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Bringing Sustainable Tourism to the Masses

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 7/18/2018 Mia Taylor

Mainstreaming sustainable tourism is an effort that will require a substantial amount of work.

A new thought leadership study from Impact Travel Alliance (ITA), however, presents an optimistic outlook on the effort and provides 32 concrete tactics to help accomplish such a lofty goal.

The 66-page report “Bringing Sustainable Tourism to the Masses,” was designed specifically to popularize sustainable travel and engage the average traveler in the movement.

It is the latest offering from ITA, a non-profit led by a twentysomething who since taking over the organization in 2015 has been busy organizing events and summits and issuing reports all focused on changing the way people travel.

“We are on the cusp of seeing the impact that sustainable travel can have on a much broader scale,” said ITA Executive Director Kelley Louise. “Our biggest hurdle is in reaching beyond the niche that sustainability currently exists within the travel industry and engaging the average traveler.”

According to ITA’s new study, produced in partnership with Mandala Research and Community by Design, the good news is that the market is receptive to such change.

To help facilitate that evolution, ITA outlined three core principles, each of which has its own set of actionable ideas to promote progress.

The principles include engaging partners at both corporate and grassroots levels through storytelling, community and collaboration; complementing traditional business activities with sustainable offers and incentives and lastly, embracing technology that has changed the way consumers engage with brands.

Tactics that can be used in pursuit of each principle are outlined in the study. They range from creating more awareness around greenwashing and greenhushing to investigating emerging technologies such as blockchain, as well as specific marketing approaches based on transparency, authenticity and a stickiness factor.

Travel businesses already employing some of these approaches are also recognized and highlighted. Some of the leaders include Kind Traveler and its ambassador program; Royal Caribbean’s Save the Waves program,’s Booking Booster program; and JetBlue’s report on the ROI of Sustainability.

The study also frames some tactics as direct asks, such as to expand, amplify and invest in the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s efforts and to invest in programs that foster innovation.

The tactics are even further categorized in the study on a quadrant based on reach and implementation.

Proposed tactics with a broad reach and singular capability for implementation are named “Power Play;” while those with a broad reach that take a coordinated industry effort are deemed “Mass Evolution.”

Tactics that have a narrower focus and need coordinated industry effort are called “Groundswell;” and those with a narrow focus and singular capability are named “Individual Impact.”

Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica: PHOTO: Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica. (photo courtesy of Pacuare Lodge) © Pacuare Lodge PHOTO: Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica. (photo courtesy of Pacuare Lodge)

The quadrant is meant to be a tool for all sides of the industry – from individuals to small businesses and corporations – to help identify specific actions relevant to their own organizations.

“The Thought Leadership Study is not only a report; it’s a guidebook and a call to action,” Louise explained. “We’re asking our community to rally around these principles and the tactics that are the most relevant to them and make a promise to use them to build realistic plans with finite timelines.”

The trailblazing new study is merely ITA’s latest notable effort.

Just last week the non-profit hosted its first ever Impact Travel Immersion event. The daylong, bootcamp-style educational conference was designed specifically for travel professionals to learn about business practices, marketing and innovation all with an eye toward sustainability.

The impressive gathering brought together 150 visionaries, Louise told TravelPulse during an interview.

ITA also hosts an annual Impact Travel Summit focused on addressing the state of the travel industry.

Louise said her goal is for the two events to work hand in hand, with the immersion gathering designed to give professionals the tools they need to move forward with sustainability, empowering them to take their businesses to the next level. While the summit addresses the broader ideas and issues facing the industry.

“We are very much focused on building community and providing the tools and resources that travel professionals need, whether they are well versed in sustainability or are new to it,” Louise said.

“And now, all of a sudden, we have giant corporations paying attention and looking to us for ideas regarding how they implement sustainable initiatives into what they are doing as well,” Louise added. “We need the large corporations on board in order to move the needle forward.”

For those who may have missed this year’s Impact Travel Immersion event, it will be held again every year. In addition, recordings of each class and workshop offered this year will be available online in August.

And perhaps most importantly, Louise said her hope as that people do not see the Impact Travel Immersion bootcamp as merely a one-day gathering, quickly forgetting the information that was shared. ITA’s newly released study was designed to make sure that doesn’t happen.


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