Sustainable Travel + Eco-Tourism with Riva Bacquet, COO of SA Expeditions (B Corp Travel Agency)

Sustainable Travel + Eco-Tourism with Riva Bacquet, COO of SA Expeditions (B Corp Travel Agency)

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hello fellow do-gooders and friends i'm your host karina blizzy an activist and cause marketer who's passionate about social impact and sustainability today we're going to talk about wanderlust and travel as i invite you to meet a dear friend and member of my mba cohort at santa clara university riva beckett before i introduce reba i'd like to invite you to visit our website caremorebebetter.com you can sign up for our newsletter to be the first to gain access to new episodes and easily browse past content to find the episodes that matter most to you you'll find full transcripts suggestions for actions you can take to make a difference and you can even join our community and make a donation right on the site after a year of travel lockdown due to covid we're delighted to indulge our desire to travel reeva baquet envisions a world where all businesses act as a positive force balancing profit with purpose essay expeditions is a purpose-led travel company dedicated to tailor-made travel one that profoundly engages you with the people and places that you're visiting to create genuinely life-changing experiences in line with their core values they earn certification as a b corp during this pandemic so riva welcome to the show thank you so much for having me i'd like you to tell us about your background how did you get into travel i was really lucky to have parents that love to travel so they instilled a deep desire and passion for travel very young in me so i traveled to europe as a teenager and actually worked since i was age 13 or to save up money to travel internationally myself right after high school so it's just been a big part of my life even though i never assumed or realized i'd eventually work in the industry so what's unique about how this company in particular does travel well we really wanted to provide a type of travel that is personal and really unique to each individual and a sort of transformative type of travel so it's not your run-of-the-mill standard group trips that anybody can take these are trips that are designed special for you and so that means that they are usually with a private guide and designed just for your party we really believe that the business of travel and exploration should act as an economic engine for good so driving awareness and resource protection and sustainable development for places and communities around the world well that's really great i mean you spoke about becoming b corp certified in the midst of the pandemic so why don't you talk about that choice and how you're having an impact within the travel world so we had been interested in b corp ever since we heard about it a b corp is basically a business that's committed to protecting the broad interests of all beneficiaries for a more equitable economy so they're rounding profit with purpose and this really resonated with us when we learned of it we were interested right away to learn more and see how we might be able to get the certification and this was before the pandemic and so when the pandemic hit we did have a moment where we thought to ourselves is this something that we should continue even during these challenging times and we decided to go for it because these times shouldn't change us or change our values so we continue to work toward it and we're able to achieve it during the pandemic in my earlier episode i believe it was episode seven with eliza erskine we talked a lot about what it means to be b corp and how a company really has to go through several steps in order to get there often has to work with somebody who's somewhat of a specialist that helps them rate themselves going in so they have a better idea of how they'll perform on the checklist and the types of changes they'll need to make as a business so did you find that that was a really arduous path or were you already doing most of the work we went into it a bit naive so we they have a b corp assessment survey it's quite long but you could take it yourself before to kind of see where you fall and then they go through a long audit with you to check the evidence essentially and make sure that you're you're actually following through with the things that you're claiming and so we didn't get any outside help it but there were some things that we shifted during the process we worked on it for i think nearly two years in the end and there was a lot of places where we saw opportunity to to grow in the future which was exciting to see but there was a lot of things that we already had in place as well so it was about gathering the evidence which was a process in itself to be able to demonstrate where we were having that impact but it was really rewarding to see that we were already being able to manifest a lot of our values into our business decisions well that's so cool now i would just love for our audience to be able to get a more granular view on this so is there one thing that you had to change or just something that really stood out as you were going through the process of becoming b corp certified there were some interesting aspects where it was hard to find alignment i mean b corp does this incredible job of creating an assessment that is applicable to a wide range of industries which is hard to do and they they assess you along different themes and and and you usually fall into one particular theme where you really are able to get them the majority of your points from so we started off on the wrong theme at first and then realized we had to shift gears and also uh we're a remote company and there was a lot in there about how you give back locally and so that was an interesting complexity that we see ourselves as a remote company and more and more