Greening the Travel Industry; Catalytic role of Travel Agents.  29th Jun 2018

The Green Tourism Summit Africa is about leveraging opportunities presented by environment and social sustainability as prime innovation platforms for tourism and conservation.

This annual event was hosted by Sustainable Travel & Tourism Agenda (STTA) last week in Nyeri with the aim of having an engaging forum to explore solutions and emerging new trends in sustainability, inspiring innovation and building networks.

Tourism in 2017 contributed to 119 million jobs, 10.4% of Global GDP and USD 2.6 trillion in revenues.

According to UNWTO air travel is considered the main tourism contributor to global warming: It’s responsible for 40% of the total carbon emissions caused by this sector, and 54-75 of radiative forcing. Carbon emission of the travel industry especially from transport is increasing.

Speaking at the Green Tourism Summit Africa, KATA CEO Nicanor Sabula pointed out the practical interventions on how travel agents can take action on climate change and sustainability. He mentioned the establishment of an award scheme for clients who are green champions. Some of the practical interventions that travel agents can practice include;

  • Developing credible carbon offsetting activities
  • Developing tour packages that takes into account the consequences of climatic changes
  • Internally develop clear and practical ways of reducing their own carbon footprint
  • Influence their suppliers to go green
  • Participate in small scale activities like environmental education
  • Providing sensitization and training programs for staff and clients
  • Increase their own awareness about climate policy issues
  • Appoint a climate change / sustainability champion

Demand of green tourism by tourists and travellers is an emerging trend in the industry that travel agents need to be aware of. Travel agents have now become innovative by coming up with packages that are eco-friendly and investing in facilities that encourage sustainability.

Despite the high costs involved in implementing sustainable measures, this practices reduce operational costs, waste and increases employees’ productivity, which improves the overall profit margins in travel and tourism businesses.

The Global Code of Ethics for Tourism by UNWTO can be adapted by travel agents and stakeholders in the travel and tourism industry with the aim of greening the trade. This is a fundamental frame of reference for responsible and sustainable tourism. It contains a set of principles designed to guide key-players in tourism development with the intention of helping the trade maximise its benefits while minimising its potentially negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and societies across the globe.

Travel agents play a huge role in promoting sustainability mainly because they act as intermediaries between the consumer and the product/service needed.

Training key staff on green travel and sustainable tourism is a role that travel agents take up which in time grows and becomes a socioeconomic culture. The travel agents can be guided by provision on quality and sustainability standards and practices. Training materials on sustainability issues in the industry can be distributed among the staff via internal communication. These keeps their knowledge level high hence they become influential in the industry and through their networks.

As travel agents we need to be drivers of change, we can make tourism more sustainable.


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