2020 has been a year like no other and it’s only June! Since we first established Impact Escapes, responsible travel has been one of our driving forces. We could see that with the way many tourism enterprises operate there is too much leakage of tourist spend. Small businesses and social enterprises are missing out on the benefits of the increasing number of visitors to their beautiful and unique countries.
Way back in February we decided to sign up for the Sustainable Tourism Online Training course with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Little did we know that when 20th April finally rolled around we would find ourselves in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. We were in a world where flights grounded globally and many countries across the world in lockdown.
The GSTC course is offered online to allow an international audience to participate and benefit from the learning. We were so fortunate during this time of social distancing and isolation to be connected twice a week with a group of like minded individuals. The group as a whole not only have a passion for responsible tourism but could see this as a time to pause. A chance to reset and make a difference, to learn, grow and share ideas around regenerative tourism as an ultimate goal.
The four pillars of the GSTC centre around Sustainable Travel Management, Social and Economic Benefits to the Local Community, Maximising Benefits to Cultural Heritage and Maximising Benefits to the Environment – all whilst minimising negative impacts. Throughout the course we were challenged to apply the GSTC criteria to our own businesses and scenarios that we routinely see working in Tourism.
The GSTC isn’t about pointing the finger at who is not doing enough. The focus is on striving towards established recognised minimum standards (criteria). New or existing businesses can apply these criteria to their business model to ensure that they can do better and indeed in the long term strive to follow best practices by keeping the four pillars at the core.
What does this mean for Impact Escapes? Our principles have always aligned with the criteria. The first part of the process is documenting a long term sustainability management plan so that we can track our progress and be accountable as to where we want and need to improve. This will also allow us to share our goals with our employees to ensure they share these principles and feel confident in applying them.
At Impact Escapes we are also looking hard at our suppliers, not just the accreditations that they can boast. We look to the small businesses and we are recognising where efforts are being made to be responsible. We are acknowledging that best practice is more important than accreditation when the costs of accreditation can be prohibitive to some. Impact Escapes are also working with suppliers to encourage them to make positive changes for their business to operate with a greener footprint.
We are working with local travel and tourism organisations, we are actively seeking out eco friendly tourism companies to share ideas and gain insights. We hope to make a difference to small communities by doing our best to encourage sustainable travel and tourism.
As a tour operator we feel we have a responsibility to the local people to use best practises, to be environmentally friendly. A small measure we introduced was as simple as gifting our guests a water bottle on arrival so that we are able to reduce the use of single use plastic bottles.
We are striving to become a B Corp company and achieve our B Corp certification. Our team at Impact Escapes believe that if our company makes it easy for people to travel responsibly and sustainably then there will be a greater percentage of people participating in eco friendly travel. We would love to hear from any other small businesses who are also heading down the same road to a more sustainable future.