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OPINION | There’s nothing wrong with profiting off doing the right thing

We all know that we’re not in this for the money; there are more lucrative industries out there. However, our passion and success lie in preserving the very destinations that sustain our industry. So let's talk about responsible travel and why it’s not just the ethical choice but also a strategic move that benefits both the planet and your bottom line.

We all know that we’re not in this for the money; there are more lucrative industries out there. However, our passion and success lie in preserving the very destinations that sustain our industry. So let’s talk about responsible travel and why it’s not just the ethical choice but also a strategic move that benefits both the planet and your bottom line.

I love the travel industry. It’s full of ridiculously clever and passionate people who know how to have a good time (and can still navigate a new city despite being five beers in). I’ve grown up in this industry. Thanks to my travel industry mum, I was taught the phonetic alphabet before the standard one. My first book was an atlas and I had been on more famils than I had sleepovers before I turned 12.

But at a recent industry event, during a (rare) moving and personal Acknowledgment of Country a person next to me rolled their eyes and moaned about having to sit through “this $#!7” again.

I get it. Standard Acknowledgements of Country can be tokenistic, drab affairs mumbled quickly before getting to the good stuff. Australians and almost specifically Aussies in the travel industry don’t do token gestures well. We don’t have time for that. But what this person was failing to see was opportunity. Opportunity to learn and to make money.

There is a very real ROI in responsible travel, both profit-wise and planet-wise. Profiting off doing the right thing isn’t wrong or crude. It makes good business sense. And here’s why:

You can’t sell a dying product

Our earth is in crisis. If you question the scientists who tell us this, then listen to your suppliers on the ground. They’re the ones witnessing the changes firsthand: shrinking glaciers, dying coral reefs, and unpredictable weather patterns that threaten the very destinations we sell.

The real thing sells better

Performative spectacles will never beat real interaction. Today’s travellers crave immersion, not imitation. Integrating First Nations tourism and responsible tourism practices into your business model isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a strategic move that offers tangible returns. It’s about creating authentic, valuable experiences that resonate with today’s travellers, fostering loyalty, and supporting sustainable growth.

Don’t leave it to your clients

As travel professionals, we are in a unique position to lead the charge towards a more sustainable and reconciled world. We are storytellers, curators of experiences, and ambassadors of cultures. Our influence extends beyond booking flights and accommodation; we shape perceptions and inspire action.

But over the years I’ve chatted to a lot of you about whether your clients really care. Some do. Some don’t. So is investing in responsible tourism worth the effort?

Destination Canada Australia, under Managing Director Julie King recently partnered with Australian travel companies, including Karryon, in an industry-first pledge to work together for good

I asked King about what we in the industry can really do. If perhaps the role of destinations and the travel supply chain is to, in essence, cover the customer who cannot afford either ethically or economically to care and travel accordingly.

Here’s what the inspirational King said. 

“The burden of sustainability should not fall solely on the traveller. Destinations and supply chains must lead by example, integrating sustainable practices into their operations. 

“There is an onus on them to ensure that sustainable and regenerative travel practices are accessible and inclusive, to educate travellers about the benefits of sustainable/regenerative travel.”

Julie King
Destination Canada Australia Managing Director Julie King

“Sustainable travel should not be a luxury reserved only for those who can afford it. By making sustainable options more affordable and accessible, destinations and suppliers can ensure that all travellers, regardless of their economic background, can participate in and benefit from responsible tourism practices.”

The travel industry has the power to drive change. By prioritising responsible travel, we can create a more equitable and resilient world. Let’s harness our creativity, dedication, and passion for travel to make a lasting impact. The future of our planet — and our industry — depends on it.

READ: A travel agents’ guide to selling Indigenous travel