Everyone makes New Year’s resolutions, right? Some people might have a long list of personal goals while others might mix in a few professional resolutions. I think everyone, no matter who they are, can add “cut unnecessary expenses” to their list. I know that this is one of my top goals for 2009, both at home and in my agency. Continuing on a professional level, now more than ever I’m looking to separate my agency and our services from the competition.
Luckily, I’ve found a way to achieve both goals with one move—I’m going green. Green travel has become a hot topic within the tourism industry. As more resources become available about green travel, more travel professionals have jumped on the bandwagon by turning their businesses green and promoting green travel to their clients. Green travel refers to “any activity or facility operating in an environmentally friendly manner.” The goal is to change the behavior of travelers and those in the tourism industry so that the negative environmental impact of travel is reduced.
With today’s economic climate still in a state of upheaval, the savvy travel agent should be looking not only for ways to reduce costs but distinguish themselves from the many other agencies all vying for the same business.
ASTA is encouraging its members, both travel agents and suppliers, to market green travel and become green themselves. ASTA has developed its own Green Program, which supports responsible tourism and assists its members—domestic and international—in marketing their services to the growing green sector. ASTA’s innovative program is designed to teach travel professionals about the importance of environmentally-friendly travel, how to make positive changes in their own companies, select green vendors and suppliers and better sell this form of travel to their clients.
To become an ASTA ‘Green Member,’ an agency must complete and submit a check-list outlining its green efforts in-house and promise to adhere to a “green” code of ethics. Suppliers, meanwhile, are asked to complete a similar process, along with submission of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) document. By putting CSR in effect, a company can reduce the social, economic, and environmental impact it has on the planet simply by setting and enforcing company standards as well as goals and forecasts. In turn, by selecting and working with green travel suppliers and office vendors, travel agents can show their clients their commitment to going green.
Green Members have access to a special logo they can display and their profiles are tagged on TravelSense.org to show consumers that they are an ASTA Green Member. ASTA Green Members also receive the latest information on green travel, allowing travel agents and suppliers to keep up with the travel trends and our clients’ demands.
Estimates show that anywhere from 54 percent to 92 percent of New Year’s resolutions aren’t kept. I hope you’ll join me in keeping this one. It’s a good idea not just for our businesses and our clients, but for our future.
Chris Russo, owner of Travel Partners, in Broomfield, Colo., is serving a one-year term as the president and Chairman of the Board of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) starting Sept. 7, 2008. Russo has been involved in the retail travel business for 20 years. He was a retail travel agent for 12 years and has been a travel agency owner for the last eight years. Russo was voted one of the top 40 travel professionals under 40 in 2003 by Travel Weekly magazine and voted one of Travel Agent magazine’s rising stars in 2003.