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The business case of 'travel to change the world'

roomsXML’s Mark Luckey continues to discuss the power of Travel Agents in part four of his four-part series. Click here for part one, click here for part two and click here for part three.

roomsXML’s Mark Luckey continues to discuss the power of Travel Agents in part four of his four-part series. Click here for part one, click here for part two and click here for part three.

So lets talk business.  Throughout my teens my dad Kerry regularly shared snippets of business wisdom. We have run different businesses over time very differently but three basic truths stuck:

  • You don’t want to overpay tax but paying tax is a good indicator of your business
  • Successful means you should give something back
  • If you give something back there is no harm in letting that improve others perception of you

It’s the business case for an ethical business. It’s hard to assign a value in a corporate statement. Put simply, most WILL NOT incorporate this into their business model if its money out of their pocket.

For the three years I had an interest in Cambodia, Shinta Mani was ALWAYS number one, Christian was the factor.


“A dollar value? Hard to know. People want to be made to think and they want to learn while they are on their trip. But people stayed with us (80 percent occupancy vs Siem Reap average of 45 percent) because of what we did. So yes, there is a connection between the two. People want to know that the dollar they spend is in a business which facilitates their own very personal beliefs.

“It’s like a circle that feeds each other and that’s what we are now trying to do at Jaya House. Once that’s rolling we will not have any local competition, It won’t matter if it is high season low season anymore… people want to stay with us because of what we do.”

Simla obviously agrees, having built a business where “our travellers know their funds are being put into creating jobs or constructing water filters and toilets. On arrival they see first hand how much of an impact they have had. Empowerment Tourism maximises our travellers time and money to deliver an unforgettable journey for all.”

Meg sagely cautions however on going too hard on ethics as the reverse can impact an ethical. “It kind of comes down to peoples values and ethics. We need to keep in mind that if we ostracise a particular market, we will lose them (and the rest of their business) to the OTAs.” Truth is, sometimes any business has to accept any business to keep a larger movement happening.


OTA’s, the evil bane of the industry. Especially ‘deals’. Sadly, Karsten feels: “the machines are in front in some areas. Trip Advisor “Green Leader Hotels Program” assists travellers to book a hotel direct avoiding the agency network.

“We need to work with the machines to source the product but Agents are then in the best position to give an objective view.”

Karsten is also circumspect on the true “business” value of triple bottom line, but I felt he was too humble in his assessment of the impact in business.  “There is a social status in being seen doing the right thing and the agent needs to embrace this, especially given the value of word of mouth.

“Clients love a purpose and it immediately builds credibility and trust. It is becoming a powerful marketing tool as the demand for purpose driven companies grows. Being part of a global movement certainly opens the right doors as you end up moving in like-minded circles.”

That sums up so much of what we have covered over the past few weeks in a big topic of #traveltochangetheworld.  Travel. Moving in like minded circles. Positivity. Sustainability. Making connection. As Meg says, travel is about

“Exploration, adventure, personal development, being out of one’s comfort zone, finding a state of peace, finding excitement, bringing people together. “

Is there a raw business case for ethics in #traveltochangetheworld?

Undoubtedly. Get on board. Make #traveltochangetheworld part of the movement of your business.

What are your thoughts?


The interviewees

The hotelier – Christian De Boer – MD Jaya House Siem Reap


I met Christian in 2014 as roomsXML were looking to direct contract with Shinta Mani which he had grown into the most successful hotel in the history of Siem Reap. An ingredient of success was literally raising millions of dollars that went back into the local Khmer Community.

He is now the MD of a brand-new property poised to become the next number one, Jaya House with its mixture of style, grace, luxury and of course, sustainable business practice.

Initiatives he has created and implemented include “Refill not Landfill”, “Ten Thousand Trees”, “Made in Cambodia market” to name a few.


The educator – Meg Salter – MD Auridian

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I was introduced to Meg through Penny Spencer when recruiting speakers for Travel Vision 2020, a series of workshops running collaboration with roomsXML and Amadeus.

Since starting with Flight Centre in the 90s in the days of the telex, Meg has move through a number of roles to eventually start her own successful consulting organisation, Auridian consulting.

Meg was undoubtably the most popular speaker at Travel Vision 2020. Not only was her content incredible but it was the raw honesty with which it was delivered. Meg is refreshingly honest and insanely to the point in the delivery of key messages. An important one being that agents need to change and grow to survive in a competitive machine dominated future.


The Travel Agent – Karsten Horne – MD Reho Travel

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Karsten Horne from Reho is known for great actions and humorous Twitter feeds. Part of the Reho business model is a percent commitment return to causes, a key plank being that 20% of annual profits go towards charities.

He is a true believer in the need of ethics and sustainable standards in the travel industry and this is reflected in the many causes Reho has established.

Rehope Micro-credit Agency has been fully accredited by the Government of Malawi. Reho are the only travel management company in the world to earn B-Corp status. I could write a whole article on Karsten. Actually I have here.


The Empowerment Tourism Pioneer – Simla Sooboodoo – MD Hands on Journeys

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Coming from Mauritius and suffering hardships as a child, Simla had a 10% survival chance from a brain haemorrhage, led to a second chance and the knowledge that others deserved a second chance too.

She not only built a business but defined a new travel movement of “Empowerment Tourism” and wrapped it up in her astounding new business, Hands on Journeys.

Simla undoubtably has some of the best hands on experience and knowledge on ethics and #traveltochangetheworld.