by Mia Taylor
Last updated: 8:00 AM ET, Sat December 2, 2017
When the average traveler hears the words "sustainable tourism", the image that often comes to mind is a bare-bones volunteer vacation or some other form of eco-tourism that's either intimidating or unattainable.
The narrative surrounding sustainable tourism, however, must change, says 27-year-old Kelley Louise, if the masses are to be meaningfully enlisted in harnessing the profound power of travel to help shape the future of the planet.
"Sustainability can be applied to any type of travel," begins Louise during an interview with TravelPulse. "People can make a positive impact through an ordinary vacation."
To prove that point and encourage people to think more critically about their travel choices, while educating them on just how to do that, Louise recently rebranded the non-profit she took over in 2015.
Under Kelley's leadership during the past two years, Travel+SocialGood focused on helping connect the dots around the world among sustainable travel initiatives and efforts, while also offering a platform where people could come together to establish a community around a shared passion.
Earlier this month the non-profit, run entirely by volunteers, announced its rebrand as Impact Travel Alliance (ITA).
The new name, says Louise, better reflects the organization's long-term goal of more tangibly affecting the choices that average leisure or business travelers make.
"We want to reach a wider audience, not just the activist travelers," continued Louise.
In pursuit of that broader audience, ITA will soon begin building a comprehensive platform of vetted travel resources designed to help professionals gain a holistic understanding of sustainability and implement it into their own business models and travel experiences.
The second phase of that effort will involve amassing in-depth information online that's designed to educate ordinary travelers about eco-friendly travel. The platform will include a variety of resources from ITA partners including such things as an online class about sustainable travel choices and actions.
"When you say to someone 'Do you want to go on a responsible vacation?' that just doesn't sound appealing," explained Louise. "But the reality of the matter is that these sustainable experiences are often the most immersive and memorable. Our goal is to help travelers to understand it doesn't have to be hard to make sustainable decisions."
In addition to its online presence, ITA also regularly hosts dynamic education events at its more than 25 hubs around the world where sustainable travel topics are delivered to ordinary travelers in digestible chunks.
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Louise describes the events as an easy entry point for consumers to learn more about sustainable tourism.
One recent such event focused on how to make an impact on the world through food tourism. The multi-hub education session involved the organization's more than two dozen local chapters hosting gatherings simultaneously at their various locations around the globe.
In Greece, participants were taken on a tour of street food vendors. The Austin chapter hosted a farm to table dinner while New York City had a panel discussion on how to make an impact through beer consumption.
"When you say responsible consumption to someone, they have no idea what you're talking about. I think people can get riddled in the complexities," explained Louise. "So our multi-hub events take these complex ideas and flip them on their head, presenting them through an easy access lens."
As Louise proceeds with her organization's various efforts, there's already signs of progress, which she has witnessed on many fronts. There's a growing community of sustainable travel professionals, an area that used to be relegated to being merely a niche part of the industry.
The ITA platform has also attracted thousands of average travelers as members, which was achieved through organic growth.
"We're actually already seeing a lot of movement and momentum just from new types of audiences we're reaching," says Louise. "Our community has grown to 15,000 in two years."
Ultimately, we all have a role to play in the myriad issues affecting the planet whether it is gender equality or ocean conservation, adds Louise.
And under her direction, Louise hopes that ITA can help make it easier for people of all backgrounds to be part of the solution.
"If we can break down all of the issues affecting the world today and solve them through something as universally appealing as travel, that would be a big win," says Louise.
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