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5 ways travel agents can elevate sustainable travel

Marcelo Capdevila

Director, Grupo GEA, Peru

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Editor’s note: Amadeus is pleased to feature our client and guest columnist, Marcelo Capdevila, director of the Grupo GEA travel company, who explains the role travel professionals play in guiding travelers toward making responsible, sustainable, eco-friendly travel decisions.  

For nearly three-quarters of global travelers, traveling sustainably – i.e. using and choosing “green,” eco-friendly travel options – is an important factor that will guide their travel planning decisions in 2020. Yet according to Booking.com’s fourth annual sustainable travel report, nearly 40% of global travelers admit they have no idea how to make their journeys more sustainable, and 72% are unaware of any eco-branding that “certifies” eco–travel. This is where today’s travel counselors play an indispensable role!  

Grupo GEA and sustainability 

Providing sustainable travel is what Grupo GEA is all about. We are a 25-year-old international company based in Spain, with a 10-year presence in Latin America. Our mission is to help small and medium-sized companies compete in the collaborative economies of the tourism markets they serve. Put simply, we work with local businesses to promote mutual growth through partnerships, investment, education, training and more. 

To ensure integrity and sustainability across our markets, people are at the center of everything we do. We believe human beings are irreplaceable resources who build and preserve the rich histories and traditions in every tourism market.  

In Peru, Grupo GEA provides sustainable tours in the ancient Inca civilization of Machu Picchu. This world-famous destination is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that must be carefully preserved so future generations continue to enjoy its amazing splendor. We work closely with local partners and suppliers to ensure that archeological sites and grounds are protected as guests enjoy authentic, memorable visits featuring local attractions, amenities and tours. 

 Selling sustainable tourism 

A recent Skift article outlined several things travel advisors can do to promote responsible, sustainable tourism. Here are five:  

1. Start at home. Have a policy that clearly defines your sustainability goals and mission, and share with your people, clients and partners. Educate your staff on sustainability through monthly meetings about new offerings or destinations. Encourage continuous dialogue and improvement.  

2. Choose the right partners. Select providers and vendors who uphold your own sustainability vision. Do partners hire local talent? Do hotels use renewable energy sources and minimize waste? How are environmental resources (land, water, air, wildlife) prioritized? How do partners support the economic and cultural values of each destination? Is transportation utilized effectively? Partners should share the same sustainability goals you have established for your business and travelers.  

3. Get certified. Ensure suppliers, vendors and partners are certified from legitimate sustainability sources such as EarthCheckGreen Destinations or Travelife

4. Be the market expert. Often clients don’t know the right questions to ask about sustainable travel, but a well-versed travel counselor does! Armed with the right insights and information, travel professionals can influence clients to make sound decisions, and travelers will appreciate knowing they are able to “give back” to local communities during their vacation.  

5. Sell the benefits. Travel advisors may need to address misconceptions about sustainable travel. For example, some travelers think sustainability means not having clean towels for two weeks or going without electricity. Many clients may not realize that they can enjoy their favorite activities and upscale amenities while traveling in a sustainable manner. A good travel counselor can explain how a local tour works – including the benefits. 

A bright, sustainable future 

As we have found with our own company, in today’s eco-conscious world, promoting sustainability makes good business sense – and sustainable travel will continue to grow if done correctly. The Booking.com study points to a bright future ahead: Over half (52%) of global travelers say they already alter their behaviors to be more sustainable while traveling, including walking, riding a bicycle or hiking. Plus, 68% would like the money they spend on travel to go back to the local community. In addition, 56% of respondents say that if there was an option to offset the carbon footprint on their vacation, they would do it.  

At Grupo GEA, we are thankful for our 10-year partnership with Amadeus, which gives us the technology edge we need to connect new markets, tour operators and retail travel agencies around the globe. We are excited about technology’s power to connect travelers to more sustainable tourism options in the future, and we look forward to being part of the ongoing growth. 

Do you have a sustainable travel idea you’d like to discuss? Email me at marcelo.capdevila@grupogea.com

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