Adventure travel company Explore has become the first UK tour operator to offset all components of its trips, including flights. The cost of offsetting will be reflected in a slight increase in the cost of holidays.
The introduction of offsetting through Climate Care is part of a sustainability strategy that will see Explore “look at everything we do overseas”.
“Offsetting is a not a band-aid solution but there is a climate emergency and we wanted to look at what can we do in the short to medium term as the industry moves towards net-zero territory,” said deputy managing director, John Telfer.
Telfer said calculations are based on a “worst-case scenario” for each trip, to ensure the amount offset is always over-calculated rather than under. For example, flight distances are based on an indirect flight to the furthest point in 15 geographic regions; all trips will be rounded up to seven or 14 days (a four-night trip will be counted as a week; 11 days as a fortnight).
“We’ve also applied a multiplier of 1.9 to flights, to take into account the extra impact of carbon emissions released at altitude and allowed an additional 10% buffer,” said Telfer. “I would hate to be accused of undercooking the impact.”
Despite criticism of offsetting, a growing number of tour operators are using it to try to reduce their carbon footprint, particularly in the adventure travel market. World Expeditions, Much Better Adventures and Bamboo Travel are among recent adopters of offsetting – arguing it offers the best solution at the moment. While Australian-based adventure specialist Intrepid extended offsetting to flights this month.
“Companies can hope the government does something and hope individuals do something, but we also have a responsibility as a business. We feel this is the right thing to do,” said Telfer.
Much Better Adventures has gone a step further declaring a climate emergency, with the hope of encouraging other travel businesses and organisations to do the same. Announcing the move on 14 January, founder Alex Narracott acknowledged that the company has laid itself open to accusations of greenwashing but said: “We’ll do everything we can to cut the carbon emissions we have any say over, encourage others to do likewise, and campaign for the wider system changes needed to move travel, and aviation especially, towards a low-carbon future. We’ll talk openly and invite criticism. Only by doing so do we have a chance of getting to our goal, not just as a company, but as a society.”
Explore and Intrepid are among the 19 travel companies and organisations to have added their names to the declaration.
Climate Care is partnered with Gold Standard, which was founded in 2003 by the WWF and supports a variety of off-set projects around the world such as clean water, fuel efficient stoves and wind power.
Explore’s announcement coincides with the appointment of its first head of sustainability, Prue Stone, whose remit covers working with partners in destinations to reduce single-use plastic and swapping domestic flights for rail travel within countries.
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