08 OCT 2015: “We all have a role to play in preserving our environment,” the CEO of one of the largest worldwide tour operators and upcoming recipient of this year’s World Tourism Award, said at a recent press luncheon as he outlined the non-profit arm’s latest developments.  

Brett Tollman, the CEO of The Travel Corporation which boasts such leading brands as Uniworld, Trafalgar Tours, Insight Vacations and Contiki Holidays was in town last week to discuss sustainable tourism efforts, some of which are led by his organization’s TreadRight Foundation and by other organizations that empower travellers to do the right thing.

World Tourism

Tollman who will accept the World Tourism Award at the opening day of the World Travel Market next month with Céline Cousteau, the brand ambassador and company spokesperson for the TreadRight Foundation, has been vocal on countless industry panels. He says that despite some negative aspects in tourism, among them carbon dioxide emissions from airlines, there are also beautiful aspects.

“(Travel) broadens our minds, opens our hearts and our ears, and our palettes to new and different destinations and it gives us a better understanding of people, history, and the amazing diversity that this planet consists of and that for us is why we are in this industry,” he said.

The TreadRight Foundation

The TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit working to ensure the environment and communities travellers visit remain vibrant for future generations. To date, TreadRight has supported over 35 sustainable tourism projects worldwide. The Foundation's guiding principle is to encourage sustainable tourism development through conservation, leadership and support for communities.

The TreadRight Foundation was founded in 2008. It was a concept that Travel Corporation chairman (Tollman’s father Stanley) had discussed a year earlier. The organization has since gone through changes - as recently as last year - when the corporation took a deep look at its achievements and decided to change tack.

“With most of the projects in the past it was the brands that had the opportunity to choose the projects,” Tollman said, describing Trafalgar’s battlefields restoration project in Scotland and helping a slow food farm in Scotland.

“But we thought we could bring more power and more impact by reducing the number of projects we were working on and leave them to the experts (The TreadRight Foundation) and let the brands do what they are really good at which is selling and marketing.”

The new approach TreadRight Foundation has introduced the TreadRight Wildlife Initiative and the TreadRight Heritage Initiative. “Last year we changed the shift and came up with a primary focus on two key pillars: wildlife preservation and community rehabilitation in destinations that had disadvantaged people.”

From a business perspective Tollman views profit making first and foremost in maintaining the health of the private corporation his father founded, “but equally importantly it gives us profits to put back into our work to what TreadRight does.”

TreadRight, he notes is solely supported by The Travel Corporation and does not seek donations from its guests. “We don’t ask anyone else to participate. We don’t think it’s our place to ask our travellers to contribute to our projects.”

The South African born CEO was deeply touched by the wildlife poaching he witnessed in the eighties, and since 2005, Tollman emphasized, poaching has again encountered a huge explosion coming largely from Asia and particularly devastating the populations of elephants and rhinos in Southern Africa.

A TreadRight Wildlife Initiative: WildAid

http://www.treadright.org/project/wildaid

“What’s key is education and communication is fundamental.” He said of the current poaching situation, “When the buying stops the killing does too.”

Studies suggest that by 2025 rhinos will be extinct if poaching is not stopped.

“Last year 1,215 rhinos were killed in Southern Africa. That’s about a 20 percent increase from the year before and this year through July over 1,200 rhino have been killed,” he said of the frightening escalation.

On the Local Level

The Travel Corporation with 40 offices worldwide encourages staff to assist in local causes by offering its employees two paid days to volunteer in the organization of their choice.

“Saving the earth is a real commitment and is not just a traveling job but we can all do our bit.”

Some sustainable works from the TTC brands

Uniworld

As a member of the Whole World Water Fund, the boutique luxury cruise line encourages saving drinking water by providing guests with steel water bottles that can be replenished daily at the ship’s water stations thereby eliminating waste from plastic water bottles.

The company website reports that Uniworld filters its own water to reduce plastic waste and to put a greater emphasis on educating travellers on the importance of the initiative and the gravity of the global water issue. “Uniworld will donate $1 on behalf of each guest to the WHOLE WORLD Water Fund, a charity registered in the UK that funds water projects around the world, bringing safe sustainable water to global communities in need,” says the Uniworld website. http://uniworld.com/ca/givingback/water

Trafalgar and Insight Vacations

Both brands incorporate community-focused programmes that support artisans crafting ancient weaving practices. In Perugia, Italy the fine technique of tapestry making is celebrated by a fourth generation weaver. Trafalgar and Insight Vacations guests have opportunities to watch the intricate craft done inside a medieval church.

Insight Vacations and Contiki

In the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, Peru surrounded by World Heritage Site treasures, tour guests observe the handiwork of an ancient Peruvian weaving technique in this fascinating artisanal project. Over 500 weavers use only the finest wools in these delicate designs. Insight Vacations and Contiki guests meet up with artisans followed by a lunch with the co-op’s founder.

The TreadRight Foundation future Tollman’s wish list is no small order.

The global travel trailblazer hopes over the next five years that there will be additional projects added to the foundation. He also hopes the projects currently supported by TreadRight will see direct results. The WildAid’s shark saver campaign which is done in conjunction with the government’s ban in China has reportedly seen a 50 to 70 percent reduction in China’s shark fin consumption.

“Some of the projects are more meaningful in seeing core results like WildAid’s reduction in shark fin consumption,” he says and concludes that he feels TreadRight resonates more with travellers to say, “Because of what I have learned or shared with TreadRight I’m a better global citizen today.”

visit: treadright.org

TREADRIGHT
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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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