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Q: For those who maybe don’t know, how did the Make Travel Matter initiative come about?

A: It really started with TreadRight, which is the not-for-profit foundation of The Travel Corporation (TTC).

Making Travel Matter is all about looking at ways in which we can build experiences into our trips across all of our brands that actually have a positive impact on the communities, the wildlife and the places that we visit.

Q: How are these specific experiences selected?

A: Each of the TTC brands is responsible for contracting their own Make Travel Matter experiences and we do go through a number of strict criteria that have to satisfy 11 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. And that’s really important to us, because, of course, nobody wants to be seen as greenwashing.

I really think this is the way forward and the way people want to travel. People want to travel sustainably but no-one wants to be told “this is how you must travel” – they want to make that decision for themselves.

Our Make Travel Matter experiences are just giving them that opportunity and when they find out they are actually making a difference they are just blown away by that.

Q: Are there activities or attractions that you won’t sell because they don’t meet these criteria?

A: 100 per cent. And there’s some really big ones, most of them around wildlife. One of them is the Calgary Stampede, which used to be a really big seller for us but we stopped selling pre-COVID. It’s all to do with the chuck wagon races as World Animal Protection do not support that at all.

So we’re certainly prepared to make some of those big calls, even though it will impact us financially. Because if it doesn’t fit our ethos, then we’re quite happy to put our hands up and say we’ll no longer sell that.

What’s amazing, though, is that the more agents we talk to and explain why we don’t sell an activity, the more they understand it. So it’s all about educating the agents and consumers and we’re also constantly training our staff as well because the criteria we have is so strict.

Q: Are you finding it easier as time goes by to find places that tick all the right boxes?

A: Definitely. We are starting to make headway and becoming more and more known for our Travel With Purpose charter, the TreadRight Foundation and our Make Travel Matter experiences.

As soon as we start talking to people about these initiatives, they put everything on the table, which is really great and what really excites me. People are becoming more aware and starting to make the right moves.

It’s all baby steps, of course, but if someone wants to eliminate single-use plastic and they’ve already started that journey then that’s a really big tick as well. Most companies can produce something now and it’s pretty easy to work out if their kosher or not.

Q: Do you have any favourites among your Make Travel Matter experiences?

A: I’m extremely passionate about Africa and the wildlife aspect there. There are just so many amazing conservation groups that are doing great things and our clients can get behind the scenes to see how these experiences work.

Not just Africa, though. Neil (Rodgers, MD, Adventure World) is just up at the Tam Dao sanctuary in Vietnam where they’re re-housing bears that have been rescued from bile farming. That is just so amazing and to be able to get our clients to go there and see it firsthand is fantastic.

Then there’s somewhere like the Sacred Valley in Peru. We found that a lot of travellers were just driving through the valley on their way to Machu Picchu and a lot of local people were having to move out to find work.

Now there’s some really great organisations there where you can have lunch with the local people, which helps provide an income for them. They also have the opportunity to show their handicrafts and just keep some of those local traditions alive.

Q: So why should people book a Make Travel Matter experience on their next holiday?

A: My question would be: why wouldn’t you? Would you not rather support a local community or travel where you are having a positive impact on where you’re going? I think it’s really a no-brainer.

People just need to know how they can do it and that’s the biggest challenge. That’s where the whole education piece comes into it: it’s about educating people how easy it is to travel, to travel with purpose and to have a positive impact.

Q: Final question. Do you think more should be done to promote sustainable travel?

A: There’s definitely still a lot more that can be done and more people need to get on board with it – there are a lot of people that talk about it but they don’t actually walk the talk.

It’s about putting your money where your mouth is and that’s what I think we’re really good at at The Travel Corporation. We really do believe in it and we make sure that whatever we do fits our ethos, whether it’s Travel With Purpose or Make Travel Matter.