By Kelley Louise, Founder + Executive Director of Impact Travel Alliance
One of the biggest – and most dangerous – misconceptions about sustainable tourism amongst travelers is the belief that corporations cannot be sustainable. I’ve seen it time and again: a traveler begins to grasp the concept of sustainability and how their actions can have a positive impact on local communities and the environment. A light bulb goes off as they suddenly correlate sustainability with supporting local and shopping small (components that represent just one part of sustainability). The connection becomes deeply problematic when those travelers begin thinking of sustainability’s use-cases and believe that it only applies to specific subsets of tourism. But it’s important that we recognize that sustainable travel isn’t restricted to local only, and local travel isn’t necessarily sustainable.
In order to push the industry toward lasting, positive change for both people and the planet, it’s vital that sustainability is applied to all types of travel companies, from mom-and-pop businesses to mega-corporations. At its core, sustainable travel is tourism that has a positive and lasting impact on our environment and local communities (both economically and socially).
But how do you take an industry so vast and work to build a stronger, more equitable industry for all? The tourism industry accounts for 10 percent of the world’s GDP, and transforming it is no small feat.
Here’s the thing: the leading sustainable tourism brands are usually the small players. They are the ones that can move swiftly and efficiently, learning on-the-go and implementing change quickly. It is easier for a small company to focus 100% of its initiatives on sustainability because they are not weighed down by complex supply chains, corporate red tape, burdensom regulations, and a long list of stakeholders. But if the small companies were the only sustainable ones, the global impact would just be a drop in the ocean. Think about it: a small, boutique hotel that’s incorporating sustainable initiatives into everything ranging from their building’s infrastructure system to the sheets on their beds is a wonderful example of how every decision a company makes has an impact on our world. But if that hotel has only 34 rooms, that means even at full capacity, there’s a finite opportunity. It’s not to say that those businesses shouldn’t keep doing what they’re doing (they absolutely should keep at it), but it is to say that if we only focused on the small players, we would only accomplish so much as an industry.
For a more impactful future, corporations have to be sustainable – they have a powerful ability to scale and mainstream sustainability. And that’s why corporate social responsibility (CSR) is so important. But corporations are mega-machines, and far too often, the local voices in host destinations are drowned out. Locals are best positioned to advocate for a better future for their hometown, so it’s imperative that we include their voices in conversations on sustainability and CSR. For the sake of brevity and clarity within this essay, I have outlined best practices for sustainability and CSR as a whole, and the examples I have included focus on initiatives designed specifically to support locals.
Identifying Potential within the Industry
As zero-waste chef Anne Marie-Bonneau said, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” And that same concept applies to sustainability. Sustainability isn’t about one company doing everything perfectly; it’s about every company incorporating sustainability imperfectly (and continuing to improve over time).
How do you measure the impact of a boutique hotel with a 100% focus on sustainability vs. a single action from a corporation? In 2018, Marriott banned the use of single-use plastic-straws, an environmentally friendly move that was designed to eliminate the use of more than one billion plastic straws and about 250 million stirrers per year. It was a seemingly simple move, yet its effects were profound. (Marriott kept straws available per the request of travelers, a move that was important for the inclusion of disabled travelers.) Reducing plastic use is just one step a company can make to help combat the climate crisis and create a more livable world for all through cleaner destinations and a reduced carbon footprint. Envision the impact from scaling even grander moves toward sustainability from global corporations.
As we move toward a more sustainable industry, it’s important to recognize growth on both sides of the spectrum. Small businesses and start-ups are typically the innovators and pioneers within the industry, and corporations should learn from them in order to enact change on a widespread scale. It is only by working together that we can build a better travel industry.
But for mega-companies that have relied heavily on an outdated system for corporate social responsibility, change has not come fast enough. In a pre-coronavirus world, mass tourism has exacerbated problems from overtourism and climate change, and when the coronavirus pandemic brought travel to a standstill, at-need communities were left in a precarious position. The future is unknown, but these problems aren’t going away anytime soon. We need to act now, and with a proactive approach.
Traditional CSR is Flawed
Corporate social responsibility is the sustainability arm of the company that works to contribute toward greater societal or environmental goals, often through philanthropic or charitable natures. But the problem with traditional CSR rests within that description itself: it represents part of the company.
