As the world celebrates the 53rd Earth Day on April 22nd, travel companies are stepping up to do their part in protecting the planet. From planting native trees thought lost forever and collecting data to inform world biodiversity policy, to tracking carbon, reducing your footprint, and various wildlife-focused conservation efforts, travel companies are resolved to make tourism a force for good in the world.
Here are just a few initiatives by Bannikin clients that are currently underway:
The Burren Pine Project
Through its Conservation Contribution Scheme (an optional €12 donation from customers that is used to help support a range of environmental and nature conservation charities), Wilderness Ireland is collaborating with the Burrenbeo Trust, Ireland’s only landscape conservation charity, on the Burren Pine Project.
The Burren pine – Ireland’s only native pine tree species – was thought to have died out around 1,500 years ago, only growing in Ireland again after reintroduction from Scotland-reared saplings (leading to its common name ‘Scot’s Pine’). Recent investigations by scientists at Trinity College Dublin confirmed the presence of a thicket of original Burren pines at a remote site in the Burren, in County Clare. This remarkable find was verified by pollen analyses and the details published in a peer reviewed paper. The Burrenbeo Trust is committed to repopulating the region with these native trees.
To date, the project has planted over 700 Burren pines and 2,100 companion native trees. Learn more about the project here.
Building the eBioAtlas
Through its Nature Net Positive commitment, Exodus Travels has rolled out a series of Citizen Science departures on several of its trips for 2023 in support of the eBioAtlas. Featuring a variety of destinations worldwide, these trips have been developed in partnership with NatureMetrics and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and provide travelers with the opportunity to help support conservation action and inform world biodiversity policy.
On these special departures, Exodus clients will take part in the collection of environmental DNA (eDNA) samples found in freshwater, which will then be sent back to NatureMetrics for analysis.
“At Exodus, we want to be nature net positive to ensure that the way we run our trips not only reduces any negative impacts on natural ecosystems, but proactively seeks to support nature’s restoration and regeneration,” said Rochelle Turner, the company’s head of sustainability.
As the world’s first 100% carbon-neutral travel company, Natural Habitat Adventures offsets all emissions generated on its trips, in its office operations, and on its travelers’ flights. “In the context of a warming planet, we believe it is crucial to reduce our carbon footprint while we maximize the positive impacts of travel for conservation and enlightenment,” says Ben Bressler, Nat Hab's founder and president.
To further climate awareness, and in the interest of transparency and education, Nat Hab is adding a carbon calculator to all its trips. Presented in a chart format, in much the same way nutritional information is shown on food packaging, the data provided illustrates where carbon is emitted during each trip. Carbon offsets are purchased to ensure every tour is carbon-neutral, balancing emissions in an amount equal to the carbon expended during one’s travels. The carbon calculator is currently available on the company’s Southern Africa trips (look for the ‘carbon data’ link at the top of the page) and is in the process of being rolled out across the entire collection.
Additionally, in celebration of Earth Day, Nat Hab has just unveiled a brand-new short film titled The Bear Coast: An Alaska Conservation Story, which focuses on the coastal land on the north end of the Alaska Peninsula in an area known as “the best bear habitat in the world.”
Featuring interviews with a group of passionate Alaskans, including Steve MacLean, managing director, WWF US-Arctic Program, and Drew Hamilton, a long-time Alaska bear viewing guide who has worked with Nat Hab for many years, the film showcases the brown bears that call this region home and the need to protect both them and their habitat. “We have incredible power, whether we recognize it or not,” said Hamilton in the film. “In order to have a world where bears exist, we need to make a conscious decision to have bears in the world.”
Supporting Rural Communities
To reduce carbon footprints and further encourage economic activity at the community level, Kyoto-based tour operator Oku Japan constantly works to ensure its small-group guided tours and self-guided trips contribute positively to the destinations it visits.
Particularly important for rural areas, many of which faced decades of decline and depopulation as younger people moved away to the cities, Oku has worked to turn the tide – sustaining the economic viability of these countryside communities, that in turn means their society and culture can also endure. It also works with accommodation suppliers that value locally produced food and prioritizes public transport over tour buses – even on its small-group tours.
Namibia Giraffe Conservation Safari
Offering a world-exclusive safari experience like no other, adventure travel operator Wilderness Travel – known for its unique trips and commitment to conserving the wildlife and environments it operates in – offers travelers the rare opportunity to join Dr. Julian Fennessy, the world’s leading giraffe expert, and his team from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, as they track and GPS tag wild giraffes. Watch the video.
While spending two days of this 13-day trip giraffe tagging is a thrilling highlight, this wide-ranging journey in Namibia also invites guests to track leopard, brown hyena, and rhino at AfriCat, a foundation based at Okonjima Nature Reserve that is dedicated to conserving wildlife.
Phasing Out Single Use Plastics
Based in Moshi, Tanzania Journeys is a highly experienced, women-owned and led tour operator specialized in delivering high experience itineraries that blend wildlife safaris, cultural immersion, and adventure activities that prioritize respect for local people and environments.
On all trips, Tanzania Journeys is proud to be actively phasing out all single use plastics by investing in sophisticated water filtration systems and kitting out vehicles with reusable water tanks, altogether eliminating the need for single use bottles on Kilimanjaro climbs and on safari. The award-winning operator also purchases fabulous shampoo bars and reusable toiletry kits from local craftspeople to provide their guests with special access to products with purpose. The first steps on a long road, Tanzania Journeys is proud to be acting towards eliminating single-use plastics in the Tanzanian tourism industry.
Sustainable Food & Local Living
While most wellness travel involves spending your day in a studio, eating a restrictive diet, and very little exploration, for Terra & Tu, their approach lies at the intersection of exploration and wellness. With trips in Tuscany designed around discovery of both the place and ourselves, the company strives to offer a new kind of wellness adventure rooted in luxury and sustainability.
As part of that, the company places focus on eating well and sustainably, using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, that not only taste better but support small farms and the overall community, along with minimizing waste and decreasing the overall carbon footprint.
About Bannikin Travel & Tourism
Bannikin is a Canadian-based professional services company operating in the travel and tourism space. We co-create value with a broad range of client-partners, including local, regional, and national tourism organizations and operators of diverse shapes and sizes. Specializing in community-based participatory research and development, evidence-driven and actionable strategy, and outcome-oriented public relations, we are determined to be catalysts of change within tourism and beyond.