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During a trip to Cape Town, South Africa, Gavin Tollman, CEO of Trafalgar, witnessed the enormity of the country’s ongoing water shortage. But he also saw hope.
“Capetonians took on the crisis by making sure they were part of the solution,” he said.
Shorter showers and small efforts — such as not running water to shave — became the new norm.
Tollman was inspired by this show of conservation, but he believes we all have a role to play.
“Our travel agent partners are vital in educating customers,” he said. “When we all work collaboratively, I’m certain travel can become vital to sustaining all the places we visit.”
We spoke with Tollman about Trafalgar’s green initiatives and how the travel industry can make changes now.
How can the travel industry offset overtourism?The first concept to consider is dissemination. We can no longer only run trips in peak periods. We have to see how we can spread the load of people who travel year-round.
Second, we’ve got to travel outside the places that everybody knows. More than 77 percent of international travelers who go to Ireland visit five of 32 counties. When you move beyond the well-known, tourism can create a far greater benefit.
Last, we must practice conscious thought and direct action. We can’t just hope; we need to take preventative measures now to ensure we positively affect the future.
Can you tell us about JoinTrafalgar, Trafalgar’s charitable organization, and what projects are currently underway? JoinTrafalgar works specifically in the communities that we visit.
A reforestation project that JoinTrafalgar undertook originated because a guest said something to me that really resonated: “You talk about sustainability, but every person here received a wallet with documents in it, yet nobody is bringing his or her documents on the trip.”
This year, more than 70 percent of our customers have elected to receive e-documents instead of a hard copy. We’re working with nonprofit One Tree Planted where those travelers then have a tree planted either in Northern California or Tanzania. It has been incredibly well-received.
When we all work collaboratively, I’m certain travel can become vital to sustaining all the places we visit.
What else has Trafalgar done? We have been donating money for the preservation of the White Cliffs of Dover in the U.K., and at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, Trafalgar was a key partner in the development of a viewing platform that helps minimize degradation of the beautiful natural environment.
In Perugia, Italy, there was a woman who was the last weaver of unbelievably rich fabrics in the style of the Renaissance period. She was about to shut down her factory, but Trafalgar came up with a deal to ensure she could sustain a small workshop. By doing that, we created a place to bring our guests to see her craft. Her sales have tripled over the last two years. The greatest beauty of this whole story is that a tradition would have been lost, but now her niece is involved, and future generations can see it, too. That’s what it should be all about.