Sustainability will be top of the agenda again despite pandemic ‘blip’

Sustainability will be top of the agenda again despite pandemic ‘blip’

Holidaymakers have temporarily lost their focus on sustainability following the pandemic but will rapidly regain it, tour operators have predicted. 

 A WTM London sustainability panel said the issue had slipped down the agenda in the scramble to travel again after two years of confinement. 

 Chris Wright, managing director, Sunvil, said ‘flight shaming’ had become an issue among his clients in 2019. That, he said, had since disappeared. “It’s almost like the desperation to travel has overtaken.” 

 Sonal Patel, Audley Travel’s chief sustainability officer, also said other issues had come to the fore: “Over the last two years clients have been more concerned about health and safety regarding Covid than sustainability.” 

 However, the panel agreed the issue was climbing to the top of the agenda again. 

 Zina Bencheikh, managing director, EMEA, Intrepid Travel, said there was a sense of the returning ‘green’ ethos at WTM: “This is the first WTM where destinations are interested in sustainability and are contacting us to help them,” she said. 

 She described how the operator tackled the issue of flying – “the elephant in the room”. She said 20% of Intrepid product was now domestic, compared to less than 5% pre-pandemic. Intrepid has also halted the use of domestic flights in favour of boats and trains. 

 Patel described Audley Travel’s initiatives, which included a café project in Vietnam that taught hospitality skills to locals deemed at risk. Audley also has projects with schools near its own offices to teach about sustainability and careers in travel. An apprentice programme is being developed. 

 Wright said Sunvil worked with property owners to alleviate issues around water use, waste disposal and recycling. “We work outside of government,” he said, describing a project in Corfu where Sunvil had collaborated with a volunteer recycling group. 

 “We tend to work with small, owner-managed properties and we lead the conversation around conservation and waste management. The conversations are not all about numbers.” 

 He advised operators to “start off small” and described how a scheme to eliminate plastic bottles had led to some Sunvil properties having water tanks fitted for delivery of spring water. 

 Sunvil also now has a train travel option. “We have been really inspired. We really did not expect people to be interested, but everybody talks about slow travel now,” he said. 

 Sam Seward, managing director, Travelopia and Exodus Travels, said his small group tours were “inherently low impact”. New staff were wholly behind the sustainability ethos, he said. 

 “This year we have taken on 100 staff and everyone is aligned with the idea of improving life through travel. They make that really clear and our customers are inspired by it.” 

 He added: “We are carefully measuring our negative impact, but also the positive.” Examples were a rewilding project in Italy’s Apennines. He concluded: “Sustainability drives loyalty; that should be an incentive for any operator.”



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World Travel Market (WTM) Portfolio comprises leading travel events, online portals and virtual platforms across four continents. The events are:

WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. The show facilitates business connections for the global (leisure) travel community. Senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating travel industry contracts.

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Arabian Travel Market (ATM), now on its 30th year, is the leading, international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals. ATM 2022 attracted over 23,000 visitors and hosted over 30,000 participants including 1,500 exhibitors and attendees from 150 countries, across 10 halls at Dubai World Trade Centre. Arabian Travel Market is part of Arabian Travel Week. #ATMDubai

Next in-person event: Monday 1 to Thursday 4 May 2023, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai

Arabian Travel Week is a festival of events taking place within and alongside Arabian Travel Market 2023. Providing a renewed focus for the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector, it includes ILTM Arabia, ARIVAL Dubai, Influencers’ events and activations, ITIC, GBTA Business Travel Forums, as well as ATM Travel Tech. It also features the ATM Buyer Forums, ATM Speed Networking Events as well as a series of country forums.

WTM Latin America takes place annually in the city of São Paulo and attracts around 20,000 tourism professionals during the three-day event. The event offers qualified content together with networking and business opportunities. In this its ninth edition – there have been eight face-to-face events along with a 100% virtual one, which was held in 2021 – WTM Latin America continued to focus on effective business generation, and achieved the advance booking of six thousand meetings that were held between buyers, travel agents and exhibitors in 2022.

Next event: Monday April 3rd to Wednesday 5th April 2023 – Expo Center Norte, SP, Brazil

WTM Africa launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa.  In 2022, WTM Africa facilitated more than 7 thousand unique pre-scheduled appointments, an increase of more than 7% compared to 2019 and welcomed more than 6 thousand visitors (unaudited), the same number as in 2019.

Next event: Monday 3 to Wednesday 5 April 2023 – Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town

About ATW Connect:  Africa Travel Week’s digital arm, is a virtual hub packed to the seams with interesting content, industry news and insights, and the opportunity to hear from experts on a variety of topics in our new monthly webinar series. All with the aim to keep all of us in the travel and tourism industry connected. ATW Connect focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology.

WTM Global Hub, is the new WTM Portfolio online portal created to connect and support travel industry professionals around the world. The resource hub offers the latest guidance and knowledge to help exhibitors, buyers and others in the travel industry face the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic. WTM Portfolio is tapping into its global network of experts to create content for the hub.

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