If sustainability represents just one department of a corporation, there is always going to be pushback from elsewhere in the company. Company-wide sustainability goals need to be incorporated into every department, and traditional CSR has taken the opposite approach: it represents just one portion of the company’s goals, rather than an overarching necessity. When you departmentalize sustainability, you create disjointed results. When you apply that concept on a mass scale, it becomes even more complicated because you have a variety of corporate departments and offices, local operators, and often-outsourced marketing campaigns and partnerships, all of which have different metrics for success. You cannot create a unified approach to sustainability when it represents just part of the company’s goals and core values.
In addition, traditional CSR has been rooted in a give-back mentality, with corporations citing their charitable donations as a reference point for their success as an impact-focused business. While these donations can be critical to supporting much-needed efforts from nonprofits, they should not be an end-all solution. For example, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 protests in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylo, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others, an influx of companies quickly committed to donating a portion of sales toward bail funds and nonprofits that support Black, Indigenous, and people of color. I am not discounting the need for those donations, but it is only a first step. Companies need to think critically about why these problems exist in the first place and how their business can support a solution. In the above scenario, for example, companies need to consider components such as their hiring policies, as well as partnerships, influencer campaigns, advertising efforts and more. Who does their company benefit, and why? Are they considering Black and diverse voices in those initiatives? If not, their donation is, at best, a band-aid on the problem and on a deeper level, exacerbating systemic issues. (For those looking to take a first step to support Black voices, I encourage you to participate in the Black Travel Alliance’s campaign to #PullUpForTravel).
Brands need to look at the big picture and ask themselves: are you treating a cause or a symptom? A few years ago, on a consulting project with a global hotel brand, I sat down with their executive CSR team to do a deep-dive on their philanthropic initiatives at a specific hotel. On one hand, their local team was spearheading an inspiring amount of sustainable initiatives, especially in the environmental space. But when it came down to measuring the impact on programs that were designed to support locals, they were counting the days they spent volunteering in the community. The hotel was located in one of the poorest regions of the country, and yes – the team did a good job of identifying at-need projects and matching skills-based volunteers with those opportunities. But when we took a step back, those were temporary, feel-good solutions. It’s important to question why volunteer opportunities are needed in the first place. As mentioned, the hotel was located in one of the poorest regions of the country, and much of that economic disparity was attributed to a high level of unemployment. So, the question was posed: why was the unemployment rate so high in an area that was flourishing with tourism? In taking a step back and asking these questions with the local hotel staff, the answer became quickly apparent – it was because so few of the locals spoke English, and as a global hotel brand, speaking English was a prerequisite for most jobs at the property, especially the higher-paying ones and those in leadership roles. In analyzing the larger-scale problems, we identified a solution. Instead of volunteer days, there was an opportunity to offer free English classes and other career-development initiatives for the community as a whole. The project was inspiring because it presented a solution for the local hotel that could also be replicated on a global level.
As an industry, we need to address the problems upstream rather than focusing on unsustainable, reactive solutions. We also need to ask ourselves whether we’re doing more to make ourselves feel good than actually doing good. Donating time, money and talent can achieve impact – but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. The industry needs to take actions toward real, systemic change to truly achieve impact.
Reforming Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate social responsibility needs to be reformed so that companies incorporate it holistically throughout the entire business model. It’s not a new approach; many companies are based on a triple bottom line model that prioritizes people, planet and profit. And for the companies that do incorporate these practices, it quickly becomes apparent that the three P’s are all connected. Patagonia leads its marketing efforts with a bold approach focused on its commitment to people and the environment, and the brand has consistently been ranked as a favorite among millennials (who have a $1.4 trillion dollar global spending power, by the way). Patagonia’s employees are happier, too – they only have a four percent turnover rate and have been ranked as one of the top 100 brands to work for by Fortune for six consecutive years.
