Travelling is more than just visiting new places. It’s about exploring the history, culture and people that define each destination through enriching experiences. It’s also about giving back. With diminishing natural resources and environmental awareness a necessity rather than a choice, a new wave of ‘thoughtful travellers’ are increasingly prioritising philanthropy and ecologically responsible experiences over instant gratification—a drive that’s very close to The Red Carnation Hotel Collection’s heart. Here, we explore what makes a thoughtful traveller and how we can all do our bit to champion ethical tourism.
A stronger sense of responsibility
Gone are the days of hopping on a plane with no thought of its carbon footprint. The dramatic, often harrowing visuals of BBC One’s Blue Planet, watched by millions across the world, as well as myriad social media campaigns and activists’ rallies, have raised awareness of the importance of ethical tourism. Official days dedicated to animals under threat, be it February’s World Whale Day or International Leopard Day in May, as well as the soaring growth of green events such as Earth Day, have engendered a collective sense of responsibility among global citizens.
Confronted by game-changing documentaries such as 2003’s provocative Blackfish, fashion-conscious The True Cost and beautifully shot Planet Earth, thoughtful travellers are increasingly considering the impact of their worldly adventures. Is the ecosystem sustainable? Is the wildlife under threat? Does a large poverty gap exist? What can I do to give back? These are all questions posed by the clued-up traveller. “There’s greater concern, in general, for living a more sustainable and thoughtful lifestyle, whether that’s at home, at work, or when travelling. We’re more aware of our personal impact than ever before and, because of that, consumers are looking to make more responsible choices across the spectrum,” says Shannon Guihan, Program Director at our TTC sister company The TreadRight Foundation, a charity dedicated to promoting responsible tourism.
Clued-up world wanderers
Tech-savvy travellers scrutinise the hotels and tour operators they support on their worldly adventures. A little internet research before booking outs those establishments with a reputation for exploiting local communities or ransacking the environment. Local service providers that are championing ecological causes, such as doing away with plastic straws and working with wildlife charities to protect the ecosystem, are the ones to patronise. The Red Carnation Hotel Collection’s efforts to contribute are continuous. As well as supporting local communities and charities, it has introduced biodegradable coffee cups across all of its hotels, and any lost property that has been unclaimed for six months is donated to charity shops. Furthermore, it is dedicated to completely eliminating single-use plastics. It takes at least 450 years for one plastic water bottle to biodegrade. Naturally, the thoughtful traveller carries a reusable bottle and tops up on the go, wherever they are in the world.
Responsible travellers show great respect for the landscapes and historic sites they visit, too. Where possible, scoop up non-biodegradable litter, which is not only an eyesore, but could also be ingested by wild animals. Eco-conscious tourism doesn’t only apply beyond the grounds of the hotel. It’s about being mindful of waste and water usage closer to home, too. “If guests want their bed linen and towels changed every day of their stay, then we do this with pleasure. However, for those concerned about the resources that are wasted through unnecessary laundering, they can choose when they want these items changed. The cost savings made by reducing the amount of linen sent out for laundering is donated to our chosen charities,” says Johnathan Raggett, Managing Director of Red Carnation Hotels.
Giving back while away
Modern holidaymakers favour authentic experiences that carry a much deeper meaning than merely ticking off the blockbuster sights. Increasing value is placed on meaningful exchanges that benefit both the visitor, the local community and the regional ecosystem. Visitors to Florida, for example, are invited to join in local beach clean-ups and attend engaging marine conservation events to ‘give back’ while on holiday.
The Chesterfield Palm Beach supports the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a not-for-profit facility that protects sea turtles. Every spring, thousands gather on Juno Beach, half an hour from the hotel, for TurtleFest. The lively event is well-attended by locals and marks the start of sea turtle nesting season in the Palm Beaches between March and November. It’s a lively, family-friendly immersion in Floridan culture. Think delicious BBQ stands and homemade craft stalls and live music by local bands, in addition to fascinating demonstrations by marine experts.
Taking a lesson from the centre, ecologically orientated beach-goers are reminded to knock down sandcastles and fill in holes after a day enjoying the Palm Beaches’ pristine shores. Piles of sand can deter female turtles from nesting, while holes trap hatchlings heading to the ocean. Sourcing sustainably caught seafood is also a priority for thoughtful travellers to Florida. Marlin, snapper, mahi mahi and stone crab are all great choices, reeled in locally and prepared to perfection at The Leopard Lounge & Restaurant.
