Tread Lightly - Luxury Travel Magazine

Tread Lightly

By: Nella Scott, Issue 40 – Spring 2009
(Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Six Senses Resorts & Spas, &Beyond, Alaska, USA, Nairobi, Kenya, New Delhi, India, Peru)


It is often said that with great power comes great responsibility, and the same can be said for wealth. Those with the means to travel in style, to enjoy the luxuries of first-class travel and five-star resorts, also leave behind the largest carbon footprint. There is an increasingly widely held view that the luxury traveller has a greater responsibility to make environmentally sustainable choices about the way they travel, and to give back to the communities that inhabit the destinations they visit.
While luxury and environmentally responsible travel have not always been mutually exclusive, the very real threat of climate change and the gaping hole left in the world’s economy by the global economic crisis have given rise to a new generation of luxury traveller – one with an ecological and social conscience.

From carbon offset programs and environmentally aware hotels to eco tours, sustainable community projects and volunteer holidays, responsible tourism has suddenly taken off and it is now easier than ever to make sure your next holiday is guilt free.

Right from the beginning, every decision you make impacts the severity of your environmental footprint. Most airlines have carbon offset programs – an optional fee to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions – but which airlines are really making an effort to reduce emissions? While some airlines have installed energy efficient engines or use winglets to increase fuel efficiency, Virgin, Lufthansa and Air New Zealand are among the companies testing biofuel to power their commercial aircraft. Often a leader, Virgin has pledged to inject $300billion into the research and development of alternative fuels.

Choosing the right hotel is also a very important decision when it comes to minimising your environmental footprint. This doesn’t mean you have to compromise; some of the best known luxury hotel groups in the world are dedicated to providing an ecologically sound and socially responsible product. Some, like Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, report that it adheres to a green philosophy that focuses on improving waste management and energy and water conservation. Others, like those in the Six Senses Resorts & Spas group have programs in place that are dedicated to environmental sustainability and social responsibility – helping to provide cultural understanding between guests and the wider community. &Beyond, a responsible luxury African safari and adventure travel company, was established in the belief that through business enterprise wildlife conservation could be placed on a sustainable economic footing. There are also plenty of smaller properties, lodges, luxury camps and eco-chic retreats that provide responsible accommodation opportunities – just make sure to try to check their eco credentials before you book.
This new moral climate has also inspired a host of new eco travel experiences. From a luxury safari in Kenya, sea kayaking in Alaska or a visit to a privately owned wilderness sanctuary in India, eco tours have cropped up around the globe. All dedicated to uncovering the natural world, they provide opportunities to learn about and study the flora and fauna of each country with as little environmental impact as possible.

Part of this eco tourism philosophy is a commitment to sustainable community development, providing a link between visitors and local indigenous communities to enable a sharing of cultures and help local communities to retain their traditions and supplement their living through the sale of handicrafts and artwork.
For those with compassionate hearts and deep pockets, luxury voluntourism is the ultimate opportunity to travel in style and experience first hand how responsible travel can have a positive impact on a community. Whether you choose to plant trees, dig a well or teach English in a local community, voluntourism provides the opportunity to see the world and enrich your cultural experience while reducing your environmental footprint. Hands Up Holidays runs a range of luxury volunteer experiences that allow guests to partake in an unforgettable travel experience and engage with local people through volunteering. Hands Up’s 14- day Ultimate India – In Style experience explores some of India’s most famous landmarks and includes four days of volunteer work, teaching and helping to beautify the slums of New Delhi, while building houses for the homeless is part of its 18-day Argentinean Adventure in Style tour. Other companies that provide voluntourism opportunities include Micato Safaris which works with not-for-profit organisation AmericaShare in Nairobi, Kenya, and bespoke travel agency Abercrombie & Kent which has ties to the Children of the Rainbow project in Peru and can tailor a volunteer holiday for you.
There are plenty of ways to minimise your environmental footprint when you travel. Do your research, follow the code, and tread lightly.

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