Excursions Without Excuses at the World Travel Market

The World Travel Market 2012 kicked off on Monday. It’s a leading global event in the tourist sector and a place for folk in the travel sector to meet, network, negotiate and conduct business.

Tomorrow the spotlight is on Responsible Tourism and Gavin Bate, MD of Adventure Alternative and founder of Moving Mountains Trust, will be joining a host of industry experts on a panel to discuss what makes a responsible excursion; from developing products that give back to developing new trips and auditing. The seminar, named ‘Excursions without excuses – improving the quality of excursions through sustainability’ will see Gavin join Jean-Marc Flambert of St. Lucia’s Tourist office, Andreas Moniakis – the head of Operations Greece, TUI Hellas S.A. and Grete Howard – a tourist who has travelled to over 135 countries. The discussion will start at 15:30 and will be chaired by Salli Fenton of The Travel Foundation.

The seminar will also include a look at The Travel Foundation’s new Greener Excursions tool and give delegates a chance to put their own excursion-related questions to the expert panel. The Greener Excursions tool will offer guidance on auditing current excursions to try and make current trips more sustainable and to help try and develop new and sustainable excursions. You can find the Green Business Tools here.

Adventure Alternative is delighted to have been chosen by The Travel Foundation to represent best practice. During the panel, some of our excursions and projects will be featured as best practice case studies to try to highlight that it is possible to maintain a profitable and healthy organisation whilst being ‘responsible’ – environmentally, socially and financially.

The Travel Foundation will also be hosting an interactive art installation that will celebrate sustainable tourism practices. The aim is to inspire exhibitors and visitors to share their sustainable success stories and ambitions. An artist will be on-hand to convert these suggestions into visual form to make a mural that will hopefully inspire change in the tourism industry.

A representation of the mural

You can contribute your sustainable tourism story, inspiration or ambition to the piece in one of three ways:

Via Twitter: send your suggestion using the hashtag #WTMscribbles, and follow @TravelTF for daily news and pictures

In person: pop along to stand No NA383 throughout WTM to see the artwork, meet the artist and submit your suggestion face to face

Via email: send your suggestion to graeme.jackson@thetravelfoundation.org.uk before  9am on Thursday 8 November (the final day of WTM)

It’s not too late to attend the World Travel Market. You can register for free here. All that is required of you is to print off the confirmation e-mail and ‘badge’.  If you aren’t able to register, you can turn up at the ExCel London (closest tube line Custom House on the DLR) event but it will cost you £50.

Are You Being Fooled by the Greenwash?

Even before ‘greenwashing’ had made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary in 1999, it had been sneakily adopted by the cynical and irresponsible in every industry, not least tourism. Many tour operators, travel agents, hotels and lodges are guilty of adopting the word ‘green’, ‘eco’ or ‘sustainable’, but simply donating money to ‘green’ causes, choosing to recycle or any other lip-service does not a sustainable organisation make.

Similar to agriculture, transport and energy, tourism is regarded as a climate-sensitive industry with many tourism and leisure organisations dependent on the climate and the health of the local environment in order to operate. Can tourism and travel ever be truly ‘green’? Tourism often involves air travel and other carbon-intensive activities that would suggest not.

This blog is in response to Justin Francis’ (Chief Executive and Co-Founder of www.responsibletravel.com) outrage at the claims made in Travel Weekly Magazine. The magazine congratulates Las Vegas hotels for their green attributes:

Las vegas Lights

“Las Vegas Strip, that legendary bastion of glitz and neon, is actually a model community when it comes to sustainable environmental practices.” – Travel Weekly USA, October 10th.

The article then goes on to say: “Today, agents can sell most cruises as responsible, some even as eco friendly.  Perhaps no major line has been more active than Royal Caribbean in promoting its image as a green company.” –  Travel Weekly USA, September 26th.

The problem seems to be that the award schemes that these organisations sign up for reward incremental performances.  By showing relative annual improvements, these organisations are apparently worthy of a Gold Rating in sustainable performance. Many hotels in Vegas have the same environmental outputs (energy, waste and water) as a small town, whilst cruise ships have a notoriously bad history when it comes to staff welfare. Consumers will see these ratings and will be led to believe that these establishments are at the pinnacle of sustainable practice. This is dangerous for sustainable tourism, allowing the greenwashers to win. Of course incremental improvements should be celebrated, but in order to be meaningful, sustainability should really be measured in the absolute sense.

Adventure Alternative have put together a list of questions that you can use to help you to look beyond the greenwashing, the glitzy marketing and the price.This guide by no means covers everything; it is intended to be a pragmatic user guide rather than an overwhelming and head-melting mass of questions. We categorised the points so that you can choose to focus on the areas that are of most importance to you and your travel companions. You can likely answer many of the queries by snooping around on websites or perusing brochures, but don’t hesitate to call up and ask tricky and invasive questions.

Photo: Alamy

We are also planning to produce a further list of questions aimed specifically at trips involving volunteering or charity work. This is an area of tourism where recent history has uncovered a huge amount of cynical ‘box-ticking’ exercises by providers. Many incidences have left both participants and potential beneficiaries equally let down by the poor methods of project identification and administration.

By demonstrating that consumers are taking an interest in sustainability, the industry will be forced to comply to consumer demand and up the sustainability game. You have a lot of power! Your choices as a consumer can significantly impact upon the development of communities and the conservation of culture and natural resources.

Good & Green Guides

The Good & Green Guides are for travellers and inhabitants alike, covering London and a range of Dutch cities and allowing people to support sustainable business.

