Travel firms that fail to act responsibly in the next five to 10 years could lose business as holidaymakers increasingly choose operators based on their sustainability credentials.
Intrepid Group chief growth officer Michael Edwards made the prediction as the company scooped this year’s sustainability award at the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame on Monday.
The company, which has been carbon neutral since 2010, achieved ‘B Corporation’ status last year in recognition of its ‘purpose beyond profitability’.
Recently, it outlined its ambition to become the first ‘climate positive’ travel company.
Edwards said: “We are at a tipping point. Climate change, in particular, has come to the fore. People are making more-conscious choices to travel in a better way and are thinking about the impact of the climate.
“In five to 10 years, being a B Corp – or something similar – will be increasingly prevalent. Customers [will] want that benchmark.
“If travel companies are not doing something, or showing they are doing something, it will get increasingly difficult.
“There will be pressure to be a company that acts responsibly, particularly around climate change, and customers will self‑select. They will go to companies that tick the boxes.”
Edwards said the Hall of the Fame award was the one the company “most proud” to win.
He added: “It’s the thing most at the heart of what we are trying to achieve as a business from when we were formed 30 years ago and increasingly the way we operate and where we want to position the business. We are honoured to receive this award.
“From day one, sustainability has been important. The values and ethos and wanting to create shared value has been important from our first trip. It was always about getting closer to local communities and bringing something back.
“That has not changed but it has become a more formalized part of the business.”
The company, which has a non-for-profit arm called the Intrepid Foundation, decision to stop all elephant rides on its trips in 2014 and its high profile fundraising appeal following Nepal’s devastating earthquake in 2015 helped it to gain a higher profile as a sustainable company, he added.
“It’s difficult, but if you fundamentally believe in it, so will your customers. Businesses will think it’s expensive, but if it’s done right it is good commercially.”
● Sustainability-focused operator Responsible Travel has called for Air Passenger Duty to be increased and renamed as Green Flying Duty, and for the money it raises to be used to fund research and development of electric aircraft.