Planning a getaway? Make sure your vacation is a win for the environment. © CHRIS GASH/WWF-US Planning a getaway? Consider destinations, hotels, and tour operators that meet the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) standards. By doing so, you can minimize your environmental impact and send a powerful message to the travel industry about […]
Jeju Special Self-Governing Province has joined the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) as a Destination Member. As the largest volcanic island in Korea, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province is one of Koreans’ popular destinations due to its unique and beautiful nature and culture, and is most commonly known to Koreans as the best honeymoon destination in […]
When you speak to Toni Brennan, CEO of multi-award-winning tour company Fun Over Fifty, a few things strike you about her simultaneously: her dedication to excellence, her undeniable commitment to sustainable tourism and her humour.
“You’ve called me at a good time,” she said during a recent phone call, the remnants of laughter in her voice. “I’ve just been on the phone with one of our suppliers – we work with over 600 suppliers, you know – and we were all just in fits of laughter about something she thought I said.”
For someone who heads up one of Australia’s most successful touring companies – Fun Over Fifty was recently featured in the Australian Financial Review as a leading sustainable tour operator, has been announced as a finalist in this year’s Banksia Awards and won silver at this month’s Queensland Tourism Awards – Toni is incredibly down to earth.
It’s a value she’s knitted into the fabric of her company’s success, which started from humble beginnings at a sewing table in the laundry back in 2002. Now leading the charge for a repertoire of 125 ECO certified tours (the most, by far, of any ECO certified tour operator in Australia), Toni still works closely with her staff at all levels and makes time to catch up with Fun Over Fifty’s guests, ensuring that everyone feels like family and that fun is kept front and centre.
Whilst Fun Over Fifty’s website jokes that those lacking a sense of humour need not sign up to take part in their tours, it’s not all fun and games for this company, either. When it comes to sustainable tourism, Toni and her team are seriously dedicated.
With a vision to be recognised as the best quality and most sustainable tour operator in Australia, Toni says the company recognises the need to break stereotypes. Transporting guests in coaches across the country (and a few select international destinations), Toni appreciates the need to show people that business can be done differently: that tour operators can be accountable and show they care.
“It’s a team effort,” she explains, when asked who’s behind the company’s constant eco innovations.
“We have it ingrained in the company vision from [the] CEO, office and on-road crew to consistently look for ideas to innovate, protect and contribute. We strive to create new industry first policies and not just tick the box of donating to big organisations. Our initiatives directly support the regions we visit and [we] strategically plan our offsets from office operations to on road emissions.”
Fun Over Fifty’s sustainability policies and programs are diverse. They include the Green Guest Policy (GGP) – which gives guests the option to say no to room servicing in order to reduce their impact, the Being Seen Being Green (BSBG) initiative – allowing guests to take part in practical measures such as tree planting and dune rejuvenation, ECO, Climate Action and Respecting our Culture (ROC) certification through Ecotourism Australia and a World Environment Day Tree Planting Challenge.
So how do Fun Over Fifty’s guests respond to these initiatives? There is much said today about millennials leading the charge of more conscious and responsible consumption patterns, but not a lot about the over fifties market.
“Our Being Seen Being Green on tour tree planting uptake is so popular that we have to limit participation!” says Toni. The uptake for the company’s Green Guest Policy, which gives guests financial incentives to forfeit room servicing, is also increasing every year.
For those who want an immersive ‘eco’ experience, Fun Over Fifty even offers Helping Hand Holidays and Green Getaways tour programs, which are 100% designed with a focus on ecotourism and community projects and causes.
“Again, the uptake on these tours is increasing annually and feedback is extremely positive. The guests’ emotions and feeling of directly ‘giving back’ [are] incredibly powerful.”
So, what advice would Toni give to other newly certified tourism businesses and operators?
“It’s very rewarding to operate a tour company knowing you are not negatively impacting the environment and that you can create and share wealth in regional areas buying local and hiring local guides, etc. You can be profitable and give back.”
Now that’s something that everyone can have a joyful laugh about.
[Photos: Fun Over Fifty]
“If you want to be an eco-friendly traveller, you’re going to have to work for it. This collection of tips, resources and ideas will help you reduce your environmental footprint wherever you travel” “To change the way you look at travel, try to seek out designations such as the Green Destination Standard, which sets environmental, […]
Sustainable travelling is finding effective ways to be a tourist, without harming the natural surroundings and resources of the place you visit. The emphasis is on reducing our so called ‘footprint’, in this context defined as our personal negative effect on the places we visit. So defined, it also involves considering the impact of tourism […]
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MEDIA RELEASE: Overtourism and a low carbon future high on agenda for new Ecotourism Australia / University of Queensland PhD candidates
After an extensive and competitive process which saw The University of Queensland (UQ) receive 42 applications from around the world, three PhD candidates have now been awarded scholarships to begin research into some of the most pressing issues facing Australia’s ecotourism industry.
The topics, decided on jointly by Ecotourism Australia and The University of Queensland, include overtourism, low carbon futures and social licence.
Ecotourism Australia CEO Rod Hillman says that these topics align closely with needs that are high on the agenda for many Ecotourism Australia members.
“These three topics centre around issues of community participation, protecting and conserving Australia’s special places and taking a stronger stance on climate action – which all require an evidence-based approach, said Mr Hillman.
“Thanks to our partnership with The University of Queensland, we can now take real strides in learning about how we can best address these issues and deliver measurable outcomes for communities and Ecotourism Australia’s members.”
Dr Sally Driml, a tourism expert from the UQ Business School who coordinated the application process for the scholarships, said that the University was overwhelmed with the number of high-quality applications.
“It is encouraging to know that many emerging researchers wish to contribute to a better understanding of ecotourism and its role in a sustainable future for tourism,” said Dr Driml.
“We are confident that the students will produce some very useful research with impact for the industry.”
The students were selected based on their academic performance and experience in the ecotourism industry and will begin their research in early 2020. A fourth scholarship will be finalised in the new year.
The scholarships are funded by the University of Queensland under a Memorandum of Understanding between UQ and Ecotourism Australia which will see both parties contribute expertise. All the candidates will be enrolled in the UQ Business School.
For questions and comments, please contact: Rod Hillman – CEO 0427 279 414
Ecotourism Australia signed a partnership agreement with The University of Queensland in November 2018 after an already long-held, positive working relationship between the two organisations. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/2n7l3X7.
[Header image from left to right: Mrs Csilla Demeter (candidate), Dr Sally Driml (advisor), Ms Sonya Underdahl (candidate), Dr Noreen Breakey (advisor), Professor Brent Ritchie (advisor).]
The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) released a new tourism industry study, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics 2019. The report highlights growing consumer demand for sustainable travel experiences and analyzes the role businesses and destinations play in mainstreaming responsible tourism. The report contends that while consumer demand for responsible tourism continues to […]
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