Not only does the thoughtful traveller respect the environments they pass through, they are conscious of their own wellbeing while away from home, too. In recent years, the demand for wellness experiences while abroad has skyrocketed. This includes joining local yoga classes or running clubs, and opting for green modes of transport such as cycling to boost the heart rate, while also limiting carbon emissions. Exploring on foot similarly increases the step count and offers a rare opportunity to notice the finer details at a slower pace.
When it comes to mealtimes, the thoughtful traveller considers the provenance of their food as well as its health properties. Shopping locally produced goods from small artisans not only helps keep time-worn traditions alive, but also ensures that travellers can tuck into the finest quality produce an area has to offer. From traditional pâtisseries in Geneva to artisanal cheesemakers in Ireland, what better way to experience a destination than through its cuisine? Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Spa blends produce picked fresh from its own kitchen garden with ingredients from local suppliers in its award-winning restaurant. Time your stay at The Montague on the Gardens correctly and cocktails muddled with homegrown mulberries are the order of the day.
Meeting local communities
The reasons we travel have dramatically shifted gears over the past few decades. The thoughtful traveller receives great fulfilment from enrichment projects while abroad, be it learning words and phrases in a different language or gaining precious insights into another culture. Engaging with local communities means meeting cheery school children in remote regions or taking a walk around a new city with an in-the-know local guide pointing out the lesser-known treasures. Today’s travellers hanker after the taste of authentic indigenous cuisines, and are keen to discover how local produce is cultivated. Curious foodies can tour dairy farms, tea plantations and township shebeens while on holiday for a more engaged exploration of local traditions.
Set in the heart of South Africa’s striking Cederberg Mountains, guests at Bushmans Kloof are invited to explore the area’s wealth of ancient rock art. The hotel is the proud custodian of more than 130 rock art sites, painted by the indigenous San people more than 10,000 years ago. These preservation efforts have established the rock art’s National Heritage status. Elsewhere in South Africa, The Red Carnation Hotel Collection works with Pack for a Purpose. Recognising that visitors from overseas can benefit the communities they visit by setting aside a small section of their luggage for supplies such as toothbrushes, calculators, sports equipment, stationery, and more, the organisation passes on these precious gifts to those in need.
Red Carnation Hotels is dedicated to conserving important heritage sites, too. Ashford Castle received a two-year facelift in 2015, elevating the run-down fortress to its original regal Irish glory. The 800-year-old relic is a remarkable feat of historic architecture, and now stands as an impressive vestige of the country’s history, from the 13th century to the Victorian era. Stay here and feast on sophisticated menus created using local produce by Executive Chef Philippe Farineau in the castle’s George V Dining Room.
The Milestone Hotel & Residences, on the cusp of London’s celebrated Hyde Park, is another of our beautifully restored historic properties. Formerly three grand English townhouses and a small chapel, the hotel now holds a charming oratory with a license for weddings and a deluxe portfolio of guest rooms, suites and long-stay residences.
The desire for sustainable luxury
The thoughtful traveller seeks a trip with trustworthy providers who are doing their bit for sustainability. Red Carnation Hotels proudly partners with the TreadRight Foundation to safeguard the environments and communities that are touched by tourism, ensuring that these remain exactly as they are for generations to come. Celebrating its 10th birthday this year, TreadRight’s Shannon Guihan reflects on what the foundation has achieved so far: “We’re incredibly proud of the 50-plus projects we’ve supported to date. We have inspiring partners around the globe who have helped us be a part of many crucial initiatives for people, wildlife and the planet. We’re especially proud of the work we’ve done hand-in-hand with our supporting partners at The Travel Corporation (TTC). From the introduction and implementation of our TreadRight Animal Welfare Policy to help ensure animal health and safety across all TTC trips, to the amazing commitment to remove all avoidable single-use plastics across all TTC operations by 2022.”
To mark Earth Month in April, TTC announced that single-use plastic water bottles are longer available on any of TTC brands’ trips, beginning in North America and Europe. “Our mission is to make travel matter, so we are constantly and consistently evaluating our operations and adapting wherever possible as more sustainable technologies become available,” Shannon says.
A family-run brand with a strong commitment to sustainability, The Red Carnation Hotel Collection invests in a broad spectrum of green initiatives and fiercely supports charities including Great Ormond Street Hospital and Starlight Children’s Foundation.
Across the globe, initiatives supported by Red Carnation Hotels have transformed the lives of many. Our Belu water aid scheme has provided thousands living in developing countries with access to safe water, as has working with Just a Drop and TreadRight to support remote villages in north-west Cambodia.
Every one of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection’s hotels is committed to practising suitability, supporting local communities and protecting the environment.