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(2019 - Spring/Summer Issue)


As baby boomers retire in droves, many can’t wait to hop on a plane or board a cruise ship to see the world. Yet the resulting crush of more than a billion tourists from Rome to Africa’s big game parks is putting pressure on the local environment and its residents.

To counter the impact of mass tourism, companies such as The Travel Corporation (ttc.com), owner of brands like Contiki, Trafalgar and Insight Vacations, are “making travel matter” by promoting a positive impact on the people and communities they visit, protecting wildlife and putting green programs in place to help save the planet.

“Travel is an incredible gift, with the ability to open our eyes, our hearts and our minds,” says The Travel Corporation’s CEO Brett Tollman. “But with this gift comes a responsibility to protect the world as we know it.” To realize his vision, Tollman co-founded the TreadRight Foundation (treadright.org) in 2008. Since then, the not-for-profit has supported more than 50 sustainable tourism projects in South America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and the CEO says he’s just getting started.


Whether it’s encouraging Jordanian women to form a co-operative and sell their pottery and handmade paper to tourists or hiring indigenous artists across Canada to teach the art of hand-stitching mukluks and moccasins, with all profits going to the craftsperson, TreadRight is committed to small, community-based tourism initiatives. Tollman says guests on TTC trips also learn the cultural practices that show respect for local people in the countries they visit.

To immerse yourself completely in the local culture in Kenya, India, Ecuador and more, join a ME to WE trip (metowe.com). Founded by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger, the WE charity works with locals to bring clean, safe water, food and sanitation to communities and ensure their kids go to school.


While climate change warnings are dire and real, Tollman says small changes can make a difference. By 2022, The Travel Corporation has committed to eliminating all avoidable single-use plastic items, from straws to plastic bags, bottles and cutlery, on the road, on cruise ships and from its 30-plus international offices. He’s especially proud of the new silicone water bottle given to all guests on TTC trips. “The removable charcoal filter is good for 100 uses and gives you 99.9 per cent pure water,” he said, “and it rolls up when you’re not using it.” TTC estimates it will help eliminate the use of some 570 million plastic water bottles alone.

When it comes to bus trips, TTC’s fleet of coaches are some of the most efficient in Europe: “We operate coaches that emit less carbon and other harmful greenhouse gases per passenger than other forms of transport,” he said.


South African-born Tollman says TreadRight’s work with leading wildlife organizations in Africa, India and Asia to rehabilitate dwindling populations of elephants, rhinos and big cats by protecting them from poaching, cruelty and preserving their habitat is close to his heart. At Thailand’s Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, guests on Contiki tours can spend hours learning how to feed, bathe and care for elephants rescued from the entertainment, logging and tourism industries. Though it may seem harmless, elephants trained to carry humans on their back are often treated cruelly, he says, which led to the RefuseToRide campaign. TreadRight is also working to save Australia’s Tasmanian Devil from a disease that threatens to wipe it out.


Another Canadian-based company, Bee + Hive (beeplushive.com), promotes small, unique hotels, restaurants and parks around the world that promise travellers a memorable guest experience and “jaw-dropping” activities with a focus on sustainability. Founder Bruno Correa, who grew up in a hotel family in Brazil, says his non-profit company continues to expand with members in Brazil, the Philippines, U.S., Australia, Zimbabwe and Sweden.

“Sustainable tourism is not about international companies bulldozing large tracts of land and setting up huge cookie-cutter resorts with their own catering and large staff,” says Correa. “It’s about integrating naturally and respectfully with the local environment, giving local communities an opportunity to share the economic benefits of tourism and preserving local traditions in food, music and art while letting them thrive.”

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