For our seventh interview with social entrepreneurs working in tourism we talk with Jo Hendrickx and Hayley Lynagh, co-founders of Global Spirit. Their organisation works with tour operators, excursion suppliers, accommodation providers and ground operators (large or small) to ensure their operations meet the highest standards of animal welfare.
TRAVINDY: What are the challenges your company is trying to address?
GLOBAL SPIRIT: There is a perception that Animal Welfare in Tourism only focuses on the well-being of the animals and we believe that one of the first challenges is to change this perception. Animal Welfare in Tourism is about so much more than just the well-being of animals.
Global Spirit, also considers the livelihoods of those people who look after them, conservation of habitats and species creating a much more rounded approach that satisfies a wider CSR agenda.
We need to balance all these aspects with the customer experience and the commercial requirements of tour operators, suppliers and ground agents. It can be a challenge to achieve that balance however, it is important that all of these elements are considered if we are going to be able to drive forward positive, sustainable change.
“It can be difficult for tour operators to differentiate between what is cultural and what has been created to provide an income from tourism”
It is essential that whilst doing this we are respectful of culture and traditions and accept that not all countries view animals, people and conservation in the same way. It can be difficult to address negative impacts on an animal’s welfare when their use is embedded in traditional cultural practices. It can also be difficult for tour operators to differentiate between what is cultural and what has been created to provide an income from tourism.
Therefore, our biggest challenge is making sure we take all of these complexities into account and present a solution that is acceptable to all involved.
TRAVINDY: What is the impact you are trying to achieve?
GLOBAL SPIRIT: We want to engage all travel and tourism businesses with the Animals in Tourism agenda, and support them in implementing the minimum requirements and best practice recommendations from ABTA’s Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism across a global supply chain. Published three years ago, the guidance was established to support the UK travel industry in a united approach to improving standards in animal attractions in tourism.
Our role is to support the travel and tourism industry in taking steps to ensure that animal related activities are operating to ABTA’s minimum requirements. The impact of achieving this will be a substantial improvement to the welfare of animals world-wide and a significant shift in the industry’s understanding of this topic which will contribute to improved welfare standards and customer experiences, whilst working towards the phasing out of bad practices.
TRAVINDY: What’s special about your approach to meeting these challenges?
GLOBAL SPIRIT:Our combined backgrounds in tour operating, sustainable and responsible tourism, business, and communications bring a well-rounded approach to this issue which is welcomed by tour operators, travel agents and destinations. We are able to consider their requirements as a business whilst supporting them in meeting short and long term sustainability objectives.
Our unique working relationship with the Born Free Foundation, the international wildlife non-profit organisation, provides our clients with access to their wealth of knowledge, tools and expertise in animal protection and species conservation through our services that can be customised to their needs.
By working with Global Spirit, all travel and tourism businesses can positively manage their ‘Animal Footprint’, identify bad practices and implement improvements and alternatives to ensure that animal attractions provide positive and meaningful experiences for customers, animals and the people who look after them.
Remaining neutral and impartial is essential to our approach, we have to be certain that our own views and opinions, alongside any external influences are balanced in order for us to meet the needs of our clients whilst also improving animal welfare standards.
One of our main unique selling points is that we conduct all of our services as a partnership. Working in this way ensures that our clients receive our combined expertise, we are able to provide a truly objective view, and ensure a robust audit approach. It is only through this methodology that we can effectively support the industry in addressing the challenges and complexities it is facing over the use of animals in tourism.
TRAVINDY: What’s the most exciting thing you have achieved so far?
GLOBAL SPIRIT: We held the first Animals in Tourism training events at Leeds Beckett University on 8th December and at The Crystal, London Docklands on 9th December.
We do offer training as one of our key services but we recognise that in order to drive forward the role out of the ABTA Guidance we needed to make the topic more accessible and affordable to all businesses operating in the industry. These events also allowed us to bring this important topic into the study programme of college and university students ensuring that progress being made within the industry is sustainable.
The programme was constructed in a way that made the day a great introduction to anyone who wanted to understand the issues and find out what they could do to start to make changes. They were also highly rated by delegates who already have an understanding and have started on their ‘Animal Footprint’ journey.
The panel of experienced practitioners included Global Spirit and The Born Free Foundation who presented the wellbeing of animals in tourism and the business case for engagement.
Guest speakers included STA Travel, GVI, World Cetacean Alliance, Dr. Stuart Semple, The Brooke and the Mahouts Elephant Foundation, covering a whole range of discussion topics including a tour operator’s journey, commercially viable alternatives to elephant riding in Thailand, the development of whale heritage sites, the use of equines and the impact of tourism on primates, providing delegates with more in-depth species knowledge.
Having access to these experts and the opportunity to put questions or concerns to the panel in our Big Questions Q & A session to round off the event made this training a valuable resource for the delegates and they were hailed as being extremely successful. We’re also very excited to say that relationships formed there are already bearing positive fruit!
TRAVINDY: What do you need to help you be more successful?
GLOBAL SPIRIT: A consistent approach to assessing compliance with the Minimum Requirements and Best Practice Recommendations included within the ABTA Global Guidance for Animals in Tourism is desperately needed.
With this in mind we have created audit paperwork in conjunction with The Born Free Foundation that effectively assesses captive animal attractions and wildlife viewing activities, and these have been peer reviewed species experts. Tour Operators that operate globally need to be sure that their supply chain is assessed in a consistent fashion, ensuring transparency and parity of approach no matter where their supplier is situated.
We ensure that this is the case, creating a level playing field across the supply chain and most certainly minimising confusion for tourists and travellers. Creating one global message that can be easily understood by all fits extremely well with Global Spirit’s aspirations of making sustainable and responsible tourism fully inclusive, communicating in a way which is understood by the general public.
TRAVINDY: What does that success look like? Share your dream…
GLOBAL SPIRIT: It is our aspiration to see all tour operators, travel agents, ground agents and suppliers agreeing to implement the ABTA Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism and using Global Spirit as the ‘go-to’ company, particularly when looking to assess suppliers and find suitable, commercially viable alternatives that consider livelihoods as well as welfare.
It would be a huge success if our audits, which are the first to be developed to effectively measure animal welfare against ABTA’s minimum requirements, were adopted as the industry standard. In carrying out these audits we could support all animal attractions in meeting minimum standards as a foundation for the next steps.
We continue to develop our network of experts and practitioners around the world upon whom we can call to identify the best possible solutions and assist in their implementation. Above all, we’d love to see sustainable and responsible tourism being fully accessible and inclusive to all tourists and travellers and we can do this by communicating sustainability using more engaging language. If we can all work together, share our successes and learn from our failures, we can ensure the longevity of the industry and the resources it uses.
TRAVINDY: If you could connect with one person, company or organisation in responsible tourism, who would it be, and why?
GLOBAL SPIRIT: Our objectives are best achieved through connecting with as many people, companies, and organisations as possible, so it is very difficult to highlight one that would support our efforts more than any other.
However, without our connection to the Born Free Foundation and the partnership we have established, we would not have access to the level of expertise which validates our approach to this work. Together we are able to implement global solutions at local levels that work for everyone.
TRAVINDY: Which other person, company or organisation would you most like to recommend to be interviewed for this series, and why?
GLOBAL SPIRIT: Rebecca Armstrong from Responsible Tourism Matters.
She has a focus on human rights and women’s rights in tourism and we think this is an area that is not currently given enough exposure. We know that Rebecca could certainly look to achieve more if she is given this opportunity.