responsibletravel.com Interview with Justin Francis

responsibletravel.com was co-founded by Justin Francis and Harold Goodwin, and is backed by private investors including Anita and Gordon Roddick of The Body Shop. 

Justin Francis co-founded responsibletravel.com after working with J.Walter Thompson and The Body Shop. He is an associate at The International Centre for Responsible Tourism, and writes and broadcasts on responsible tourism.


1. What types of destinations do you offer?

We market holidays in over 100 countries ranging from B&B’s on organic farms in Scotland, to walking in Tuscany, beach resorts in the Bahamas, swimming with Humpback whales in Fiji and much more. We have nearly 100 tour operator and accommodation provider suppliers including big brand names and grass roots communities in the rainforest.


2. How does responsibletravel.com differ from other travel specialists?

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All the holidays on the site have been screened to ensure that they benefit local communities and minimize any negative social and environmental impacts.  Site visitors can review full holiday details and make booking enquiries through the site.  They can also read suppliers responsible tourism policies and independently published tourist’s feedback on the holidays.

3. Do most of the holidays on offer already have set itineraries, or can you design your own trip?

We have many holidays with set itineraries.  We also have holidays that can be tailor-made to individual clients needs.  Finally we have eco-lodges, small hotels, B&B’s, beach resorts, backpacker accommodation and large hotels that clients can book as part of creating their own trip. 

 

4. What is eMagazine and how successful has it been?

In the past year over 10,000 traveller’s have registered for The Responsible Traveller eMagazine, which is a monthly HTML email newsletter of special offers and last minute availability holidays.  We see a significant uplift in traffic and bookings after the dispatch of each issue. 


5. You have a section devoted to Volunteer holidays, how do you put this together? Is there a specific organization you are working with?

The Volunteering section of the site is doing exceptionally well, with people of all types - professionals, young people, older people - looking to take some time out to put something back and enjoy a unique experience.  We market holidays from outstanding organizations including Biosphere expeditions, Coral Cay Conservation, BTCV, Global Vision International, The Orangutan Foundation and Venture Co.

 

6. What has been your most popular destination?

Traveller’s are increasingly interested in how and why they travel rather than just where they travel.  One of the problems with tourism is that we continually seek to discover new destinations, before exploiting and spoiling them, and then moving onto (and wrecking) the next unspoiled paradise.

A new kind of travel is in vogue, people are looking for more authentic holiday experiences that also benefit local people and minimize negative social and environmental impacts.

In terms of destinations walking holidays in Europe and rural UK accommodation remain very popular.  Upcoming destinations include China, Cambodia and Laos. 

 

7. What criteria do you have in mind when creating the holiday, for example: destination, accommodation, and activities?

The first thing that we are looking for is for more original, real and authentic holidays that provide travelers with a unique experiences as well as a break.  Some of the holidays on the site can be found nowhere else.  However, that is not enough.  All the holidays must also meet our criteria for responsible travel. 

 

8. Where does most of the content on responsibletravel.com come from?

We have nearly 100 tour operator and accommodation suppliers including everything from big brand names to grass roots communities in the rainforest.  We are excited about the diversity of suppliers we have, and are particularly proud of the community based tourism projects that benefit the poor in developing countries. 

 

9. What advertising or media are you using to make people aware of the site?

We run promotions with retailers including The Body Shop, and have on-line partnerships with lastminute.com and other like-minded sites.  In the autumn we will be running advertising in travel magazines cooperatively funded by ourselves, and our suppliers.  In January we are creating an area dedicated to Responsible Travel at the Daily Telegraph Destinations Travel Show.  We have been covered in all the broadsheets, BBC1, BBC2 and CNN in recent weeks. 


10. Responsibletravel.com donates 1 pound for every trip booked. Which charities does this include?

For every booking made through the site we make a £1 donation to Friends of Conservation who are committed to working with local peoples to develop and promote a balance between their needs and those of the wildlife with which they share their natural habitat and ecosystems.


11. What has been your most memorable travel experience?

Well that’s a tough one!  Last month I spent some time with the Masai tribe during the wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara.  One evening we sat watching the sunset over the Serengeti while listening to literally millions of wildebeest grunting in the night and talking about Masai politics & women!!

 

 


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