It has been eleven years since The Travel Corporation (TTC) launched the TreadRight Foundation, a nonprofit designed to promote responsible tourism and give back to the communities that the TTC brands visit.
To celebrate, and to mark last month’s World Tourism Day, TTC and the TreadRight Foundation are committing to a new “Make Travel Matter Pledge.” Announced earlier this month, TreadRight says it is “the next step in a long-standing commitment to sustainable tourism and conscious travel.”
The pledge will be made by all 10,000 team members at TTC and TTC’s sister brands. Individuals making the pledge promise to: “I will make my travel matter – for our planet, for people, and for wildlife."
Philanthropy has changed
“When the TreadRight Foundation started ten years ago, the landscape for philanthropy and corporate giving was very different. Corporate social responsibility was considered optional and corporate giving was very different. We sought large-scale projects and large-scale partners and went with them,” Shannon Guihan, Chief TreadRight & Sustainability Officer at The Travel Corporation told Travel Market Report.
Since then, TreadRight has evolved to focus on smaller more local projects, turning to micro-grants and like-minded partners to serve the foundation’s three pillars — people, wildlife, and the planet. In all, TreadRight has supported over 55 projects across the world, including initiatives with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Big Cat Fund, WWF, and WE.org.
Those partnerships allow TreadRight to serve its pillars the best they can. The partnership with WE.org, for instance, provides TTC brands like including Trafalgar, Contiki and Uniworld with give-back experiences. It also allows Treadright to help protect the core of the travel experience, the destination (one of the most recent projects built through the WE partnership was an initiative to provide a community in the Kanambu region of Ecuador with clean water to drink and use for cooking).
“It’s critical to invest in the destination. Our industry hasn’t really excelled at quality control. [It’s important to] ensure our destinations our impacted in a positive way,” Guihan said
There have been a lot of proud moments for TTC and TreadRight during its decade-plus run. But some special ones stand out.
“I would say, for me personally, a lot of it is about the way in which we operate,” Guihan said. One of those wins was TreadRight and TTC committed to the removal of all elephant rides in 2015. This effort has been echoed in numerous operators since that time.
“You would find a lot of really well-meaning travelers who had it on their bucket list, who didn’t recognize the cruelty required in order to allow an elephant to be ridden. ”
Also, something simple that TreadRight has done with TTC, and something travel advisors should keep in mind when booking, is the implementation of e-docs. Under TreadRight, when a guest books a TTC brand, they have the option to use paper docs or e-docs. Every time a guest chooses e-docs, TTC plants a tree for that guest.
Moving forward, TreadRight wants to continue to lead the way for responsible tourism in the industry. That includes trying to eliminate single-use plastics.
“We just drafted a letter to go out to all of our suppliers, encouraging them to remove single-use plastics by the year 2022,” Guihan said.
There are also a number of new concerns that the industry needs to address, in order to move forward and grow travel responsibly.
“Our industry needs to address its carbon footprint, a clear challenge given our reliance on jet fuel. We are currently in the process of assessing our carbon footprint at The Travel Corporation and determining a strategy through which to address it.”
There is also rising concern about overcrowding at destinations that have become staples for travelers around the world. The industry needs to work together to combat that problem. Treadright and TTC spoke to Travel Market Report last month about how travel companies, and travel advisors, can help combat overcrowding, including promoting off-peak travel to destinations plagued by overcrowding, especially those across Europe.