companies out there are becoming remote and so that question of how you impact your local society or local economy gets a lot more interesting so working around that and finding ways where we could make sure we were honoring the essence of that question but without actually having a necessarily you know physical space of our own so you riva and city x might work at a local shelter during the holiday season to give food and resources and somebody across the globe might be doing the same thing in their area yes so we looked at it from a business perspective like where we do the most business both where our team is sort of located as well as where our business occurs most to make sure that we were giving back locally in that regard and then we also one of the things that we initiated during the process was a charity matching program as well as we implemented the option where you could take time off unlimited time off for um for volunteer work that doesn't count as any vacation time so in those ways you could be making a difference in ways that were important to you and also in your local area okay can i come work for you i love the concept of being able to have unlimited time off to work and furthering a charity that is very generous so as we look at re-entering this travel sphere and many people starting to book vacations around the globe what should they be considering and keeping in mind when they make their travel choices if you could speak to that one of the most important concerns around travel separate from the pandemic in itself is just the carbon emissions that it includes so international flights are a big factor in carbon emissions around the world so one simple thing that they can do is offset those emissions and travel with companies that are carbon neutral and so and people don't realize that it's actually quite affordable so you can offset an international round-trip flight for you know as little as 50 and it makes a big difference there's lots of other things that people can do like going to destinations aren't feeding into issues of over tourism so being thoughtful about where they travel to and how some places there's so many places to see around the world and there's no reason that we all have to funnel into these very small specific destinations that have had the most you know media coverage so avoiding things like that and buying locally minimizing their waste those all those things can have a big impact and of course choosing their business that the businesses that they um travel with making sure that their b corp certified will ensure that they are companies that are valuing a lot more than just of the business well thank you for that perspective i think as far as our consumer audience many might not have even really thought about the fact that their air travel really does have a significant impact in so far as carbon emissions are concerned if we want to think back what was it greta thurnberg decided to sail on the power of wind all the way to some media event because she wanted to shine some light on that the fact that we um really do have quite a bit of carbon emissions even to travel and so walking the walk and talking the talk for her meant sailing so i think that's really interesting that people can buy those carbon offsets as well just for their travel one thing that i have been an advocate for is really using the rental ability to bring things like toys and strollers and things like that when you come to another country because often i've even heard people in my circle say oh well just go to costco and buy that when you get there and leave it behind and i'm like well wait a minute like what happens then after like now you've just bought this disposable thing in your mind that you're just going to leave behind after what happens to that so for instance when i go to hawaii with the family especially now that we have kids and we don't want to travel with all this extra stuff we will coordinate with a local rental agency that literally gives the crib the stroller the umbrella the toys beach toys indoor toys whatever and they'll have it literally inside the hotel room that i'm coming to i'm like wow that is so ingenious and it didn't cost like more than i think 40 for a week or something simple like that so i wonder if those are the types of services you're also advocating for do you plan for things like that for families yes absolutely we do in fact in south america where many of our trips are located um these types of rental businesses aren't quite as available it would be a great business prospect for anybody that wanted to bring it down to the area but it's it's not as prevalent yet and so but we have done things like even get those things prepared for our travelers on special requests by borrowing them from people we know in the area or people within our team to make it more easy and then if you do have if you are making a purchase like that just for the trip we can certainly find a home for it that will go to someone in need so there's ways to work around creating this additional waste and and make sure that anything that we do have is is getting reused as best possible so well i love that i think it is really thinking full circle when it comes to our travel what is our footprint what does it look like are we just creating a bunch of waste as we go into this space and then leaving it behind to end up on the beaches i mean how do we have a lesser impact when we go and enjoy the world and so i've just always been an advocate of packing light but thoughtfully and when it comes to something like beach gear for the kiddos it's often best to just see if you can rent some stuff because that will just make the in a much easier prospect overall than lugging all of it and trying to fit things into suitcases certainly and we we don't want to stop travel i mean there's so many benefits to traveling around the world and that the the globe is