I recently caught up with Trafalgar CEO Gavin Tollman to get his take on the Trafalgar of today and what being a ‘green’ travel brand means for agents and the industry at large.

Trafalgar has travelled a long way since its humble beginnings in 1947 to become the innovative and most award-winning brand in travel it is today.

By its own admission, the guided holiday brand has been around the roundabout many times over its 72-years lifespan escorting an astounding 5 million guests of all ages to date.

From the early post-war days to the mass growth that followed, with plenty of twists and turns and now a big resurgence again for all of the current 302 trips they operate in all seven continents including the newly launched Africa, Nepal and Australian domestic product, there have been many life lessons learned along the road.

But for all their successful legacy, one thing is certain. If Trafalgar had chosen not to continually invest in innovation and sustainability along the way, the wheels would most likely have come off the coach by now.

Matt Cameron Smith (GM Trafalgar_, Gavin Tollman (CEO Trafalgar), John Veitch (CEO TTC)

Matt Cameron Smith (GM Trafalgar), Gavin Tollman (CEO Trafalgar), John Veitch (CEO TTC)

Nowadays, Trafalgar vision is to ‘lead the way on sustainable tourism with their partners – safeguarding the natural beauty, cultures and traditions of the people and places they visit as well as the planet.’

Even their green fleet of coaches (of which 95% operate at above EU emission standards) have become a big part of the story when it comes to talking about their responsible travel ethos versus flying.

Global CEO Gavin Tollman’s passion for sustainable travel and living ‘The good life’ is one of eternal marriage. While he’s now based in Switzerland and travels for much of the year, Gavin was born in Africa where his iKhaya or ‘home’ is the special place the Tollman family and Travel Corporation story all began.

Not surprisingly, Gavin is incredibly proud of Trafalgar’s return to Africa after 72 years, with the first trips starting this December.

“Our new trips will be the ultimate way to see Africa and I’m so unbelievably excited to welcome our first guests when they arrive. Every itinerary has a giving back element to it and our guests are going to come away feeling that same deep connection to Africa that we have always had.”


Speaking of other notable Trafalgar high points in his time with the brand, Gavin cites Trafalgar’s exclusive ‘Be My Guest’ program where locals invite guests into their homes, working farms and vineyards for homecooked meals while sharing their personal stories as one of his proudest achievements. Now up to 103 programs worldwide, Gavin says of the unique experiences;

“When we first started our ‘Be My Guest’ program, people thought we were crazy. ‘There’s no quality control’ they said. But that’s what makes it so cool as it’s so real. It’s since proven to be one of the most consistently popular elements of our trips for our guests.”

Gavin goes on to say; “When we first started these experiences ten years ago, people said; ‘are you talking about gourmet?’ No-one knew what it meant at the time. It wasn’t about the food. What it was really all about was our travellers getting to break bread with the locals and hear their stories so they could understand their way of life better and connect on a deeper level.”

Fast forward nine years and Gavin says he’s now hearing a similar response around sustainability with people asking “Oh, are you a green brand now?”

“Agents and travellers are becoming more and more interested in sustainability which is great. The thing is that we’ve always been a sustainable brand. If people weren’t interested in what we were doing in the sustainable travel space, we’d still be doing it anyway.”

Gavin Tollman, Trafalgar CEO

Since Trafalgar launched e-docs last year, where guests were able to opt for e-docs over printed docs (70% of guests chose to opt-in), they’ve already planted 100 acres of trees to aid reforestation in North California and Tanzania with a target of 200 acres for the year ahead.

Trafalgar’s sustainability initiative JoinTrafalgar is powered by The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit created for TTC’s family of brands. To date, JoinTrafalgar together with TreadRight has helped support some 50-plus sustainable tourism projects worldwide.

Some of Trafalgar supported projects have included supporting ancient crafts and artisans in Perugia, Italy and Cusco, Peru, protecting endangered animals through the Wilderness Foundation in Africa and ensuring that villages in Cambodia have access to clean water.

One of their latest projects is the Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Cooperative in Jordan, where 150 women from local villages are trained in handicrafts such as paper, fabric, ceramics, soap from olive oil so they can create a livelihood and sustain themselves. Trafalgar guests will get to meet these women and try their hand at making their own.

Marta Giuditta Brozzetti, Perugia, Italy

Marta Giuditta Brozzetti, Perugia, Italy

Looking back on his 20-year legacy of running Trafalgar globally to date, Gavin says that; “While so many things have changed in the last two decades, travellers desire for authentic connections on their travels haven’t, and if anything has only increased,”

“The greatest danger for me is not the people who don’t believe in sustainability. It’s the ones who do believe and do nothing about it.”

We finish our chat with Gavin sharing that it’s now Trafalgar’s aim to help agents realise the benefits of sharing sustainable stories for the benefit of their customers. “Our journey is one of personal responsibility, It has nothing to do with trying to sell more. It’s about doing what’s right and ensuring that future generations can see and do what we all took for granted.”

Find out more: www.treadright.orgwww.trafalgar.com


What do you think of the Trafalgar’s evolution? Share your thoughts below.