TreadRight: Doing Good and Giving Back
Interview with Brett Tollman, CEO of The Travel Corporation
Q: How would you describe the idea of sustainable tourism?
A: Sustainable tourism is about traveling and experiencing the world in a way that will also allow future generations to explore and enjoy our planet in the same way we do today. As a travel company, we recognize that it is our responsibility to help protect the places we visit and help take care of the world around us.
Q: When did you realize the importance of sustainable tourism?
A: When I was about 10 years old, I read an article about Paul Newman’s foundation, and he inspired me with his meticulous approach to recycling.
This shaped my thinking about sustainability from that point forward. This has stayed with me throughout my career, as we’ve introduced recycling programs in hotels I’ve been involved with starting back in the 80’s, philanthropic charities and programs we’ve supported and since TTC founded our own not-for-profit ten years ago, The TreadRight Foundation, dedicated to sustainability. I continue to reflect on Mr. Newman’s lifelong commitment to the planet and giving back to society — which has been particularly relevant because the United Nations designated 2017 “The Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.”
Q: What is The TreadRight Foundation?
A: The TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit, working hand in hand with TTC’s brands to help ensure that some of the destinations and communities we visit remain vibrant for generations to come, and to help protect and preserve the wildlife of our planet. Treadright was born out of my family’s heartfelt commitment to giving back. Ever since my parents, Stanley & Beatrice Tollman, began building the family business from a humble hotel and restaurant beginning in South Africa, they have believed in the importance of helping to support the community around them. As the family business has evolved and grown over the years, so too have our philanthropic ambitions.
Q: What do you believe the travel industry can do to help preserve the planet?
A: As one of the world’s largest sectors, the travel industry has tremendous potential to be a significant force for positive change. As an industry, we can help to increase public appreciation of the environment and help to spread the word on the value of connecting with local cultures and communities in a sustainable way. Travel can contribute to environmental protection, conservation, and restoration of biological diversity and sustainable use of natural resources, while also helping preserve and protect valued vulnerable communities and cultures.
Q: What about individual travelers. What can they do to make a difference?
A: There is so much we can and need to do as individual travelers, that can have a direct impact on the places we visit. I encourage every traveler to:
• honor and respect their hosts and learn about local customs, traditions and social practices;
• to actively support local economies by purchasing souvenirs such as locally-made artisan handicrafts and products;
• respect wildlife and natural habitats by not purchasing products that are made using endangered species;
• reduce water and energy waste;
• always tread lightly; and
• share their knowledge and rewarding experiences when they return home.
A global travel industry member organization we work with and support, the World Travel and Tourism Council, put out a simple, easy to adopt set of practices to follow, which I highly recommend everyone adopts. We are all global citizens and the protection and preservation of our planet, and all that live on it, is essential for all of us. We all have
a role to play, not just when we travel, but 365 days a year, and I encourage you to take the pledge too. Visit www.toomuchtoask.org to learn more.
Q: Have you seen new advances in sustainable tourism in the last couple of years?
A: The United Nations designating 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development has been a valuable rallying point to hopefully help bring about significant change in the travel industry. TTC signed on as a Diamond Sponsor of the UN International Year of Sustainable Development because we recognize the importance of raising awareness with our travelers, partners, and employees. That’s why we’re on our own sustainability journey, adopting and implementing a social responsibility strategy to integrate best practices and continue to reduce our operational environmental footprint, protect the planet’s wild places and cultures, reduce the impact at our offices, help to stamp out animal cruelty, empower the disenfranchised, and impact our communities through our global employee volunteering program. We’re continually encouraging and educating our team and the travelers who explore the planet with our award-winning brands to do so in a positive and sustainable manner. We will continue to help implement new advances and innovations that achieve these goals.
Q: How can travelers find out more about sustainable travel?
A: The United Nations World Tourism Organization has an excellent yet simple guide book, “Tips for a Responsible Traveler”, that you can find at www.tourism4development2017.org It details the ways one can travel responsibly, including finding tips of what to look for when making travel related purchases. It is good to remember that sustainability-minded travel companies, like TTC, are partnering with leading sustainability organizations to help save wildlife and elevate communities in the places they visit.
Q: What accomplishments or initiatives are you most proud of?
A: We are very proud of the 40-plus sustainable travel projects The TreadRight Foundation has helped to support around the world in the decade since it was founded. It has also been inspiring to collaborate with sustainability leaders like our TreadRight Ambassador, Céline Cousteau, and Chairman of our Treadright Steering Committee, Costas Christ, and working with amazing organizations like the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, WWF, the Conservation Foundation, Wilderness Foundation, Wildlife SOS, Just a Drop, National Geographic, Happy Hearts Fund, the National Trust, and many more to help maintain the natural attractions and unique heritages across the planet. We are also proud of the work we’re doing within our organization as part of our social responsibility strategy. That work includes a pledge to World Animal Protection since 2015, which commits all of our brands to not sell, offer or promote venues or activities involving elephant rides and shows, and committing to proactively communicate this commitment to protect elephants to travelers and encourage elephant-friendly tourism. In concert with that pledge, we introduced our TreadRight Animal Welfare Policy, which assists our operations teams as they vet and assess all animal-related activities which we offer. Any activities that do not meet the requirements of the policy are phased out and/or removed; this includes events and attractions ranging from elephant rides to running with the bulls.