becoming more global and more accessible to people the fact that we are able to have these exchanges that we that we couldn't before helps us understand each other better and and have a more collaborative and cooperative world and so how can we continue this this travel this leisure travel that's become so much more accessible and and available to so many more people around the world but do it in a way that is sustainable essentially so like i said going to more places around the world so we avoid over-tourism issues engaging with communities in a thoughtful respectful way when we're when we're abroad and really yes minimizing the waste so can you talk to me about some of the travel destinations that you have perhaps spearheaded certainly so we started as a south america travel company and have broadened over time to include all of the americas from pull the poll and we will be going internationally as well outside of the americas to include other destinations in the near future but where we've done a lot of work is actually in the area where we were bored which was in peru many of us that are involved in the company have lived in peru before or or lived there now and as a result we're deeply connected to the the people the culture the society both in peru and and in the wider region and so back in 2017 the co one of our co-founders and nick nicholas sanziano actually hiked for four months across this network of trails called the great inca trail or the kapac nyan and he hiked from ecuador to cusco peru region with the goal of raising awareness around these this network of inca trails many people when they think of the inca trail they think of the four day traditional in the trail that ends at machu picchu and they don't realize that that is just one small segment of a large network of trails that are just as important and so by hiking the trail and raising awareness and then we from there we went and created a few trips that were along other sections of the trail to allow our own customers to come and experience it themselves and we worked with the local communities in those areas to make sure that it was done in a thoughtful way that they were included and engaged and to participate in in creating sustainable business and for for in travel for their area and so if you go to our website you can see some of those itineraries and the idea is about helping to mitigate the over tourism that's that is starting to occur in machu picchu and and educate people about other beautiful trekking opportunities around the region so that's one big project that we that we spend a lot of time on continue to advocate for we also participate in reforestation projects in the andes so to help protect local areas that are that are struggling by the introduction of foreign trees and deforestation so when you go to certain areas in the andes we are planting a tree for every person that visits so there's different things that we have that we're involved with in the area like that to to help educate and and hopefully give back well that's really great so i'm wondering if you could dig a little bit deeper and tell us what the problem of over tourism really is and what you're seeing as for instance at machu picchu well if you went to machu picchu like 15 years ago it would have been quite unregulated relative to now where you could walk anywhere within the ruins and and and now there there are specific trails that you must follow as as a guest and go in and out along those trails within within the central area of course in the in the broader site there's it's there's still areas that you can walk freely around but it's just it indicates how things have shifted that that regulation is required and that's really important of course to help protect it but it's it's it's representative of the fact that there's so much more demand and you know there's there's questions around the the economic growth of the area and what is appropriate and what is disruptive when you have a lot of tourists and international travelers coming into towns and communities around the area and changing and and oftentimes it's for the better they can bring economic abundance to an area but it can also be damaging so you just have to be thoughtful about that and and i think it it's not gotten to a it's it's debatable what stage we're at in in over tourism in the area but i think it's an important theme that we have to be conscious of around the world i mean you have these same conversations around all the crews the cruise stops where these massive cruise ships get off in the caribbean or in you know italy and things like that so how can we continue to promote travel in a way that doesn't contribute to these negative side effects whether it's disrupting the local ecology the communities in it in a negative way beyond then bringing that that economic growth to an area and i think also the safety of the travelers right that's something that we sometimes forget about for instance every year people at half dome in yosemite somebody falls off they don't pay attention to that sign that says don't step beyond this point and they want to look over the edge and something happens so just putting mindful measures in place to protect people and also protect the environment i'm reminded of a car trip i took a few years back with my husband when i was pregnant with my first child we decided to go to yellowstone and we brought our dog and we had this camper we just had the most fun but we didn't realize when we got to yellowstone our dog would not be allowed on any of the trails oh interesting so we had to leave her in the camper with the air conditioning going while we went on our mini hikes to go look at a lot of these outcroppings and such because they simply weren't allowed because they're protecting the environment and i get that too it's um also probably protecting us because bears and other animals and who knows how a dog will react