Furthermore, CSR needs to be approached from a mainstream mentality. Sustainability is not a niche and, thus, should not be treated as such. Rather than thinking of it as a small component of travel, we need to apply sustainability across the entire industry. It can be applied to all types of travel, no matter the consumer’s budget, destination or travel style. Think of sustainability as an umbrella for all of travel, rather than a specialized or niche style. It is only by thinking through a mass, mainstream and scalable approach that we can begin to advocate for real change within the industry.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to lead a fireside chat with Intrepid’s co-founder, Darrell Wade, at one of Impact Travel Alliance’s conferences. As the world’s largest B Corp, Intrepid is up to some pretty incredible things, ranging from the ability to run as a carbon-neutral company to its efforts with the Intrepid Foundation, the company’s nonprofit arm that provides crucial financial support to local initiatives. Their initiatives are impressive, and on top of their environmental and social commitments, Intrepid has a strong case for economic growth as well. In 2019, Intrepid Group achieved 21 percent growth in Group Total Transaction Value (TTV) at $491 million (up from $402 million).
Intrepid Group is comprised of several brands, including Peak DMC and Urban Adventures, and has offices in 40+ countries with more than 2,400 global and staff leaders. One of the questions I wanted to ask Darrell was how they were able to seamlessly integrate sustainability into all components of their business on a global scale. The answer was perhaps simpler than I wanted: since their launch in 1989, commitment to local communities and immersive experiences have always been a foundational component of their business. Sustainability is a core part of the ethos of who Intrepid is as a company.
I love Intrepid, and if you’re passionate about sustainable tourism, you probably do as well. But where do you begin if you’re not one of the Intrepids of the world? How do you garner the attention and initiate buy-in from a corporate giant?
The Benefits of a Holistic Approach to Sustainability
If you’re reading this article, chances are you have at least a baseline understanding of the benefits of sustainability. For sustainable travel professionals, it can almost feel like we have this secret we’re keeping from the rest of the industry… Did you know that sustainable tourism is inherently linked to the best, most immersive and memorable experiences? Did you know that it can help to protect and preserve deeply significant indigenous traditions? Did you know it can transform individuals into global citizens who have a deep passion for advocating for positive change in the world? I could keep going, but I have a feeling I’m preaching to the choir.
In an effort to avoid speaking into an echo chamber, I’ve gone ahead and outlined some core benefits that can be used to convince the naysayers, especially those who are most focused on profitability.
It increases loyalty among travelers.
The travel industry is a ripe space to build brand loyalty, especially when you consider that most consumers (76%) prefer experiences over things. Conscious consumers are more likely to be loyal to value-aligned brands, and loyal customers pay more as well – returning customers will spend 67% more than new customers. The tourism industry is plagued with competition, so offering travelers sustainable-focused initiatives is a way for your company to combat discounts and deals, and also encourage direct bookings.
The flip side of the narrative is true as well. About two-thirds (65 percent) of millennials say they have boycotted a brand that took the opposing stance on an issue, according to 5WPR’s 2020 Consumer Culture report. Look no further than the viral hashtag #DeleteUber from 2017 wherein hundreds of thousands of users quit the app after the company was accused of profiting from a protest against Donald Trump’s travel ban.
Purpose-driven companies have happier (and more productive) employees.
Sustainable initiatives provide employees with a greater sense of purpose, and that mindset results in increased productivity, higher retention rates and more effective collaboration. Mission-driven companies have 30 percent higher levels of innovation and 40 percent higher levels of retention, according to a study from Deloitte. From both an altruistic perspective as well as financial one, that’s a win.
It’s a necessity (and a rapidly growing group of your customers knows it).
Industry news has been plagued with content on overtourism and climate change, and travelers are quick to point their fingers at the tourism industry, especially cruise ships and airlines. But tourism isn’t going anywhere, so the brands that prioritize and push for innovation are the ones who will come out on top.
Increasingly, consumers and companies are waking up to the fact that sustainability is about more than just being nice for the sake of being nice; it’s a necessity. We’re in the midst of a climate emergency, and without a core focus on change, we are literally killing our planet.
As a starting point for newcomers, pick a cause your team is passionate about, and start identifying opportunities. Aligning sustainability with company and community interests is a great way to build enthusiasm around a project. If you’re unsure where to start, take a look at the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, an ambitious set of targets aimed at solving the world’s most pressing issues by 2030. Each of them have the ability to be impacted through travel and tourism, a fact that’s pretty powerful in and of itself.
Challenges for Change
Author Amelia Hutchins once wrote, “nothing worth fighting for ever comes easy.” The statement rings true for advocacy to reform corporate social responsibility and mainstream sustainability within the industry.
