Developing a sustainable travel tour operator in Italy is not an easy task: through the years, FindYourItaly has fully committed to creating sustainable travel options in Italy for their clients but this challenge is far from over.
The travel market is evolving at a fast pace, and travel agents interested in sustainable travel need to know (or at least, to be able to predict) what it really means to create a fully sustainable approach.
Today we talk about sustainable travel management with Roberta, Product and Sales manager at FindYourItaly: her experience goes deep in the dynamics of incoming tourism in Italy and offers us a portrait of what it really means to develop sustainable travel options as the core of a business.
If your travel agency is either approaching Italy as a sustainable travel destination or focusing on sustainable and responsible travel options, starting out in the sustainable travel market or even aiming at expanding your present market in this field, you will find this interview an incredibly valuable asset.
FYI: Hi Roberta, thanks for being with us today.
In 2019, sustainability has been (and still is) a very hot topic. How do you feel the sustainable travel market is evolving from a demand perspective?
R: In the past years, responsible travel has become increasingly important: nowadays, sustainability has gained a crucial position across all industries. There’s no doubt that the tourism sector is an ever-changing and fast-growing industry. Particularly after Greta Thunberg’s and climate activists’ protests, people are now not only aware of climate change and global warming impact on our planet: they also want to act and give their contribution while traveling too. This attitude applies in the research and booking phase of their next trip: here consumers prove to be more sensitive to sustainable aspects of the travel and as a specialized tour operator, we must be ready to offer our clients the sustainable trip they are looking for.
Do you think the current offer of sustainable travel experiences is meeting this rising demand?
Not yet. Even if the debate about sustainable travel started more than 10 years ago, the industry offer has been adapting very slowly. This has been especially the case for big players.
In fact, small and local operators benefit from a close relationship with travelers and this helped them understand the market needs and adapt their offer accordingly.
We are aware we are talking about a small niche in the travel industry – and that’s probably why big players are not investing so much in this direction at the present moment. Nonetheless, the audience is expanding and the demand for more sustainable trips is rising year after year. Tour operators know how important the experiential factor is in travels: this is why we strive to adapt our product to provide a deeper connection to destinations and local people together with sustainability in mind. This mindset reflects the fundamentals of sustainable travel offers too but we know we need to do one more step forward if we want to make a difference.
The biggest challenges the travel industry has to face in the near future are going to be over-tourism and CO2 emissions.
FindYourItaly has been operating in Italy with a sustainable travel focus since the very beginning. What has been the major challenge in developing a sustainable tour operator in Italy?
FindYourItaly was born with the mission of creating fully responsible and sustainable travel products in Italy. The core idea is to avoid mass tourism, crowded and over-spoiled destinations such as Rome, Florence, Venice and so on. In fact, we strive to create off-the-beaten-track itineraries that help travelers discover the most authentic and genuine side of Italy.
Nonetheless, we had to face customers’ requests to cover classical destinations as well – this is especially the case with those who are visiting Italy for the first time.
We quickly understood that even if Locride or Garfagnana are amazing and still unspoiled places, still, nobody outside Italy would know about their existence, neither travelers nor travel agents.
It became clear that, on the one hand, we had to adapt our offer to the customers’ needs and, on the other hand, we had to start educating our partner agents as well as our customers about what responsible and sustainable tourism means.
Therefore, our challenge became to create a personalized service that could be still aligned with our mission. This is how our motto was born “Classic with a Difference” – where the “difference” is the sustainable way we approach travels.
Can you give us an example of your approach to this challenge?
Sure: as our customers request so, we offer a sustainable travel experience in the Venice area. We take our customers to the famous Burano island and also to its sister island Mazzorbo, a tiny spot rich in vineyards where you can enjoy a glass of wine while admiring the Venetian Lagoon far from the crowd. Also, we added the lesser-known Pellestrina island for a bike tour among its enchanting nature.
Our customers visiting Florence can meet the artisans at work in the Oltrarno district or have a picnic after easy trekking in the Tuscan countryside.
As part of the Responsible Travel network, we are faithful to our sustainable travel criteria: our itineraries are without haste, with a limited number of destinations per day, groups are small. We prefer to work with locally-owned service providers and vendors (transport, accommodation, catering, etc.), or small-scale/regional providers.
We encourage travelers to spend locally and fairly. We bring travelers to areas that have expressed the need and desire to welcome travelers and aim to avoid in-season peaks, to help sustain tourism far from season peaks.
Doing so, on the one hand, we guarantee our customers a fully local experience; on the other hand, we protect the local area from the harmful impact of mass tourism.
According to your experience, where do you see the sustainable and responsible tourism industry in the next future?
We are aware of the fact that the travel industry has a great impact on the world we live in, both in a negative and positive way. In fact, we know that tourism can be a positive force to drive a real change.
To guarantee a sustainable and positive future for places and communities, we know that the industry as a whole needs to take important decisions.
One of the big questions is about how to reduce carbon emissions during the trips.
While waiting for governments and big players to make their part to face the climate crisis, we feel it’s our responsibility as tour operators to urgently find new responsible ways to travel and to protect our environment.
Everyone can start small and minimize CO2 emissions:
- By sourcing locally grown or produced food, which helps to reduce the impact of transportation in the supply chain by reducing transport emissions
- By encouraging customers to use the train and other public transportation, walk or cycle, to use electric cars
- By designing itineraries that reduce internal flights
- By selecting providers that use renewable energy and adopt eco-friendly criteria
- By hiring local staff & guides to reduce international travels
We are positive the industry will soon understand the great impact this approach will have across all aspects of their business and life too.