Travel platform and social enterprise Better Places wants to make travel as sustainable as possible. As a result, Better Places became Travelife-certified at the beginning of 2017. Travelife is an international certification program for travel organizations that want to do business sustainably. Better Places has been working together with their local experts, and in December 2018 another twelve Better Places’ travel experts obtained the Travelife Partner certificate.
Better Places connects travelers directly with travel experts around the world. These local partners are selected on sustainability, quality and respect for nature and the local population. Better Places makes agreements with the travel experts about the way they do business and encourages them to also coach their local partners, such as hotels and guides, to become more sustainable. The Travelife management and certification program is part of this holistic effort. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) has recognized the Travelife standard as the first tour operator standard in the world. All local Better Places travel experts work according to the Travelife criteria. They all followed the Travelife training, with the aim of obtaining the Travelife Partner certificate within two years.
Twelve travel experts achieve Travelife certification
In December 2018, twelve Better Places’ local travel experts obtained the Travelife Partner certificate: Peru, Cambodia, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Morocco, Uganda, Cuba, Bhutan, Mexico, Chile and Jordan. In total there are now eighteen Better Places travel experts who are a Travelife Partner. The partnership is the first step towards the Travelife Certified certification, the highest attainable Travelife certificate. Five of our travel experts have already reached that level (Namibia, South Africa, Nepal, Surinam and Vietnam).
To achieve the Travelife Partner certificate, a travel organization must meet criteria relating to internal policies, management, product range, trading partners and consumer information. The certification is about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). For example, the certified travel experts must have a sustainability policy, make purchases in a sustainable manner and promote environmentally friendly commuting for employees. In addition, they encourage local partners at the destination to make more responsible choices: such as staying away from child labor and running their accommodations and excursions more sustainably. In this way, agents and suppliers work together to help holiday destination develop sustainably with attention for people, animals and nature. For travelers, the Travelife seal of approval is proof that the organization they’ve chosen is making sustainability part of their core business.
Better Places employed a coach to help their travel experts reach the Travelife Partner certification. This way, the local experts could better find the time to complete the often rigorous certification process. Saskia Griep, CEO of Better Places: “For us it is important that our local partners meet the requirements of Travelife, they organize the trips and we think it is important that our journeys are carried out as sustainably as possible.”
Making sustainable choices in Kyrgyzstan
Anne is the local travel expert for Better Places in Kyrgyzstan and her team achieved the Travelife Partner status in December. “We are a small organization in Kyrgyzstan and we have only just started”, she says. “I wanted to work with Travelife because it helps us to work more professionally and to better shape our ideas about sustainable travel. Travelife ensures that together with our local partners, such as homestays, we can make choices that are better for people and the environment. It starts discussions. In Kyrgyzstan, for example, they are not used to having guides and drivers getting contracts. We have now provided temporary employment contracts with rights and obligations that offer our partners greater security. It was a lot of work to get the certification, but our team in Kyrgyzstan is very proud that we succeeded. “
More and more sustainable business in Jamaica
The Better Places’ local travel expert for Jamaica, Karin, also became a Travelife Partner in December. “We are a small organization that finds sustainable working very important,” she says. “We don’t follow mainstream trends, but organize unique tours in collaboration with local communities. We can say that we work sustainably, but we also wanted to prove it – by getting the Travelife seal of approval. We are now making step-by-step improvements with our own local partners. For example, our buses have recently been washed with rainwater and hotels no longer put small, disposable bottles of water in the hotel rooms. In this way we help our partners become more and more sustainable.