Comment: How to make a sustainable difference

Without giving back, the world will all too quickly become a smaller and poorer place, says Abercrombie & Kent managing director Kerry Golds

The holiday has evolved over the past 100 years. What started as a trip to the seaside, now amasses a global network of tour operators, hotels and airlines sending thousands of British people across the world. Nowadays, a holiday is not merely a time for rest and relaxation; it’s also about the experience of exploring a new, unknown place for the first time. This thirst for understanding can be harnessed in ways that have the potential to reshape our world.

More and more we are witnessing the importance to our clients of putting sustainability at the heart of their holiday. Something that was once deemed ‘niche’ is now mainstream and will eventually be mandatory. It’s no longer enough to know, or be told, that a company ‘gives back’ to a community or environment, clients want to experience exactly what that means. With the right company, this can, and should, be at the heart of every holiday itinerary.

For A&K, this approach to a better understanding and protection of all global environments is nothing new. In 1986, Geoffrey Kent convinced the new Ugandan President – General Yoweri Museveni – to designate Bwindi Impenetrable Forest as a national park. This was vital to protect the endangered mountain gorilla who lived there in increasingly decimated family groups. In partnership with the Ugandan government, A&K set up the first camp in the forest, providing employment for locals and allowing clients to have up-close encounters with these magnificent beasts. More than 30 years later, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest provides a safe haven for more than half of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorilla.

To identify and support these sustainable efforts, we established Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy (AKP) in 1982. Almost 40 years later we have included more AKP experiences in our 2020 programme of Escorted Tours than ever before – providing our clients with the opportunity to experience these incredible projects first-hand and spend time with the communities affected.

Clients can spend time with the women of the Dipetsana Women’s Bike Shop in Botswana where the village bike shop and tour enterprise has provided a community with vital access to transportation and the women of this community with much-needed financial freedom. Or they can visit the Deepalaya School in Delhi where economically and socially deprived children from nearby slum areas are educated.

AKP has more than 40 projects on all seven continents, offering our guests a unique opportunity to meet local people making a difference through their commitment to protecting their country’s natural and cultural heritage.

Without giving back to where we go, the world will all too quickly become a smaller and poorer place. This responsibility is a joint affair. We in the travel industry must come together to provide sustainable solutions which ensure the planet prospers while all its people thrive.