Prince Harry’s not-for-profit Travelyst, is all about working collaboratively with verticals in the travel sector, to galvanise the industry to collect and share sustainability data on a global scale, and make this information part of the customer experience during booking. Travelyst’s chairman, Darrell Wade, shares more about the organisation and how its efforts will benefit the travel ecosystem
In the last five years, what have you seen happen in the sustainability space? Are there things happening that give you hope that it is progressing?
I’ve always been an optimistic person, so I’ve always had hope. But up until a few years ago, I started to become slightly disappointed, because when I went to conferences, there will always be a speaker on sustainability, and some noise is created. But nothing meaningful was actually happening.
However, around 12 to 18 months ago, I felt that things started to change. And at the 22nd World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit, there were even more conversations around employment, jobs, industry, relationships with the government, all of which were related to sustainability.
This awareness brought about measurement ideas, which is critical. It feels more tangible now, and not just mere talk. Sustainability has been around for a long time, but there’s also been a lot of greenwashing. Now, we are in an era of action, where we are moving from greenwashing to scientific methods to get measurements up in place.
The aim of net zero by 2050 has also galvanised the industry. Airlines for instance, have come onboard, where they have pledged to reduce emissions by half by 2030.
Is it possible to get to net zero by 2050?
We have to, so I think it is possible. The level of energy going into net zero at the moment was unthinkable three years ago. The progress made in the last three years has been extraordinary.
In the context of aviation, sustainable aviation fuel has gone from one per cent of fuel supply to two per cent in the last four months. By 2030, it will be 10 per cent. Although it doesn’t sound like a lot, this means that emissions per kilometre flown will start falling, and it will fall faster and faster.
Also, carbon offsetting is another hot topic. With time, it will become more important and more regulated, and the quality of carbon offsets will get higher. Right now, it’s very fragmented. There are different standards of carbon offsets. Some are not worth toilet paper, while some are very good. We need the industry to clean out the bad players, and rally around the good standards of carbon offsetting. Over the next two years, there will be new standards attached to carbon offsets, which will give the industry a lot more confidence in carbon offsets.
How is the travel industry working towards systemic change to create a more sustainable industry, and enabling customers to make better purchasing choices?
We know that customers do want to make more sustainable choices, but they don’t necessarily know how to. What does a sustainable hotel or sustainable airline route look like? It is tricky. This is where Travelyst comes in. We are trying to simplify this for the customer, and enable supply chains to work better through a unified methodology.
We got together with our partners and broke down the verticals. Our growing coalition includes some of the biggest brands in travel – Amadeus, Booking.com, Expedia Group, Google, Skyscanner, Travelport, Trip.com Group, Tripadvisor and Visa.
To start, accommodation and rental vehicles have certain similar characteristics. Airlines is another vertical, cruises another, and tours and activities will be another.
We broke the travel industry down to 60 attributes and put them through a database. Then we created an algorithm, as well as a scoring methodology, that can be published. Beta testing is currently underway for Expedia Group and Tripadvisor.
We knew aviation was the most important, but this vertical is also really challenging, because emissions are the most significant factor that we are looking to measure there. There are different routes, different load capacities, and different emission levels. However, we made early inroads into the accommodation vertical, with Booking.com.
It is quite remarkable you have some of the world’s largest competitors in the same room. How did you achieve that?
When dealing with climate change, everyone is impacted. Sustainability is a problem that transcends any company, and we all have a vested interest in finding a solution.
Prince Harry was actually the one who suggested getting competitors together, and help them recognise that this problem is bigger than their competition, and they have to solve it together. We have to find common solutions that not only benefit every company, but also benefit the broader society.
Aside from these partners, we are also forming alliances to gain leverage in the entire industry. We recently formed an alliance with IATA, and previously another with the Sustainable Hotel Association.
How does that play into the corporate travel space? Is the ecosystem more complex and are corporations pushing the demand?
We assumed that we would target the leisure sector first, because the OTAs that we are currently working with have a voice in that space. But we got it wrong. In the last six months, we have had our door knocked on several times by corporate partners to say – hey, our customers want sustainability.
The big corporates of the world now have reporting requirements, so we are pivoting to focus on that. Corporates have also asked for a unified methodology to bring it all together, because they don’t want 10 different systems and standards that are not “talking” to each other. They want a simple standard that can be verified with the authorities.
Over the next six months, we will be focusing on corporate travel. Corporate travel programmes also have the ability to have a large impact on global sustainability, as compared to a single consumer decision.
Do you work with any TMCs?
We hope to work with them in the future, but we don’t have any as of now.
What is Travelyst’s overall goal?
Our goal is to create a unified system so that the entire travel industry can work on and help make the customer’s buying decisions informed and easier, regardless of whether they are a leisure or business customer. From there, we hope to put pressure on the supply chain to increase their sustainability standards. This way, we work on both sides of the equation, with the industry and our suppliers, and customers who use the products.
Travelyst has been around for three years, but only in the last 12 months we have had more visibility. We will work towards having even more visibility in the next 12 months, and get more partners onboard.