First, we are presented with the dilemma of the scope of the industry. Tourism is often cited as the world’s biggest industry, and that fact means that there are a lot of players involved. Within one corporation alone, CSR needs to involve global headquarters, local operators and owners, regional offices, and long-standing and new partnerships. There is also not one clear-cut solution for a segment of the industry (such as airlines, cruise ships or hotels) or for specific destinations, as each solution will be unique. All of this means that reforming CSR initiatives will require deliberate action and learning, including admitting failures and pivoting when necessary. We are hacking away at solving a complex and deeply rooted problem.
Furthermore, we must face the reality that mainstreaming sustainability will involve a dismantling of systems that are currently in place and made to support an elite few. There are politics and business deals that have been created without the needs of people and planet in mind, and it’s going to take a large-scale movement to bring those to light and push for lasting change. We need activists, intrapreneurs, policy-makers and consumers to play a part in this revolution.
To add insult to injury, the industry is plagued with greenwashing and greenhushing, especially in the world of corporate social responsibility. Corporate social responsibility campaigns are often based in inauthentic practices (the savvy traveler knows well that the hotel bathroom signs advertising not washing towels for energy consumption also mean that hotels are trying to save money – and if you’re not backing that up with real action, it’s a moot point). Corporate PR campaigns are often crafted in ways that make light of sustainable initiatives or act as fluff pieces, or equally detrimental, only support important initiatives when it’s convenient. For example, it’s problematic and frankly insulting when brands showcase diversity during certain parts of the year (such as campaigns that celebrate and support LQBTQ+ travelers only during Pride in June). Equally detrimental is greenhushing, a phenomenon that occurs when brands avoid talking about their sustainable initiatives because they are either afraid of public backlash or because they think travelers should just inherently know about their impact initiatives. The result of all of this is a confusing and complex world that travelers are forced to navigate when trying to make an impactful decision, and we’re left with the question of the chicken and the egg when weighing consumer demand vs. industry progress. Businesses need to do better.
So, the question stands: what are the best practices for companies committed to creating real, lasting change?
Best Practices for CSR
The good news is that actionable solutions exist and implementation can start today. Below, a list of best-practices for your company to incorporate:
Include diverse voices in all parts of your company.
If you’re looking for an easy place to start, hire women and minorities. When women work, they invest 90 percent of their income back into their families and local communities (compared with just 35 percent for men). Hiring women is an easy step to take to support host destinations, plus it’s good business: companies with strong female leadership generate a return on equity of 10 percent versus seven percent for those that lack female leadership.
Including a more diverse representation of professionals within your company is another obvious starting point for identifying lasting solutions. Research shows that companies with more diverse workforces outperform and out-innovate those that do not. If our industry is committed to solving the complex problems and mainstreaming sustainable tourism, we’re going to need a diverse set of perspectives in leadership roles (both locally and globally) to get there. If your C-suite, board of directors or managers are made up of only white men, it’s time to do better. Without a diverse set of perspectives on your team, you’re creating vulnerable blind spots that could otherwise be avoided. For example, in 2016, Airbnb faced criticism around discrimination, and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky admitted that those problems arose because of the lack of diversity on their leadership team. “We were so focused on creating trust and safety that we took our eye off the ball on this other important issue,” Chesky said. “There were lots of things we didn’t think about when we, as three white guys, designed the platform.”
And the problem isn’t just who we’re hiring; it’s the stories we’re telling. Just Google the word “traveler” and you’ll literally see the problem. Those images aren’t representative of how diverse and beautiful our industry is. When creating ad campaigns, stop spotlighting the same tired and mediocre images – most of which focus on mass, mainstream travel that isn’t sustainable, impactful or even enjoyable. If travelers only see top 10 experiences in marketing, that’s what they’ll book. Representing (and thinking about) diversity in your marketing campaigns – both in terms of the images you’re showing as well as who you’re working with – is a good first step to attract a diverse group of travelers, and in turn, you’ll connect with consumers who are seeking more immersive, sustainable and impactful experiences.
Embrace a local’s first mindset.
If we’re lucky enough to have the privilege to explore our world, we have a responsibility to protect it. And I can’t think of a better candidate to protect a destination than the local who calls it home.
Create opportunities that allow for locals to advocate for how they want their hometown represented. They’ll be able to show you a deeper, richer and more intimate side of the destination they call home, and you’ll be better prepared to avoid issues like overtourism. Give them a mic, and listen to them.