and if that might provoke a grizzly right that's kind of the last thing he would sure um so i think again it's just trying to keep a logical headset on as you're approaching your travel journeys so what's your favorite place to visit i'm sure you've been to many my favorite place is probably the galapagos islands another very highly regulated place actually that spends a lot of time and effort of course on these topics of sustainability and and protection of of the local environment but it is just a magical place to visit so you could go either by a small cruise boat there are usually about 16 people on these boutique cruises that take gear on the island or you can do a stay on a hotel and take kind of day trips out to different but it's just an incredible place to visit these gorgeous white sand beaches and the animals and even the island scenery that has beautiful volcanoes that you could hike to the top of these gorgeous views but it's just stunning to see these amazing places but also have the interaction with the wildlife you can go snorkeling with sea turtles and fish and sharks and penguins it's just an incredible place to visit if you enjoy nature and wildlife and given that you've lived in peru for some time and that so much your business is focused there is there a favorite underrated spot that you would recommend people look at most people go to peru for machu picchu of course but i would say that it combines very nicely with the galapagos islands or in peru we have incredible amazon to visit so you can go up to the amazon river to quitos and do a river cruise or you can stay closer to the cusco region and go to a land-based lodge and that takes you out on daily visits out to tributaries to the amazon river and again incredible wildlife you get to see cayman and monkeys and pink river dolphins if you're up on the amazon river and take some incredible hikes through the canopy as well as the the amazon floor so it's an incredible place to visit and quite a different scenery compared to the archaeological sites around cusco machu picchu so that's what i would i would most recommend well it sounds beautiful i know that these trips are curated by your company so language what is the impact how do people connect with the culture and how important is knowing spanish as for instance you don't need to know spanish because what we do is we connect you uh with local guides in the area expert guides they're the ones that are taking you through this journey actually on the ground so they are probably the most important aspect of your trip and they will accompany you it's not a it's not it's not that they're with you every single step of the way we like to include a good bit of independent time but they are there for you each day however much you feel is necessary and that's how what that that discussion occurs in the trip planning um portion but they will take you on excursions daily to introduce you to people and places along the way to help make it a really unique and and personal experience tailored to your own interests and so they are your your friend your advocate while you're traveling through to make sure that it's seamless and we're also there for you as a wider team of course but the the guides are such an integral part of your experience and we have some incredible guides that we work with and what's something that's kind of unique about us is that we even though global travel is is involves people around the world the coordination of all of us to make sure that your trip is seamless and so you might wonder how we pull that off with ourselves being so dispersed around the world and one of the ways that we help do that is we have a summit each year where we bring our team together and that includes many of our our guides and so we as a team are really integrated and know each other very well so that we can coordinate smoothly regardless of where you are in the world we're able to coordinate to make sure that your your trip goes perfectly so that means you know you might be planning the trip with somebody that's located in texas and and then hiking through patagonia with somebody on the other side of the americas right but they actually know each other quite well and have gone salsa dancing together in the galapagos let's say the year before so that coordination i think is really key and also a very sweet side of engaging with our business because you can really see the heart and passion that we have as a company and spread throughout the team wow well i mean i want to ask again i mean how does one join your team that are talking about being a multinational organization if somebody has like this fire in their belly for travel and they also desire to do a lot of the work that you're talking about maybe they speak multiple languages including let's say german english and spanish okay that's somebody that would be of interest to you working with your team yes certainly i mean we have a careers page on our website so anybody that is interested can certainly contact us and we'd love to to chat we are a growing company we're still quite young and quite small in the scheme of things especially considering our our long-term goals so we have a lot of growth ahead and would love to partner with incredible professionals around the world to help us achieve those goals that's cool so we've talked a bit about ecotourism and you are b corp certified so what's next in this eco-tourist perspective do you see some other trend coming up that's a good question i don't know that there's a new trend coming up but there's certainly a lot more focus i think by the average traveler this sort of more conscious travel especially coming out of the pandemic it's been a really hard year we've all had to kind of take stock of our lives in a big way and think about who we are and who we want to be i think it's it's been a year of introspection and so when we get back out there in the