My name is Karen Simmonds and I’m the founder of Travel Matters and the Make Travel Matter campaign. I set up my business 21 years ago and the campaign over 11 years ago. Along with my team, we learn, as well as share, best practices within the travel industry.
At Travel Matters, we make it our business to not only organise holidays which minimise on negative impact whilst maximising on quality. But to educate our customers as to how they can continue to make a difference in their future adventures.
We encourage our clients to understand responsible tourism, which we believe is what people do to achieve sustainable tourism. We want people to consider the holistic cost of travelling – financial, environmental, as well as social costs. We advocate that travel should be transforming, creating positive impressions for guests and hosts alike!
In this article
Creating awareness and stimulating debate
“Make Travel Matter” is an awareness campaign to help travellers as well as industry peers. It helps them think about what sustainable travel should look like. We have organised events and developed a guide highlighting the issues of responsible tourism, discussing the social and economic benefits to the communities they are visiting.
We seek to create awareness and stimulate debate about sustainable tourism practices, be it better volunteering or environmental issues and fair trade. We endeavour to demonstrate our commitment to sustainable travel with our charity partners, among others:
Giving back to the travel industry
When Travel Matters reached its 10th birthday, I wanted to give back to the travel industry that had served me so well. It’s quite memorable when you hit milestones such as celebrating a decade. It was whilst I was on a boat on the River Ganges at Varanasi, India that I reflected how I could do that. I sensed the words and instruction Make Travel Matter and thereafter, I created the campaign.
I have been in the travel industry since having left school. I’ve been blessed to travel extensively. Meeting new people, learning and developing from what travelling has taught me, broadening my understanding on life has motivated me to share, educate and inspire others with what I have learnt from my experiences. I want to see a fairer more responsible travel industry which is sustainable for the future.
It is for that reason, we have created a website called Make Travel Matter, providing responsible travel tips to our clients as to how they can make their travel matter. We partner and collaborate with organisations whose values align with ours. It’s work in progress and highly satisfactory.
Equipping travellers with skills and knowledge
The Make Travel Matter campaign essentially equips travellers with the skills and knowledge they need to be socially, economically and environmentally responsible in the destinations they visit. A large part of our website is dedicated to this, encouraging people to explore how their travel behaviour can benefit the communities they are visiting.
We make practical suggestions of how travellers can have a positive impact whilst staying in the countries. We guide and encourage our clients to investigate the practices of the travel partners we work with as well as the charities we support. Every holiday we sell, we plant a tree with our charity partners Trees for Cities as well as make financial contributions to the Travel Foundation and Equality in Tourism to name a few.
When Make Travel Matter was set up, I knew it was a pioneering method to engage travellers about travelling more responsibly. It is important that any engagement is not done in a preachy manner but with gentle nudges, suggestions and advice. I am inspired to see more travel companies adopt and adapt responsible travel practices in their business models.
People’s understanding has a positive impact
The business is now over 21 years old. That in itself is a good result. I feel the result of the campaign has highlighted some excellent principles within our business practice and Make Travel Matter campaign. We have had to evaluate our corporate social responsibility policies and how others benefit from our work.
Our staff and clients understand and believe in the Make Travel Matter ethos and are committed to support what it stands for. We work tirelessly to learn, share and stimulate travellers’ interest in sustainable tourism practices and only work with organisations and companies who share the same ethos. Over the years we have built an established reputation in our locality and more recently in other countries through our global partnerships and collaborations.
We continue to innovate and inspire day by day and welcome fresh input and opportunities. We have won several awards for the business as well as the campaign and feel encouraged that the vision and people’s understanding is having positive impact across the global travel industry as well as traveller’s decision making.
Focus on organic growth
Being a small business and team, getting amplification of the Make Travel Matter message and campaign was the hardest of all. We only have a certain area of reach without having external financial investment to help us. The campaign grew slowly and organically. The latter I have found it to be slightly frustrating, as I am an individual who likes to see instant results.
However, with the acceleration of digital media over the last decade, we have been able to get coverage and more PR, so the principles of the campaign are being adapted by other industry peers as well as travellers learning about what we do as a business. Looking back, I should have been bolder to ask for help sooner and collaborate with individuals and businesses that share the same ideas, and whose values and ethos align with ours.
Travel as privilege
Our campaign promotes travel as a privilege. Our aim is to encourage people to make more conscious decisions during their travels and to be more pro-active in relation to the idea of protecting the environment and the communities they encounter along the way. Our wish is to make people’s travels really matter, and we want the travel experience to be complete with the involvement of learning from the local community.