There are a lot of eco-friendly trends in travel. Although far from perfect, many organizations are “going green.” ASTA’s Green Program is certainly a major step it the right direction as the association endeavors to better educate travel agents and suppliers to increase awareness of travel’s impact on the environment. Many tour operators and hotel companies have sought to minimize the impact they have on their local environment and consumers have by and large responded well to those initiatives.
An industry so dependent on energy resources for its existence is smart to examine all of the possible avenues it has available to cut waste. It makes me think of the annual travel agency ritual of cleaning the brochure room. I can well remember at my own agency when sometime near the end of the year we would toss out the hundreds of brochures that had accumulated from preferred suppliers for the past year to make room for the hundreds of brochures that would accumulate from preferred suppliers for the year to come. Most of the brochures sent to us unsolicited throughout the year would have already been tossed. There would also be the large piles of read or mostly unread travel media news magazines and papers.
We would, of course, recycle where possible and offer the brochures to local schools for projects. But there was always a guilt associated with throwing away so much paper that had been harvested from trees, manufactured using very environmentally unsound processing (bleaches, chemicals, inks) and then shipped at great expense to travel agents. The sad truth is that the papers used in brochure and high gloss magazine manufacture are poor candidates for recycling.
Every tour operator and cruise line that produces a brochure knows the great expense involved in not just the design, layout and printing of the brochure, but in the costs of delivering it to your office. Consumers like brochures and they are important sales tools. But is it possible for the travel distribution chain to minimize their environmental impact?
Firstly, agencies can ask suppliers to send them fewer brochures at a time. Work down to a minimum “trigger” number and then order some more, especially for destinations and tour operators that are less frequently sold. Then, use brochures to their highest and best advantage. They are tremendous sales tools when used intelligently. Walk clients through brochures and send them home with daydreams and your business card.
Secondly, an important new development is the online brochure, allowing travel agents to immediately access and provide clients with an electronic copy of a brochure without the delay of mailing. The online brochure provides instant gratification for literature when the right brochure is not otherwise at hand. Electronic brochures, whether in the popular Adobe Acrobat PDF format or in the new flash “Flipping Page” format, are easily emailed and shared by consumers. They can even be posted on your agency web site, and they are much more environmentally friendly than their paper counterparts! Because of the low cost of delivery, electronic brochures are a terrific way to market your agency to clients by emailing the brochure along with a note telling the client that you will follow up with them shortly to walk through a few highlights. The new “flipping page” brochures are especially good as they do not require an email attachment and can be easily re-sent by the client to friends and family. Best of all, with some electronic brochures the agent can send only a few, select pages rather instead of an entire brochure, thereby focusing on a particular program rather than distracting the client with too many options.
Thirdly, and here you can make a tremendous difference, ask the publishers of all of the high gloss magazines and catalogues and newspapers, travel and non-travel, to take you off their lists unless you find them absolutely “must haves.” Most of the news, marketing and destination articles are now available to agents on-line. Publishers send their magazines and newspapers free of charge to agents to pump up their “circulation” numbers. Then, like brochures, the periodicals sit around largely unread and are tossed away. You are more in control of this wasteful process than of any other. Simply get your information online and ask to be removed from the hard copy mailings.
Finally, develop a re-cycling program in your office. Rather than simply tossing paper into the trash bin, see what alternative waste programs are available to you locally.
Saving trees and the energy used in magazine and brochure production is a smart move, and doing our individual parts is easy and smart business.