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A&K’s Sujata Raman warns travel companies to step up sustainability measures or face extinction

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Abercrombie & Kent’s regional boss has called on travel professionals to improve the way they measure the benefits of tourism.

Speaking at Travel DAZE 2019 in Sydney last week, Sujata Raman, warned travel companies who are not operating in the interest of  travellers, the environment and the communities they visit will not survive.

“We talk a lot about transformative travel experiences for our travellers … but the travel industry is in the grips of a transformation towards greater equity and sustainability,” Raman told attendees.

“All of us in the travel industry … need to better measure and assess the holistic cost – financial, environmental and social – against the benefits of tourism. The future of tourism relies on us stepping up to this challenge.”

Furthermore, Raman said consumers are expecting more from travel companies when it comes to measuring their impact on the communities they visit.

She added that in the face of government inaction, private enterprises – especially luxury brands – are increasingly demanded by consumers to take on new social roles and responsibilities.

As Raman put it, travel is no exception to this rule.

“We know from talking to our travellers that they share the belief that travel has a noble purpose and that it can improve the lives of not only the traveller, but also the people and the communities that they travel to,” she said.

“And many of them believe that travel comes with a responsibility to sustainability. All this is good news.”

Sujata Raman, chair Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy and regional managing director APAC, speaking at Travel DAZE 2019
A&K’s Sujata Raman speaking at Travel DAZE 2019

Raman also noted that “luxury travel is being redefined”, with discerning travellers now looking for travel that “reflects their values”.

The head of A&K Philanthropy ­­– a registered charity working on 40-plus projects in education, health, generating clean water and conservation in over 20 countries – said companies can have the most impact in this regard by elevating local communities.

“It’s our belief that unless these communities, who are the ancestral stewards, the traditional land owners … are fully engaged in protecting these habitats and unless they can see the tangible, personal benefits to preserving these habitats, external assistance will always be limited and ultimately short-term,” she said.

In a word, travel companies can elicit this by helping regional communities become socially, environmentally and economically sustainable, according to A&K’s regional managing director.

“This is all about sustainability, not philanthropy, because the communities are employed as guides, hospitality workers in the properties that [A&K] own, they are employed as teachers at schools we’ve helped to build, they’re employed as doctors and nurses in the maternity wards that we have established,” she said.

Raman also spoke about the contentious issue of overtourism currently plaguing some of the world’s most saturated destinations, like Machu Picchu, Peru; Venice, Italy; and the Himalayas.

She believes the buck of this problem doesn’t solely fall on tourists, but on travel professionals as well.

“Overtourism, insensitive tourism, whatever you call it, is exploitation by operators,” Raman said. “It breeds local discontent and it breeds guest dissatisfaction.

“It’s just not sustainable in cultural, ecological or commercial terms, and it’s ultimately self-defeating.”


Kudos to all the sponsors for Travel DAZE 2019, which you can check out below…

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