Focus on quality over quantity.
We all know that overtourism is a problem, yet as an industry, we’re obsessed with tracking progress by growth in numbers. We measure success by an increase in spending (an annual report from the WTTC) and arrivals (as reported by the UNWTO). Last year saw a growth of 3.9% in spending and 6% in arrivals. But as sustainable tourism expert Anna Pollock points out, there’s an imbalance between the amount of travelers and how much they are actually spending. If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the tourism industry is a fragile ecosystem. Why wait to see the negative impacts of the disparity in spending vs. arrivals if we can proactively create solutions today? Take the time to identify opportunities within your company to measure quality, not just quantity.
Get specific with your goals, and stop saying “force for good.”
There are too many travel companies – many of which are doing great work – that have plastered the phrase “transform the industry into a force for good” across their marketing efforts. The problem here is that the word “good” is an open-ended (and therefore empty) word that has different meanings for each individual. Chances are, it means something different to you than it does to your coworker. And if that definition isn’t explicitly clear between colleagues, it certainly means something else for the travelers you’re talking to. Are you talking about combating climate change? Does that mean stopping airlines and cruise ships, or are you investing in renewable fuel sources? Or do you mean supporting locals? But tell me, which local voices are you supporting? Sustainability is a deliberate action that requires intentional language, so latching onto an inspiring catch phrase without explicit information to back it up is problematic.
When you say “a force for good,” you’re using a buzz phrase that’s confusing for travelers. The slogan doesn’t do much more than tell an audience that you have some level of commitment to sustainability (or is it a commitment to social good? Or a focus on the environment? You get the point). Remember that most mainstream audiences are not well-versed in the definition of sustainable tourism – a 2019 Booking.com study revealed that only 50% of travelers feel confident that they understand how to travel sustainably – and therefore, if we actually want to empower travelers to explore in a way that positively impacts local communities and our environment, we have to be abundantly clear in our efforts.
Communicate across departments.
How familiar is your marketing department with your sustainability efforts? Does your operations team have an in-depth understanding of your CSR department’s vision for sustainability? Building a cohesive plan and communicating it well across departments is crucial in executing a CSR plan that creates lasting impact. Remember that an impactful CSR plan doesn’t just take philanthropic initiatives into account, it also touches upon increasing diversity, minimizing waste, providing fair economic opportunities and more – all of which have an impact on different departments in unique ways. Every person on the team should be in the know about the overarching goals you are aiming to achieve so that they can work those goals into actionable plans with achievable metrics within their respective departments.
If you choose to volunteer time or money, do it thoughtfully.
A corporation’s scale and reach gives the company an immense amount of potential to build impactful programs from volunteering time and/or financial resources. But before giving back, make sure that your charitable initiatives are designed for long-term positive impact (and do more than just offering short-term solutions). Ask yourself, is this program designed in a way that only makes us feel (or look) good? What problem are we addressing, and how are we offering solutions? Furthermore, are we looking at the big picture and developing proactive, long-term solutions, or are we simply being reactive and creating temporary fixes? Best practices to follow include:
- Asking those who you are helping what they need support with
- Researching already-existing local nonprofits and opportunities to support, rather than reinventing the wheel
- Matching skilled volunteers with relevant work (Booking.com has a great program where their employees can volunteer their time working on a project of their choice) and ensuring that your free, volunteered efforts do not replace local jobs
Commit to continuous improvement.
Recognize that sustainability is a journey, and it’s a lifelong commitment for your company. The most reputable sustainable tourism companies recognize that they aren’t doing everything perfectly, and they’re willing to admit their faults and places for improvement. The even better companies publicize those ideas. The beauty of sustainability is that the more you improve, the more you recognize other opportunities. Embrace a growth mindset, and continue to iterate on your CSR programs over time.
Communicate with travelers in honest and transparent ways.
The majority of travelers (87%) aspire to explore in a sustainable manner, so crafting your marketing campaigns in a way that showcases sustainability is a way to connect with those travelers. Honest and transparent campaigns are an opportunity to educate travelers about what sustainability is and how your company is making a positive impact on local communities and the environment. Aim to showcase these efforts in a clear and understandable way so that travelers can easily make choices that have a positive impact on our world. For example, G Adventures has a “ripple score” with each of their experiences that shows an evaluation of how often they use local businesses and services to create each tour. The ripple score quickly and clearly showcases how G Adventures supports locals, as well as how they are different from other companies (industry average shows that less than 15% of tourism dollars remains in local communities, while G Adventures’ average is typically much higher, in the 80% and higher range). Developing product features take a unique combination of problem solving from sustainability experts, designers and marketers, so these smart campaigns are a reminder of the significance of communicating sustainability goals across departments.
