanced digital solutions and eco-responsible values. This new solution aims at offering holidayers tourist offers respectful of theirs and local environmental and sustainable values, as well as facilitating their interactions with the destination through digital tools.

Mass tourism is gradually losing its appeal. People rather experience a responsible, custom journey, respectful of the environment and patrimony. With the collection of relevant data, you can propose itineraries fitted to their preferences and even recommend sustainable options: Car-pooling in the region, bike renting, buying public transport tickets online, etc… Possibilities are endless. One of the most impressive possibilities however is the fact that it is now possible to visit museums and monuments in augmented reality, greatly reducing crowds, waste production and travels overall. 

Tourism is far away from dying with technology by its side. Itineraries, websites, apps, activities nowadays are consciously designed to meet people and environmental needs.

3/ Exemplary destinations. 🙆🏻🌍

Speaking of Smart Tourism, Bordeaux is the European capital of smart tourism, mainly due to its commitment to accessibility and digital access. France, Bolivia, Norway and China, among other countries in the world, are rebuilding the sector with better values. Travel agencies have an important role in creating the tourism of tomorrow, but they must also be accompanied by local actors. At the forefront are the DMOs (Destinations Management Organizations) that promote tourism as a priority. They too must be exemplary.

Here are a few examples of sustainable tourism our team fell in love with:

  • Having a walk around the city forest of Oslo in Norway is one example of how the country is leading the way. The vast area of forest known as Oslomarka surrounds the Norwegian capital and is ferociously protected from development by the government.
  • In Bhutan the government enforces strict entry requirements as well as a daily visitor tariff. This tariff includes necessary expenses for the journey such as accommodation, a local licensed tour guide and hiking equipment. A large portion of this tax mainly falls back to develop the country’s infrastructure health care and education system.

  • Ever fancied a picnic onboard? GO BOAT in Copenhagen, Denmark might be the solution. Electricity powered boats are available for local and global tourists to take around rivers and lakes for a new sustainable way of discovering the surroundings from a different perspective.

  • How about becoming a Trash Hero in Thailand? The global volunteer movement Trash Hero was created in Thailand where locals and tourists are encouraged to pick trash up whenever they see some. They also produce steel bottles and sell them in order to encourage tourists to buy local and reusable.

Some may see it as just a buzzword, nearly impossible, but sustainable tourism is not a trend anymore. Those two years of reflection about what impact humanity had on its environment led to a spike in sustainable experiences demands. People look forward to respectfully discovering new things and it is time they can.

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