AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators

Inside Travel Group Sustainability

Our sustainable Tourism Vision

Inside Travel Group are committed to giving our clients the opportunity to have a positive social, environmental and economic impact on the destinations they visit, so locals and tourists can continue enjoying these areas into the future.

We also strive to offer these opportunities to our staff both in their places of work and the destinations they’re working with, so they can engage in creating a positive impact at home and in the countries they love.

Sustainable Tourism Projects from Inside Travel Group

Travelife Partner status

Responsible tourism has always been a cornerstone for Inside Travel Group and we are keen to integrate sustainability into everything we do. This is why we’ve signed up to Travelife and aim to achieve Travelife Partner status by February 2021. Travelife is an internationally recognised training, management and certification program for sustainability in tourism. To reach the Travelife Partner stage, we must meet over 100 sustainability criteria that can be grouped into five key areas: office operations, product development, working with suppliers, customer relations and destinations.

We have chosen this pledge because we want to take a holistic approach to making our operations more sustainable; looking across the board at what we do and how we can do it better. We are using this time of uncertainty due to the Covid-19 crisis to provide staff with optional training on sustainable tourism. We hope to have 20 employees complete the basic training module by February 2021 so they will be more informed about sustainability issues when tourism rebounds.

We will encourage our core suppliers to become more sustainable by informing them of our social and environmental policies. We hope that this will have knock-on positive effects in our destinations.

We will share our sustainability policies with staff and clients. Our staff will be more informed to help clients choose the most responsible travel options when travelling to and in our destinations. Clients will be more aware of sustainability issues by reading our policies online and can feel empowered to make the right choices for them, their destination hosts and for the environment.

Leading by example to reduce plastics in our offices and destinations

In 2019 InsideAsia Tours chose to reduce single-use plastic as it was an important issue for our staff and our clients.

In our Bristol office we were able to reduce our landfill waste, including single-use plastics, by 60% during a two-month trial. We did this by changing our recycling company to Bristol Waste who recycle more materials. Visiting their plant to see how the materials are processed was a real highlight. Secondly, we changed our procurement to suppliers who use less plastic, such as buying milk in glass rather than plastic bottles. Thirdly, we engaged staff on the issue by running competitions, fundraising events and training about how to reduce it plastic usage. They really got behind the pledge and many have changed their habits at home due to the focus we’ve had on reducing waste in the office.

Many of our customers are shocked by the amount of single-use plastic used in Japan. It is the most common comment we receive from clients. This inspired us to improve our pre-trip information to tell clients about the issue before they arrive in the country. We recommend they bring their own reusable items and give them tips about how to recycle in Japan. We also created and sent out 2,000 small cards with the Japanese phrase for refusing a plastic bag on it. Finally, we sent a guide to our tour leaders about the environmental issues of plastic and how they can encourage small group tour clients to use reusable items and refuse plastic bags. We are continuing to work on how to reduce plastic on our tours.

We are pleased with the outcomes of our pledge. It has changed our internal business practices and other offices are now following suit. We hope that our pre-trip information and greater tour leader guidance means clients use less single-use plastic on their trip and feel empowered to politely refuse plastic bags in Japanese. Overall, we hope that by reducing our plastic waste we have helped to reduce the negative environmental effects of plastic.

For more information contact Sophie Walker

Turning ‘’mottainai’’ (waste) into ‘’arigatou’’ (thanks): supporting food banking in Japan

InsideJapan Tours are proud to have achieved our 2018 pledge by implementing a scheme where our clients who receive a transport card can send it to Second Harvest Japan (2HJ) so the remaining funds are donated to support people living in poverty.

We ran a trial by sending 500 envelopes to clients travelling between August and October 2018. 27% of our customers engaged with the scheme and we received 309 cards in return. From these cards we donated 315,566 yen (£2,254) to 2HJ which has provided 12,622 meals to people in need. We pledged to receive 1,000 cards in 12 months and to raise £3,000, so proportionally we have raised more money than our target.

The trial was delayed as it takes two months to arrange pre-paid addressed envelopes in Japan but now the scheme is fully up and running. To improve the efficiency of the scheme and to reduce our administration costs, 2HJ arrange the envelopes and remove funds from the cards. We are recommending 2HJ recommend this scheme to other tour operators in Japan as they can receive significant donations from these cards. We are also asking the supplier of the cards to set up a recycling scheme, so the physical cards do not go to waste.

Staff in all offices of ITG have been supportive of and excited about the benefits of the scheme. We are bridging closer ties with 2HJ by offering tour leaders volunteering opportunities with the charity. Charles McJilton, the director of 2HJ, has thanked to us on behalf of the beneficiaries of the Harvest Kitchen in Ueno Park, the food banks and disaster relief efforts in Japan. We have also received positive feedback from clients about the scheme.

Project PROTECT encouraged ITG staff to implement this scheme and offer an easy way for our clients to give back to the hospitable people of Japan. It has inspired us to set-up a Sustainability Committee in the Bristol office and to look at other ways we can support charities and reduce waste. We aim to achieve more projects like this in the years to come!