Hold yourself accountable through certification programs.
Get certified through a GSTC-supported program to ensure that your sustainability initiatives are up to par with baseline global standards for tourism. Certification programs are incredibly valuable in formulating a scalable approach, setting measurable benchmarks, and reporting on those metrics in a fair and honest way. Reputable programs also include specific criteria for supporting local communities and protecting the environment. Do not work with a certification program that does not adhere to GSTC-aligned criteria, as you run the risk of certifying with a company that is not legitimate (for example, certification programs without a third-party audit system are often just greenwashed programs).
Share resources and ideas.
Transforming an industry as vast as tourism is going to take a tremendous amount of hard work and smart minds. Find opportunities to connect and collaborate with other companies, and share resources designed to help the industry progress. We can only build a better world through travel by working together.
The Future for CSR
Imagine if sustainable travel was the mainstream option, and impactful choices were easy — even the default — for travelers to make throughout every step of their journey. With 1.4 billion travelers each year, there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for the industry to empower local communities and protect our environment.
From that vision, the question is posed: what is next? If sustainable travel were incorporated into mainstream tourism, how can we look forward to even further growth?
The answer lies within some of our current problems: overconsumption in a world with limited resources and an ongoing increase in problems arising from the climate crisis. We can work toward combating some of these issues, but we also have to learn to be resilient in the face of disaster. The future of sustainability and corporate social responsibility is rooted within a proactive approach. To envision the ideal future, look no further than the circular economy – an approach that doesn’t just minimize our impact on the world, but actively works to combat it.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation defines the circular economy as an approach that goes “beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model, and aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital.” Incorporating the circular economy into your business model is the best way to reduce your brand’s environmental impact on a local destination.
Jeremy Smith outlined the core principles of the circular economy and its potential for the tourism industry in his book Transforming Travel: Realising the Potential of Sustainable Tourism, and his book is a much deeper analysis of the potential than what I can do with a limited online essay. By implementing systems that go beyond baseline metrics for sustainability, there’s an immense amount of potential to improve livelihoods and protect our environment through an industry as appealing as travel.
A focus on resilience is equally important for the industry. We need to develop solutions that are based on more than just rebuilding what existed before, but also are designed to withstand crises. Hix Island House is a beautiful example of sustainable and resilient architecture that is located in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Its zen-like architecture is not only incredibly Instagrammable, it’s also designed to withstand hurricanes – a set-up that allows the owners to reduce repair time and reopen quickly following natural disasters (which are, unfortunately, inevitable). By developing more resilient solutions, there’s an opportunity to cut down on reopening times after a disaster and bring in crucial tourism dollars sooner to support the local economy.
If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it is that we cannot expect to maintain a status quo. Natural disasters, diseases and political unrest have the ability to cripple the travel industry. How can we design systems that withstand wildfires, survive pandemics and transcend borders? These are the questions we have to ask ourselves as we build the tourism industry of the future. The good news is that ideas and solutions already exist. We have the power to start building a better world through travel – and we can start today.
About the author:
A travel entrepreneur passionate about storytelling and sustainability, Kelley Louise is the founder of Impact Travel Alliance, the world’s largest community for socially and eco-conscious travelers. She also runs Elsewhere Agency, a boutique creative agency for travel companies.
Kelley has built her career through carefully selected opportunities in the United States and abroad, including leadership roles in marketing, entrepreneurial endeavors and social impact projects. She has presented at the United Nations, MMGY’s Vail Summit and Women’s Travel Fest, and has been interviewed by press including the New York Times, Fast Company, National Geographic Travel, Forbes and Mashable. She is the recipient of an award as an Outstanding Woman in Hospitality from Women in Travel & Tourism International (witti) and has been noted as one of the Top 100 Female Founders by Travel Massive.
Kelley has a bachelor’s degree in Media & Culture from The New School. She is based in Brooklyn, New York.