The reason I work with Travelife and why every tour operator should too

Sustainability certification does not have the best reputation in the tourism industry. It’s been called a greenwashing tool, expensive, without benefits and there are too many labels to choose from. Even though there might be some truth in these thoughts, the benefits and advantages are too often overlooked.

With Fair Sayari, I am working closely together (and for) Travelife for Tour Operators. Travelife is the training, management and certification initiative for tour operators committed to reaching sustainability. Interesting about Travelife is that they have combined social and environmental aspects in their sustainability standards and have an extremely high focus on training. This blog gives you an overview of Travelife certification, why I work with them and why every tour operator should consider becoming a member as well.

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Sustainability guidelines

Through Fair Sayari, I coach and support tour operators that would like to become sustainable and who are in need of personal consultancy to implement more sustainable practices. For those who are starting from scratch in sustainability, I have them start working on the Travelife Partner report – the preparation level for Travelife Certification.

This certification scheme focuses on all aspects of sustainability, combining social and environmental standards. I feel this is extremely important to use tourism to protect the environment but to also benefit local communities. Travelife Partner has 100 mandatory sustainability standards combining these aspects, and these guidelines are a great start to get familiar with sustainability and to find out where you stand. The growth process starts here.

Local support

Another aspect why I work with Travelife is their local support in the destinations they operate. In most destinations, Travelife works closely with a local organisation, often tourism associations with a high focus on sustainability, who advise Travelife on local circumstances. They possess all local knowledge and support tailoring the Travelife sustainability standards to the local rules, regulations and context of the destination.

With Fair Sayari and as Travelife account manager for Africa, I have a high focus on African destinations and I really like working with e.g. Eco Tourism Kenya and KATO (Kenya), RTTZ and TATO (Tanzania), AUTO (Uganda), FTT (South Africa) and TOP (Madagascar). By collaborating with these local organisations we make sure to give members the best advice on how to implement sustainability in their destination.

“The main issue of sustainability is that companies want to start working on sustainability but simply don’t know how to”


Achieving the Travelife Certified certificate is important for validation and trust, but certification only works when the tour operator has implemented sustainability throughout the whole company. It has to be included in every decision they make, and they have to understand the importance and meaning of this.

The issue of sustainability is mainly that companies want to start working on sustainability but simply don’t know how to. This is where Travelife supports directly, both online as through local trainings. Travelife regularly provides classroom trainings and coaching in key destinations. Basically, tour operators are taught about the basics of sustainability and are supported in linking this theory to their own company.

This year I have been to Uganda, Kenya and Ghana to coach local tour operators on behalf of Travelife in sustainability, and it’s great to see how eager they are to learn and to see how much they grow in implementing sustainability. They start to adopt the mindset and we are simply there to support them in the process.

Finding opportunities and supporting tour operators in implementing sustainability in their company ensures that they are part of this change. They need to be shown how things work and be given the opportunity to develop this themselves. These interactive coaching sessions ensure that when the training ends, they can continue to develop themselves.

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Travelife Certification

For those tour operators that would like to see their sustainability practices verified as sustainable and be recognised as such, I recommend going for Travelife Certification. Not only do the sustainability standards provide grip on the process, being Travelife Certified also allows competition, partners and tourists to identify you as sustainable tour operator. This is good for your marketing in the changing tourism industry where there is a growing demand for sustainable tourism offers.

Travelife Partner

In order to prepare tour operators for their certification, Travelife has created an internal preparation report to ensure companies are aware of the basics of sustainability, to get familiar with the certification system and use it as a foundation for further development. Partner level does not mean companies are certified but merely that they are actively working towards certification. Travelife Partner is the means in the process to achieve this. It’s a great baseline assessment to see where you stand and where you can improve.

Certification is an extensive process and by working on a simplified report first that covers the basics of sustainability, the step towards Travelife Certified certification is smaller. Thereby, Travelife Partner identifies gaps in sustainability implementation and the time tour operators need in between Partner level and Travelife Certified can be used to reducing these gaps, to implement more sustainability practices and to involve more employees.

Travelife Certified

In the final stage of Travelife’s program, tour operators work towards full compliance with the international Travelife standards for tour operators, as accredited by the GSTC. The companies’ compliance will be evaluated by an independent auditor through an on-site assessment that verifies if the company is walking the talk of the report. If the companies comply with the requirements, which are stronger than those of Travelife Partner, they are awarded Travelife Certified. The Certified logo is used to communicate excellency and compliance in sustainability to clients, partners and other stakeholders.

“I often have companies saying they are already sustainable wherefore they don’t need a Travelife certification”

What's in it for you?

Almost everyone knows sustainability is the right thing to do and luckily more and more companies are taking responsibility by operating more responsibly. The step towards certification becomes bigger when benefits and advantages remain unclear. I often have companies saying they are already sustainable wherefore they don’t need a Travelife certification. The problem is, even though they might be genuine – there are too many organisations greenwashing that it’s difficult to tell them apart.

By engaging with Travelife you are ensured of entering a learning curved where you will be trained and coached online in implementing sustainability in your organisation, be verified and where you make a stand against greenwashing. Sustainability certification verifies your commitment to a responsible tourism industry, sets you apart from your competition and ensures you are taught everything it takes to work sustainably as a tour operator.

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