Are South African TMCs doing enough towards enhancing sustainable travel?

There is no doubt that every business, large or small, local or international, has a role to play in ecological matters and saving our highly threatened planet. It is no longer even really a discussion, but a known fact that social responsibility goes hand in hand with the brand and every brand can enhance its status by being seen to be a ‘company that cares.’

Only being ‘seen to be’ is the part that worries me though and one wonders how much is really being done at a grassroots level. Sustainability is an international issue and therefore begs the question “are South African TMCs doing enough towards enhancing sustainable travel?

The South African travel industry perspective

SATSA and South African Tourism do often launch carbon offsetting initiatives and South Africans, as a whole, focus on sustainability as a matter of high importance. SATSA, according to its CEO, David Frost, have a responsibility to encourage South African businesses to focus on sustainable development.

He has been quoted as saying “Globally the tourism industry accounts for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Each business must take responsibility for its carbon footprint and the impact it has on the environment.”  Local TMCs then obviously need to be cognisant of their role from a travel perspective on an international level.

Every role player needs to assess its own responsibility, from Airlines to Hotels, Transport companies in general and yes, Travel Management Companies too! We all have to play our part in the off-setting of carbon emissions and local TMCs need to be aware of their role from a travel perspective on an international level.

You often read about the things that travellers themselves are asked to do to encourage sustainability, like take less transport dependant holidays, observe the sustainability initiatives of the countries they visit, use less plastics in carriers, luggage etc. We as TMC’s certainly need to encourage all these suggestions, but there is much more we can do.

What can we, as local TMCs, do to enhance sustainable travel initiatives internationally?

GBTA, the Global travel association sets out a few good initiatives, and they are, I believe not only worth noting, but pro-actively trying to implement. South Africa, unfortunately, does lag behind in several transport and greening initiatives, but we as local Travel Managers can be playing our part to encourage ecological compliance amongst our local travellers when abroad.

European travel companies are forced in fact to align with specific legislation on sustainability initiatives, and most of these are based around reducing the Co2 emissions. GBTA says that over 57% of European travel companies now have sustainability initiatives within their travel programs.

Implement the initiative and sustain it

That is the place then to start. TMCs globally need to create sustainability objectives and then make sure travel programs are aligned with them. Obviously then implementing the programs is crucial. There’s little point in taking the bull by the horns and then letting it hibernate like a big old bear! TMCs need to make sure travel programs are financially feasible and sustainable over a period of time. These should never be short term initiatives anyway.

Be instrumental in sustainability trip planning

Local TMCs can manage the programs that we devise by including suggestions for international trips that minimise travel and meetings emission. Choose lower carbon options for driving and air travel options in particular. Seek advice from international environmental experts and be creative. A trip that involves more walking or cycling, or less flying in general, can be fun and massively reduce the carbon footprint.

Be goal orientated

I am personally a firm believer that any new initiative needs to be driven by a sense of purpose and a defined end result. Set a high level of objectives that culminate in achieving definite goals at certain measurable points. Let your environmental advisor measure the percentage of carbon emissions your adjusted programs are reducing as you go along and aim to increase it regularly and incrementally.

So, back to the question, are South African TMCs doing enough towards enhancing sustainable travel? – Possibly not yet, but these are a few ideas we can consider and should implement as soon as possible, at least in terms of international travel programs, where we can make a difference.

The state of the planet inherited by our children tomorrow rests in the hands of the corporate world of today. The travel industry can and should be playing a massive role to ensure that, regardless of where they live or travel, they have a much brighter future than the one we face right now.

LIDIA FOLLI

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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