As consumer interest in sustainability continues to grow, so too have the travel industry’s efforts to create more responsible tourism options.
One example is the TreadRight Foundation, the philanthropic arm of The Travel Corporation, which has developed an array of new initiatives designed to help travelers and travel advisors have a more positive impact on the places that they — and their clients — travel to.
“The pandemic really brought to light the need for destination resiliency and business resiliency,” said Shannon Guihan, chief sustainability officer for TreadRight. “If we want to maintain relevance, then sustainability has become a business imperative. It’s no longer a ‘nice to have,’ but a ‘need to have,’ and that is because we rely on a sense of place and healthy places.”
The TreadRight Foundation
The Travel Corporation, which owns 40 travel and hospitality brands operating in 70 countries, began its philanthropic efforts in 2008 with the launch of The Travel Corporation Conservation Foundation. In 2012, the organization was rebranded as the TreadRight Foundation. Since then, the nonprofit group has supported more than 60 sustainable tourism projects around the globe.
"We now have 11 smart sustainability goals that cover the entirety of The Travel Corporation and all of our brands,” Guihan said. “We have a climate action plan in place, [and] later this year we’ll launch our carbon reduction targets, so it’s been a really long evolution from philanthropy to an issues-based approach.”
If we want to maintain relevance, then sustainability has become a business imperative. It’s no longer a ‘nice to have,’ but a ‘need to have,’ and that is because we rely on a sense of place and healthy places.
Guihan says that the growth of such programs reflects increased awareness within the industry, and also among travelers.
"I think it reflects a growing awareness of consumers to ensure that they have a lot of power when it comes to moving the needle on the sustainability agenda, based on who they purchase their travel with and from.”
TreadRight’s approach to responsible tourism includes a five-point Climate Action Plan, which details how The Travel Corporation addresses emissions, and the Impact Hub, a resource that provides guidance on six key sustainability issues: climate, food, waste, experiences, diversity and wildlife.
I think it reflects a growing awareness of consumers to ensure that they have a lot of power when it comes to moving the needle on the sustainability agenda, based on who they purchase their travel with and from.
In addition, TreadRight supports the work of an array of nonprofit organizations around the globe. The organization recently forged alliances with Lakota Youth Development, which supports and empowers Native American youth of the tribal nations in South Dakota, and a partnership with Rainbow Railroad that helps LGBTQ individuals around the world to escape persecution and violence.
“Most of our projects are trying to address that need for diversity, equity and inclusion [DEI],” Guihan said. “It meets our DEI strategy, which tries to ensure that the way we run our business is reflecting the evolution of the world towards progress.”
TreadRight's Impact on The Travel Corporation's Brands
TreadRight’s philanthropic efforts have a direct impact on the way The Travel Corporation’s brands do business, according to Guihan.
“While we have a sustainability strategy that is at a group level, it’s implemented at the brand level,” she explained. “We have sustainability officers at all of our major brands — that includes Uniworld,Red Carnation Hotels,Trafalgar,Insight Vacations,Contiki and Cullinan Holdings in Africa.”
This is our promise to the travel agent community: If this is what your clients are looking for, then we have a suite of brands that will meet every demographic and that are doing the job.
“We work directly with our teams to identify the ways in which they can implement our goals on a brand basis,” Guihan said. “Uniworld’s current priority is identifying low-carbon technology. Red Carnation’s current priority is primarily reducing food waste, employing renewable energy and shifting everything away from any carbon-intensive resource use to low-carbon renewables. Insight Vacations, Trafalgar, Contiki and African Travel are very engaged with the Make Travel Matter experience program, which is a set of criteria that we built to help identify travel experiences that are a little bit beyond the norm, and which advance the United Nations Global Goals.”
Contiki, for example, offers a Make Travel Matter experience on its Best of Spain itinerary, during which guests take a cooking class at Espai Mescladis, an organization that promotes social inclusion and hospitality training in Barcelona. Insight Vacations, meanwhile, offers an Inspiring Iceland itinerary as part of its Wander Women collection of women-only tours.
In addition, the Make Travel Matter program provides a checklist to help travelers choose suppliers that are committed to responsible travel. That, according to Guihan, is just one example of how TreadRight makes it easier for travel advisors to connect their clients with experiences that match their values.
"This is our promise to the travel agent community: If this is what your clients are looking for, then we have a suite of brands that will meet every demographic and that are doing the job," she said. "When it comes to sustainability and impact, it’s our responsibility to do the heavy lifting for them.”
The Travel Corporation