TreadRight: How the Travel Corporation Gives Back
Photo courtesy of TreadRight
"Looking back at it three, four years ago, I don’t think anyone ever asked me anything related to environmental protection,” said Gavin Tollman, president and CEO of Trafalgar, the tour operator. “No one asked. It didn’t exist.”
In 2016, that is no longer the case.
In today’s world, three or four years is a long time, long enough for transformational changes to take place. The cumulative power of social media can cause trends to reach critical mass with lightning speed. Suddenly a business can find itself confronting a new reality that was previously invisible, and is now staring it in the face at point blank range.
“Now I have guests ask what is our CSR [corporate social responsibility] vision, what are we trying to do, how are we trying to make a difference,” said Tollman.
Today a tour operator cannot shrug off the importance of corporate responsibility, especially in regard to environmental protection and promoting sustainability in the destinations where it takes travelers. It is part of what customers want and expect from the tour operators they travel with.
Fortunately for TravCorp., it has TreadRight.
In 2008, the Travel Corporation, which comprises a large collection of travel brands, including Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, Contiki, Uniworld, Red Carnation Hotels, AAT Kings, Lion World Travel, Thompsons Africa, Brendan Vacations, African Travel, Adventure World, Grand European Travel, started a not-for-profit corporation called TreadRight, through which to focus its efforts at promoting sustainable tourism.
Brett Tollman, president and CEO of the Travel Corporation, calls TreadRight, “our way of giving back."
“We’re trying to make a difference protecting the places we take travelers to,” he said. “We’ve done it in different ways over the years. Initially, each of the brands did their own projects. Then we decided to let them focus on what they do best, which is travel.”
TreadRight, working with the individual brands, was assigned the job of focusing the resources of the Travel Corporation on the overall mission of sustainable travel and giving back.
The mission of TreadRight is to support projects “that help the environment, protect and conserve ecosystems and benefit communities.” Since its 2008 founding, TreadRight has moved increasingly toward center stage of TravCorp.’s activities.
Travel's Helping Hand
One of TreadRight’s primary goals is to engage with and help improve the communities in the areas the member companies visit.
“One of the huge benefits of guided vacations is that we are taking 40-odd people on a continual basis into that environment,” said Gavin.
“In Europe, for example, we go to Loire Valley where a mother and daughter have a small farm and they create most delicious Chèvre cheese, all organic,” he said. “But they never were able to make a go of it. On one of Trafalgar’s Be My Guest programs, we bring our guests to her farm. She cooks for them. You’re helping her sustain something. It impacts the local community. It allows her to continue to do the right way of farming without having to worry about mass production.”
Trafalgar is able to multiply its effect with similar programs on hundreds of tours in destinations around the world. There are many opportunities for the company to make decisions that will affect the communities it visits.
“This is how you can make travel improve the communities it visits,” said Gavin. “It’s not just about seeing it. It’s actually engaging with it.”
Sending the Message
Charitable giving is also on TreadRight’s list of priorities. The foundation provides grants for projects by various enterprises, including WildAid, National Geographic Society, the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Tourism Cares, The Wilderness Foundation and various other organizations that foster sustainable tourism efforts.
At this point TreadRight has helped to support more than 35 sustainable tourism projects worldwide.
Back in the offices, the TravCorp companies work to achieve sustainability in their business practices.
“We are looking at the impact we have directly,” said Gavin. “We look at every one of our coaches, how we recycle, our utilization. We look at every single piece of collateral. We will only exclusively utilize recycled paper. You look at our brochures. You look at what we put on our trips. Brett has led a great charge about going to e-documents so we are not wasting paper.
“We are making a difference for ourselves. If each of us makes our own difference when we travel, it will have a positive impact. We want to be sure that message is getting across.”
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