Prince Harry, whose commitment to environmental protection was questioned after a few too many private jet trips, has started a company to help consumers make more eco-friendly travel decisions.
Travalyst is the first initiative undertaken by the prince’s foundation, Sussex Royal. Visa and TripAdvisor have signed on as partners with others. With a vow to help flyers reduce their carbon footprint, Travelyst is short on specifics about how they will achieve this goal.
The plan comes not only on the heels of 34-year-old Harry’s PR debacle, but as interest in green travel and tourism rises. In 2009, the National Business Aviation Association began an effort to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2050. Private jet trendsetter Gulfstream started trying biofuels in 2011. A number of airlines issue regular sustainability reports.
The prince, sixth in line to the British throne, and his wife, Meghan Markle, have been vocal supporters of environmental protection, but their multiple flights on a private jet, including a trip to one of Elton John’s homes, raised an outcry from environmentalists and the press.
“There are good intentions here, but those are not enough,” said Amir Gohar, an expert in environmental design and a lecturer at UC Berkeley in an interview with Karma.
Sustainable travel advocate Leigh Barnes from Intrepid Group, an adventure travel company that emphasizes local interactions, would like to learn more details about Travalyst, but he is optimistic that the buzz generated by the company is good for sustainable travel.
“I am excited about the ambition of the group, but they are lacking a bit of substance and need more tangibles and ways to measure their actions,” Barnes said.
Barnes suggested that Travalyst invest in creating tools to measure impact and show the progress of sustainability initiatives. “It would be powerful if more metrics were created and made available for anyone to use,” Barnes said. “Measurements on the percent of dollars going directly into communities and what investments lead to job creation would be extremely valuable.”
Gohar suggested that Travalyst should start by focusing locally and build on Prince Harry’s high profile. “Meet with the local government, like the city’s mayor, rather than the ministry of tourism,” he said. “The prince can use his prestige and power to hold leaders accountable, but only after engaging communities to understand where to send tourists and how they want to benefit locally.”
Sustainability and Tourism
“What I see as a very positive trend is for companies taking a more organized, strategic approach to sustainability,” said Jeanne Varney, a hospitality executive and lecturer at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. “Strategic plans are being written that are dedicated to establishing and achieving sustainability goals.”
Chris Mackay, co-founder of Travelers Against Plastic, said that she is encouraged large companies are getting involved in sustainability travel, but she wants to see a willingness to take risks.
“We all know what the problem is,” Mackay said. “We can solve this together, but it will take some money and guts.”
Travalyst will be able to reach a motivated, expanding group of customers who want to spend money in ways that align with their values.
“Customers want to feel good knowing they are spending their money in a responsible way,” said Varney.