At home we can gradually construct a web of sustainable and ethical outlets, becoming knowledgeable about suppliers, locality of produce and organic and Fair Trade credentials, amongst other criteria. When we move city or travel to foreign lands, the conscious consumers amongst us face a dilemma: where is our money really going?

As consumers we have a lot of power and we can truly encourage change, especially when our choices extend to every part of our lives, including travel.

Founder, publisher and author, Harold Verhagen introduces the concept of the Good & Green Guides, offering examples of the content found in the Amsterdam edition: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZbdBLo-_LU

Each guide focuses on five key areas that consumers can ‘green’:

  • Eat & Meet: bars, cafes, tearooms, food shops, food markets, restaurants, herbs & food supplements
  • Dreaming: hotels, bed & breakfasts, hostels and campsites
  • Experiencing: kids, mobility, mind & body, parks & gardens, down & out
  • Shopping: cosmetics, fair trade, fashion, office & home, second-hand, vintage, repair, online shops, banks
  • Getting involved: aid & activists, collection & recycling, ECO interest points, freedom interest points, volunteering, offsetting CO2

Good & Green Guide covers – Amsterdam

Each organization can be rewarded a maximum of 10 stars (Good & Green Star rating):

3 good stars (for taking care of the development of people),

3 green stars (for taking care of the environment) and

4 great stars (for being transparent about good and green actions and results).

Stars are rewarded when organisations meet verified national or international standards. There are also certain actions that will result in a star, such as striving towards CO2 neutrality or partnering with a charity.

London’s Good & Green Guide iPhone Application was released to coincide with the Olympics. We think it’s great that a digital version has been made available; if you’re going to go green, you may as well go a step further and reduce physical consumption.

Features of the iPhone application include:

– GPS tracking, maps, searches, browses, look up what’s nearby
– Thousands of recommended Good & Green places to visit and things to do
– Extensive editorial content from the guides
– Sustainable top 10s using the Good & Green Guides Star System
– Add favourites and integrate with Twitter & Facebook
– Swipe to scroll through cities, main categories and subcategories
– Background information about sustainability & certifications

There are also apps for certain Dutch cities, including Rotterdam as the example above displays.

In order to green your actions, as well as the products and services you choose, use Adventure Alternative’s Sustainability Handbook. It’s the perfect complement to the Good & Green Guides, offering tips for before, during and after travel to try and make your travel choices more sustainable.

Travel sustainably 🙂

Adventure & Disabilities

The upcoming Paralympics will put the spotlight on a truly inspiring group of people.  There are over 1billion people in the world living with disabilities. As well as people with obvious physical disabilities, this group contains a wide number of people who have disabilities that would not be obvious to the observer.

London 2012 Paralympic pictograms

At Adventure Alternative, we are proud to have involved some fantastic people with disabilities on our treks and projects around the world. Although a lot of our trips involve strenuous physical activity, we believe that as many people as possible should have the opportunity to partake in these activities. We chat with our clients before their trip to try and fully understand their capabilities and accommodate their needs; we like to be prepared!

Currently climbing Mt. Elbrus with Adventure Alternative founder, Gavin Bate, we have two inspiring men – Dave Padgen and Nigel Vardy (AKA Mr. Frostbite).  Temperatures as low as -60°C on Mt. Mkinley in 1999 caused severe frostbite and claimed Nigel’s fingers, toes and nose. Two years after the accident, he was back out climbing in the Alps. Dave has Cerebral Palsy but this didn’t stop him competing in the Paralympic Games held in Atlanta and Barcelona. He is also the first Brit with Cerebral palsy to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Both Dave and Nigel celebrate their passion for adventure and ably demonstrate the potential accessibility of the mountains.

A further demonstration of the same principles, and in a similar field, can be seen in the case of mountaineer Mark Inglis. After losing both of his legs during a blizzard on Mt. Cook, New Zealand, he has gone on to achieve a number of inspiring achievements, not least winning a silver medal in the 1km time trial at the Sydney Paralympics, 2000. In 2006 Inglis became the first double amputee to summit Mt Everest.

Mark Inglis

The principles of inclusive society have now become more widely recognised than ever. A document to come out of the recent Rio+20 conference – ‘The Future we Want’ – talks about disabilities with reference to a number of topics and sectors, including ensuring accessible shelter; access to food; and incorporating people with disabilities into the green economies nation states will aspire to over the coming years. But where does tourism fit into this and what is the tourism sector doing to be more inclusive of this group? For tourism to be considered truly sustainable, it must be inclusive of people with different needs, including them in the decision-making process.

Many countries have a long way to go in the accommodation of people with disabilities. The USA and Australia are known to be particularly on-the-ball when it comes to offering facilities that enable this group to take part in travel and adventure holidays, including abseiling, kayaking, mountain biking and ice-climbing. There are also a number of NGOs who offer assistance and advice for people with disabilities, with some even offering financial assistance.

Tourism for All UK is a national charity dedicated to standards of world class tourism which are welcoming to all.”

Tourism for All offers a wealth of information to enable people to fully participate in action and leisure activities, including an extensive region-specific section on the UK.

If you have a disability or consition and would like to take part in an Adventure Alternative trek or project, please don’t hesitate to get in contact! We fully appreciate that everyone has different abilities and circumstances. We can have a chat to see what we can do to ensure that you have a meaningful and enjoyable trip. Based on your aspirations, abilities and requirements we can chat about suitable locations, environments and expeditions and hopefully together we can get you on an adventure of a lifetime!

We wish Team GB all of our luck during the Paralympics!