Sustainable travel may be one of the most talked-about subjects in the industry, but how do you go about selling it? That’s been the focus of this year’s TTG Sustainable Travel Heroes initiative, where six industry partners have supported 20 agents on an in-depth Sustainable Travel Ambassadors programme. They’ve covered everything from how travel can make a positive impact to supporting biodiversity, cutting carbon and boosting local communities.
Among the Ambassadors were Travel Counsellor Marie Rowe and Not Just Travel’s Annika Nickson, who both sell an array of luxury products. When promoting responsible travel to high-end clients, Nickson often doesn’t use the term “sustainable travel” during conversations.
“Focus on the exclusiveness of things, and the experiential elements of being able to travel in a responsible way,” she suggests. “For example, with destinations that are incredibly crowded, as a responsible travel agent you might want to encourage clients to visit somewhere else. Instead of focusing on the fact that it’s better for local communities to go elsewhere, talk about how they’ll have this exclusive experience nobody else is going to have, and they’ll have it all to themselves. That really appeals to people.”
Nickson frequently uses this approach when switch-selling clients to more sustainable options. On a recent honeymoon enquiry around the US, the clients assumed they’d need to fly between cities, but Nickson explained how travelling by rail would enable them to see the countryside and be a more relaxing experience. In these instances, having a lower carbon footprint is often something that she just “tags on the end” during discussions.
Rowe and Nickson saw just how sustainability and luxury can be united when they joined two fam trips led by the Sustainable Travel Heroes, including learning about Iberostar Hotels & Resorts’ Wave of Change responsible tourism movement on a fam to Majorca. They saw how the brand is boosting greenery across its properties, serves fresh, responsibly sourced seafood and has water filtration machines throughout hotels to banish single-use plastic bottles. Rowe explains: “All these tiny little things just elevate the experience. I can convince people that you’re not compromising on luxury when you’re having a more sustainable experience.”