As the world stopped and international travel placed on hold, 2020 created time for reflection on how travel will move forward.
For Brett Tollman, Chief Executive Officer of The Travel Corporation (TTC), the pandemic affirms how critical it is for the travel industry to prioritize sustainability and make travel matter. The company recently announced a new five-year sustainability strategy, “How We Tread Right” to take increased action on travel’s environmental impact.
“COVID-19 is in part a consequence of our cumulative treatment of our world and its resources, making our focus of how we tread right in the future, critical today,” Tollman said. “Never before has our industry been faced with so many challenges, many of which are directly tied to the heavy environmental footprint on the planet. At TTC, we believe that sustainability is critical to the return of our business post-COVID-19.”
The center of this new strategy focuses on 11 goals developed to address both the environmental footprint and the community impact of TTC’s business and operations, such as sourcing 50% of electricity from renewable sources, reducing food waste by 50% across all hotels and ships, reducing printed brochures by 50%, by 2025 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 or sooner. These goals also adhere to the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
“Our strategy is the progressive commitment to sustainability and the planet that TTC and our travel brands must make right now to achieve our 11 goals and be accountable for our impact,” says Tollman.
This year is a bittersweet moment for Tollman, as he celebrates 100 years in business with his family and 12 years since his founding of TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that pledges to protect people, planet and wildlife across the globe.
Tollman’s grandfather founded TTC in 1920 in a small fishing village in South Africa. Today, a century later, the company has grown to 40 award-winning travel brands that span across 70 countries — like Trafalgar, Contiki, Insight Vacations and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. The world has changed drastically since the company’s founding and TTC has adapted to crises through the decades, which now includes a global pandemic.
“Speaking for my family and each brand at TTC, we are looking to this next phase with travelers’ health and wellbeing at the very center of what we do,” Tollman said. “Just as we all faced a steep learning curve with the travel shutdown back in March, so we now have a great deal to understand about how, where and when we will travel again in the weeks, months and years ahead.”
The challenges brought to the travel industry this year only highlight how TTC will define travel for the next 100 years, by bringing people together through travel, making travel personal and paving the way for a more conscious traveler, Tollman said. These philosophies are woven into the TreadRight Foundation, which has supported more than 55 sustainable tourism projects worldwide to date.
“Just as travel will become more personal, it will also matter more in numerous ways within the three realms in which we work with our own TreadRight Foundation – Planet, People, and Wildlife,” Tollman said. “For example, the lack of travel this year has had a very negative impact on endangered wildlife populations in Africa, where those without work have resorted to poaching so as to feed their families and just survive.”
TTC’s sustainable strategy features the creation of brand-new “Make Travel Matter” experiences across their brands, that offers travelers a chance to give back and play a part in advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals worldwide. These immersive experiences will be featured on 50 percent of itineraries across TTC’s brands by 2025.
One of the experiences can be found on Contiki’s Berlin to Budapest by Train itinerary, where a team of activists turned guides take Contiki guests on a walking tour around Berlin to explain the story behind the headlines of the refugee crisis and the root causes of why so many are forced to flee. The UN endorsed this experience for advancing the global goal of “Reduced Inequalities.”
“Woven together through rich cultures, histories, wildlife and a natural beauty; our planet, our home, is something to embrace and discover,” Tollman said. “We create transformative experiences that offer life changing moments and help fulfill that deep-seated urge for connection and learning.”
As for what travel will look like in the next 100 years, Tollman hopes the positive impacts of today’s travelers will leave lasting footprints for the future generation of travelers.
“Like you, we are travelers. It’s in our blood, who we are and what we do every day. We are passionate, curious and deeply committed to the idea of sustainably exploring this incredible world as part of a global community,” Tollman said. “We look forward to serving travelers, as we have for over 100 years, helping them find the right pace to rediscover travel – and see the world anew.”