world now hopefully coming more and more out of the pandemic it depends where we are in the world but as we ease out of it there's a question of okay how do i reengage with the world in a way that i that represents who i want to be and makes a positive impact and so of course we've been stuck in our homes we want to get out there and travel that's a huge one we we want to get out and explore and interact and engage and you know be part of a larger community and so more and more people i think are thinking about how they can do that effectively in a way that that's in line with their values and i think where they spend their their dollars to help to help travel or whether it's shopping whatever it is is is a big way that they can impact the world i'd like to know if you have a particular idea what it might cost for a family of four including myself and a three-year-old and a six-year-old to go on a trip like this to the galapagos islands from california sure well it really depends on the specifics because the trips are done in private they're going to vary a lot based on your group size and what you include but for example a trip to the galapagos for a family of four again it's going to vary a lot i would say that you could expect maybe three to four thousand dollars per person so it depends of course how long you're staying and what type of cruise you're including things like that but that might be a good place to start of course i need to start building that budget and then take her up here and maybe wait for the three-year-old to be a little bit older than more engaged and a little bit less of a tax to bring everywhere with me yeah i mean i have young kids as well so i think more and more about family travel these days and the galapagos is a wonderful place to go with a child so we could definitely help to make sure you get the most out of it and of course there's plenty of other places of the americas to enjoy traveling with young kids thank you for the tips i'm going to think about it and see what i can put together maybe a year or more out my present life with children i'm always trying to plan a trip that has no more than one flight so i might have a car drive on each side that could be an hour or two but the reality of trying to switch planes with a three-year-old is just not incredibly fun and i'm sure you know what i'm talking about there i do yeah you'd have to look at where your airport flies directly to around the americas but i'm certain there's plenty of options so i can make it work yeah so you mentioned that you have goals in sight for the business what is your next goal post we would like to open up more destinations around the world and with the goal of bringing our type of travel to more people there are people out there that like to visit you know every country in south america or every country in for every state in north america in their travels but there are others out there that want to go to other regions and and we want to be able to take them there so that's our next goal we're going to be opening up uh travel in the middle east in southeast asia as well as in south africa so we're excited to do that and and and bring our type of travel to more regions around the world fantastic so when we add egypt maybe i'll go with you absolutely i'd love that okay so part of the purpose of this show in particular is to inspire people to act and so sometimes that comes from really unlikely places and even just the personal stories of our guests so i'd like to know if you could point your finger to one thing that you're particularly proud of from your personal or professional life what would it be i hate to return to the same topic again but the first thing that comes to mind is the b corp certification on the professional side this was huge for us because it we were able to recognize what we've accomplished and also help inspire us to stay a path going forward and see other ways that we can continue to embody these values that maybe we didn't think about or that sound really difficult but are hopefully something that we'll keep working towards so this side of getting the b corp certification was was really what was you know the most rewarding for for us as a company in our 11 years of business so far because it's it's a really important aspect of the business we we consider ourselves a purpose-driven company so seeing how we can continue to to embody that going forward is going to be is going to be key well i can just see a bright future for you and i look forward to hearing about all the destinations to come as you continue building this eco-conscious travel company so essay expeditions from well south america and beyond now so is there a company name change in sight we will see it started with essay and south america and we've grown much beyond that so it's definitely something that we're thinking about going forward well thank you reba thank you so much for coming on today this has been my sincere pleasure thank you so much it's been wonderful being here appreciate it now audience i'd like to invite you to act it doesn't have to be huge it could be as simple as sharing this podcast with other people that love to travel so that they can make more conscious choices about the travel that they embark upon to find suggestions you can always visit our action page on caremorebebetter.com there you'll find causes and companies that we encourage you to support including essay expeditions and i invite you all to join the conversation and be a part of this community you can follow us on social spaces at caremorebebetter or you can just send us an email to hello at caremorebebetter.com

i want to hear from you thank you listeners now and always for being a part of this pod and this community because together we really can do so much more we can care more and we can be better thank you

2021-08-21 20:42

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