As one of the largest travel networks in the world, Virtuoso is guided by a philosophy of enriching lives through human connection, and the power of travel and tourism as a force for good. We believe that travel is a powerful catalyst to educate and protect natural and cultural heritage for future generations.
The United Nations has declared 2017 the Year of Sustainable Tourism, which inspired Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch and his family to rethink their vacation strategy. "We decided to focus our family vacations around destinations, hotels, and tour companies known for enlightened environmental practices and cultural preservation," says Upchurch.
Read more about the Upchurch family’s first trip to The Brando resort.
Costas Christ, an award-winning travel writer and pioneer of sustainable travel practices, serves as Virtuoso’s director of sustainability. Here, he shares six easy tips to travel sustainably – or to adopt at home.
Say "No" to Plastic Water Bottles
"Better yet, bring a reusable water flask from home or ask your tour operator or hotel for local recyclable purified water. Your request will send a message that you care about stopping plastic waste that is clogging up landfills and polluting our seas, spurring more travel companies to also say no to plastic.
Eat Sustainably Sourced Seafood
At a time when worldwide fisheries are in decline, opt for sustainably-sourced seafood using the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch List phone app. I also say no to shrimp: most of it comes from aquaculture ponds bulldozed out of tropical mangrove forests and dosed with chemicals. And when it comes to other culinary delights of travel, always go local and, when possible, also organic. The less chemicals and food miles involved to get to your plate, the more nutritious and the less fossil fuels involved.
Chose a Hotel Committed to Sustainability
I always give priority to hotels that include their sustainability commitment on their website. Sure, some might be "greenwashing" – talking without doing – but most will provide a good idea of what a hotel or outfitter is doing to go green, and its puts them on record for you to also ask about those practices in person on your trip.
Bring a Reusable Shopping Bag
Carry an easy-to-fold reusable shopping bag on trips, and use it. It is one of the easiest and most helpful things for the environment that we can do when we travel to avoid contributing to plastic bag pollution, now a major cause of concern in many parts of the world. And locals will welcome it, too. I was buying fruit at a roadside stand in Belize last month, and the vendor thanked me for bringing my own bag. "Betta no Litta," she said to me in Creole ("Better no Litter").
Take the train, bike, and walk where you can. It is more environmentally-friendly and will also help you to embrace the Slow Travel movement – all about experiencing more than just seeing a place. When you do need to fly, use a reliable carbon offset provider like MyClimate, to offset your air travel, and opt for non-stop flights vs. connections – fewer flights, less emissions.
Never Buy Wildlife Products
Ever. Period. From pretty shells in Vietnam to fur hats in Kaszakhstan to sea turtle bracelets in Maldives – no matter where you are, the odds are overwhelming that it comes from killing wild animals. Just say no. Your response will send a powerful message that travelers do not support the wildlife trade."
Next week, we’ll post Costas’ tips on cultural preservation and helping local communities – both key pillars in sustainable tourism.