Rupp PR Hosts Sustainable Travel Panel at Berlin Travel Festival.


Inspiring, significant, fun, effective, important. These are the words that were used to describe sustainable travel in the panel we curated and hosted at this year’s Berlin Travel Festival.

The panel was moderated by the wonderful sustainable travel expert, Shannon O’Donnell, and featured three travel companies that all have the notion of sustainable travel at the core of their business operations: Navigaia Journeys, CAS Trips, and G Adventures’ Planeterra Foundation.

But more importantly, the panel included two students from Munich International School, who shared their honest opinions on the concept of sustainable travel. We often find that expert panel discussions include incredible industry thought leaders but almost always lack the consumer perspective. The two students, Quinn and Elsa, were invited to provide more current and critical thoughts from the eyes of future independent travelers.

Sustainable Travel On The Rise

We quickly learned that the younger generation - especially those coming from an international background - are passionate about the environment (see the global protests that took place last Friday), and the idea of sustainable travel. They learn about the importance of living sustainably within various subjects in school, and so, unlike previous generations, are growing up in a way that is more considerate of the world they live in.

Travel companies see the critical value of sustainable travel, and understand the need to educate more people on the topic. According to Kelly Galaski from G Adventures, there is still hope to implement sustainable travel around the world.

“People have become more aware of their actions,” she says, after explaining the influences of social media on the travel world. “We start to see people recognize when something in the travel industry may not be right.” She also states that travelers need to educate themselves on how they will be traveling before starting a trip. And if travelers are too overwhelmed doing the research themselves, they can make sure to use a travel company that is dedicated to sustainable travel.

It’s Also About Personal Development

As the panel unfolded, it became clear that people do not enjoy taking the less convenient path to make less of an impact with CO2 emissions for example. “Traveling is about personal development,” says Veronika Mercks, founder of Navigaia Journeys, “which is part of sustainability.” She goes on to say, “It’s hard to really get that awareness out there because a lot of people do not want to change.”

Maybe we need to stop traveling for the sake of seeing places, and start traveling for the sake of experiencing places, and ourselves in them. As part of that personal development process, we can learn to become more conscious of our impact when traveling - whether for business or pleasure.

The Issue With The Term Sustainable Travel

“Sustainability becomes cliché and we need to reimagine it.” CAS Trips Founder, Simon Armstrong, explains that when the word sustainability is mentioned within a conversation, people tend to tune out. He went on to tell the audience about the misunderstanding people usually have in regards to sustainable travel. “True sustainable travel is enjoyable,” he says.

Concrete Steps for Sustainable Travel

Shannon O’Donnell concluded the panel discussion by asking each participant, “What is one step that everyone can do to become more sustainable?” So similarly to the panel discussion, we will conclude this blog post with five concrete steps you can take to travel more sustainably.

Each panelist gave a piece of advice to their audience. This guidance came in the form of things like educate yourself on the importance of sustainability, use better transportation (and carbon offsetting), asking questions (like “do I really need this?”), and just spreading awareness whether it’s at school or work, talk to people! 

So, let’s conclude with five things we can take away from the discussion panel:

1.     Take the bus or train, instead of flying somewhere - especially within Europe!

2.     If you do fly, carbon offset your flight, for example with Atmosfair.

3.     Ask yourself questions and be honest with yourself. Is the way you are traveling the most sustainable option? If not, consider taking the less convenient route for the sake of the environment.

4.     Educate yourself. Research the places you are planning to travel to, understand the local social conflicts, use ethical tour operators, and stay in sustainable hotels. Unsure what makes a sustainable hotel? Check out our infographic.

5.    Be aware of the choices you make. You as the traveler and consumer have the power to spend your money eating at a local restaurant rather than an international fast food chain. Understand that the choices you make in your destination country directly impact the people living there.

Coauthored by Quinn Donovan.