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If every travel company would do just one small thing

Mar 5, 2019

Making progress on sustainable travel with youth – an interview with Urban Adventures’ Responsible Business Manager.

WYSE Travel Confederation spoke to Anula Galewska, Responsible Business Manager at Urban Adventures ahead of the Arival Berlin Sustainability that Sells Roundtable. A division of Intrepid Group, Urban Adventures is a WYSE member and global leader in delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel. Each year the company helps 350,000 travellers who are interested to stray a bit from the typical tourist crowds to have the Best. Day. Ever.

We asked Anula two big questions:

  1. What are the major trends within sustainability that youth travel businesses should be incorporating into their practices? How can small and medium-sized companies make the biggest impact and help their travellers contribute to sustainable and responsible travel?
  2. Is there something in particular that makes youth travel particularly well positioned to contribute to the SDGs?

Here’s Anula’s advice to small and medium-sized travel companies on how they can help their travellers make the biggest impact and contribution toward sustainable and responsible travel.

Responsible travel is growing because of the young generation. It is millenials and gen z that care about the why, the purpose, and the impact; they seek for meaning in companies that they want to work for and travel with. I also believe that youth travel is or should be about personal transformation and learning, which are crucial parts of responsibly-run travel. So, overall I would say that responsible travel trends resonate very well with youth and there are a few opportunities travel companies could leverage in particular.”

1. Social impact experiences
These are tours and activities run by or in collaboration with NGOs, nonprofits and social enterprises. These tours combine the fun of traveling and learning. Travelers get a chance to learn about local issues directly from the local changemakers. By participating in an experience offered by an NGO, one not only has a great time, but also contributes to an organisation’s financial sustainability and supports a good cause. In my opinion it’s a great alternative to voluntourism, which is quite controversial and in many cases does more harm than good.

At Urban Adventures we have a dedicated product line for experiences like this, which we call In Focus tours. We’ve received many awards for this product line and the response from universities and educational institutions has been amazing. Other brands that offer social impact experiences include Airbnb or Visit.org

2. Off season, once in a lifetime experiences
One of the important aspects of sustainability is minimising seasonality and tourism dispersion. I imagine that young people would love doing unique, out-of-the-box stuff their peers haven’t done yet. Jumping into an ice hole, biking on a frozen lake, wine harvesting (for the 18+:), taking off-the-beaten-path rough roads, trying local “adventurous” foods, visiting off-centre neighbourhoods and street art revitalisation projects.

3. Healthy body healthy mind
Sports and healthy lifestyle could be appealing to young people and I can imagine great sports camps with no plastic and no food waste policy, with food served directly by the local farmers. Foraging and learning the mysterious benefits of wild herbs can also be cool skills to learn. A digital detox and talks about sustainable lifestyle could be a great addition to typical travel camps that both youth and their parents would appreciate.

Last but not least, I believe that the role of travel companies is to raise awareness and help young people be better human beings. Providing small tips on how to travel lighter and better is really needed. I don’t know anyone who wants to harm the environment and behave nasty to local residents, but people either don’t understand the impacts of their behaviour or don’t know the alternatives to choose from. If every travel company would do just one small thing each year to improve their sustainability standards, it would mean huge progress for the whole industry.