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How Transformative Travel can make lives better

Case studies in the travel industry by Jeremy Smith, author of Transforming Travel


The first edition of the Travel Congress in the Netherlands focused on three main pillars: digital skills, social skills and green skills: pillars that NTG also focuses on within the Next Tourism Generation Alliance (NTG). Various keynotes were visited in order to get interesting insights into the current Skills situation in the tourism industry.

The first edition of the Travel Congress began with an impressive keynote from Jeremy Smith, author of the book ‘Transformative Travel’. During his keynote, Jeremy took us through the transformation of various sub-sectors in the tourism industry. The Next Tourism Generation aims to create transformative cooperation in five key tourism sub-sectors: hospitality, food and beverage operations, travel agencies and tour operators, visitor attractions and destination management. The keynote of Jeremy reflects upon many of those sub-sectors and led to many interesting insights and are helpful for the progress of the Sectoral Skills Development of NTG.

The keynote started with a very simple question:


How was your holiday? 



Many of us would have said that it was great: seeing family and friends for Christmas, celebrating the start of a new and exciting 2019. Jeremy concluded that probably no one would have said:


It was very sustainable.


During holidays, many of us rest and get more sleep and create new memories. However, if people want to do this in a more responsible and sustainable way, it means less balance. In order to be ‘sustainable’ and ‘responsible’, meat must be cut out of our daily consumption, people should give up flying and get rid of their cars. Only then, people could make a difference and enhance sustainability.

Hence travel has to be transformed in order to make a difference. Jeremy emphasizes on the fact that the words ‘sustainability’ and ‘responsible’ are dead. In order to make a difference, organizations in travel should begin with thinking of how they can redesign tourism and make it part of their story.

If the travel industry will not put support and energy in transforming their operations, within 25 years the energy usage will be double, as well as the land usage. Next to that, within 45 years, the water usage will be doubled and by the year 2030, 50% more international trips will be taken which will lead to an additional 36.000 planes operating within 20 years. Those numbers are worrying if the travel industry continues as usual.


” Addressing, slowing or arresting emissions is necessary, but insufficient. If you are travelling down the wrong road, you are still on the wrong road if you slow down. The only goal that makes sense for humanity is to reverse global warming.”


Therefore, we must start NOW with transformative travel: the industry must re-design tourism in such a way that it transforms travel, leading to restoring the environment, connecting people together and to nature. Life-changing holidays will become the new responsible travel in order to make life better.


Slides Transformative Travel by Jeremy Smith


It is all about making life better, for everyone and everything 


Books and articles such as Drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming by Paul Hawken and ‘The New Sustainability: Regeneration’ focus on the future of sustainability and how to decarbonize the economy. Reversing, restoring and making things better are effective pillars.


Slides Transformative Travel by Jeremy Smith


Organizations outside tourism such as IKEA and food chains have already created concepts and plans to fight climate change. They are providing climate positive products such as the climate positive burger, a climate positive carpet and a climate positive business. Their operations and creation of products need to return a climate positive impact on the world.


Transforming travel to restore the environment – make life better


Concepts in travel also need to be developed, in order to work on climate positive products and to make life better. Currently, there are many examples that focus on de-carbonization. Food waste is a very important topic nowadays and this causes the 3rd most impactful harm to the climate. Organisations aim to minimize the amount of food that is wasted. For example, RESQ is a mobile application that supports hotels and restaurants in Helsinki to take responsibility to reduce food waste. Organisations can sign up to this app when there is food left over from a service shift in order to sell products to local people who are also signed up to the app at a reduced price. In addition to this, multiple restaurants in London have a changing menu based on the availability of the food that is left. These concepts can be enhanced in order to minimize the negative impact of food waste.

Loyalty schemes in hotels are famous for upgrades. For example, Martins hotel took the loyalty scheme to a greener level: instead of receiving loyalty points when you buy specific products, the customer will receive loyalty points when choosing a more sustainable option. In this way, the hotel encourages its visitors to have a green stay while the visitor will also be encouraged to return due to their received points.

When it comes to green ways of transportation, Bologna has started an initiative by creating an app that rewards users that make use of ‘green vehicles’ such as bikes. The app is called Bella Mossa and registers your way of transport, gives you points and rewards you with extras at local shops and restaurants when it shows that you have been travelling in a green way.


Create better experiences that restore nature and improves lives


In Thailand, 100 miles south of Bangkok, organic agriculture is being supported by the tourism industry. A hotel situated in this area makes use of the onsite organic farm and produces fresh products. There are 80 local farmers involved in this project and an extensive training program on how to grow organic food. Now that the organic farm is up and running, a network of buyers has resulted in a successful project. Many collaborations with restaurants and hotels were established and all of them are making use of the freshly grown products of the organic farm. Furthermore, local schools are involved in the project as they will also get taught how organic farms are operating. Lastly, guest tours have been organized now in order to bring everyone back to the basics of the organic gardens: guests, staff, locals and students are meeting at the local farmer market to learn more from each others’ stories.


Transforming travel to reconnect people – make life better


When it comes to changing the minds of people in order to deal with climate change, Jeremy came up with several examples that focus on ‘trust one another’ and ‘make life better’.

Two-thirds of the hotel staff from the Magdas Hotel in Vienna has a refugee background. The hotel has chosen to work with multiple nationalities in order to create more opportunities for both the staff and the guests who are staying at the hotel. Twenty different languages are spoken which gives room for the staff and for guests to learn more from one another, their background and historical stories. Next to that, the employees will all bring different skills, talents, languages and cultural background which results in a special and unique position in the hotel market.


Slides Transformative Travel by Jeremy Smith


Another example of reconnecting people together and trusting one another is the organization of local and historical tours in the conflicted countries of Palestine and Israel. Creating these tours for visitors to the destination leads to hearing authentic stories, visiting unique sites, participating in a responsible way but most importantly is that the visitors have experienced tourism in a natural setting.


Transforming travel to reconnect us to nature


Some of the biggest benefits of going on holiday is reducing stress, getting restored and getting reconnected. Jeremy gave several examples of natural parks in Finland that focus on hiking activities to support stress-management in nature and silence. However, one of the hardest challenges is to get people excited and enthused about this kind of redesigned and responsible travel in natural surroundings. Hohe Tauern health is a responsible tourism brand that creates restorative holiday trips. These holidays have resulted in guests having improved health from participating in responsible tourism activities and at the same time, this type of tourism has enhanced the protection of nature. Furthermore, visitor numbers have increased by 21% and this form of tourism has attracted health professionals and improved the life of locals. As deeper well-being needs are being catered for, tourists will stay longer, come more often to those kinds of reconnecting destinations and spend more money.

Concluding his keynote, Jeremy Smith recommended that tourism businesses stimulate life-changing holidays that change life for good.




Tweet Lobke Elbers on Transformative Travel


Next time people come back from holiday, they will say ‘it was life-changing’. 


Follow the efforts of the Next Tourism Generation via our website, Facebook, Twitter | #NTGskillsalliance or via LinkedIn

By Lorainne van Liere, involved in the project communication of the Next Tourism Generation Alliance, a European funded project that focuses on creating a future-proof tourism industry based on addressing digital, green and social skills gaps in 5 tourism sub-sectors: hospitality, food and beverage, travel agencies and tour operators, visitor attractions and destination management. Also, a tourism fanatic, looking for digital innovations and ideas to implement in the industry.




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