Travel companies can “close the intention-action gap” by building easily bookable slow travel product says a pioneer in the field.
Flight-free tour operator and B Corp Byway, launched during the pandemic, creates rail-based itineraries with the intention to “make slow travel mainstream.”
Speaking in a session on carbon reduction at World Travel Market London, Byway CEO Cat Jones said: “People don’t need to fly as much as they do by a very, very long way,” but she admitted they lacked easy access to alternatives.
“We have to have that energy to make it easy wherever it is easy,” she said, stressing that replacing more short-haul flights with rail should be a ‘quick win’.
She stressed there was no shortage of intention from consumers to find alternatives to flights, the issue was “productising a lot of the knowledge.”
Byway has partnered with larger tour operators including Intrepid, Exodus and Kuoni to allow them to offer ‘slow travel’ product more easily.
Through collaboration with European destinations the company has meanwhile been able to build itineraries that avoid contributing to overtourism and instead elevate lesser-trodden areas. “We have a ‘hotspot penalty’ built into the system,” Jones explained.
She also spoke of the importance of word-of-mouth, with relatively low numbers switching to slow travel through companies such as hers but then becoming “ambassadors for this kind of travel and why it’s so gorgeous.”
Continuing the carbon-reduction theme, Ewout Versloot, strategist for Netherlands Board of Tourism told WTM delegates how the destination was looking at creating an ‘eco efficiency index’.
Its intention is to prioritise arrivals that have the highest benefit, not only financially but also on a social and environmental level, “We need new KPIs,” said Versloot.
The University of Surrey is helping tourist boards with similar research by plotting carbon footprint versus spend from different source markets to enable destinations to prioritise those travellers with a healthy balance of economic value and sustainability.
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