Travel Lightly: 5 Ways to Minimise Your Global Footprint While Travelling

By it’s very nature, travel undeniably impacts on the environment and the people and cultures who are part of the travel process. You can’t get from one side of the world to the other without leaving some form of footprint and so as responsible global citizens, there is plenty of room for us to learn how to travel “lighter” and minimise our global footprint. There are loads of buzzwords being thrown around on this topic – from eco travel to green travel and responsible travel to sustainable travel – but what travellers really want to know is how can we implement simple but effective changes to the way we travel in order to really make a difference.

We hear you! That’s why we have come up with this list of things you can do to start travelling lightly.

1. Reduce your carbon emissions. There is no denying that plane travel emits a heck of a lot of carbon. So by travelling internationally we have a lot of ground to make up if we want to go “green”. So start out right by offsetting your flight emissions and flying carbon neutral. Most major airlines have an option to offset your emissions and you can use an online emissions calculator to work out how much you will need to contribute to fly carbon neutral. The airline then usually passes on this contribution to environmental and social projects. Check out Qantas’ Carbon Neutral program to see how it works.

2. Rethink how you consume water. You might be great at avoiding plastic bottled water at home but travel seems to be one of the last bastions when it comes to ditching the unnecessary plastic. We get it. It’s practical. It’s safe. And when you’re travelling in developing countries the last thing you want is a case of violent vomiting and diarrhea from that water you just knew you should have avoided! BUT! There are achievable alternatives. You can fill reusable bottles with boiled or filtered water. Or you can invest in a nifty product like LifeStraw that literally makes contaminated water safe to drink. AMAZING!

3. Buy local. Wherever possible it is always advisable to buy local when you’re travelling. Whether it’s using a local tour operator, staying in locally owned accommodation, buying souvenirs that are ethically produced by local artisans (we know all about this – check out some of our artisan-produced treasures in the online store) or patronizing restaurants that serve locally grown produce. The best way for a country to see real benefits from the influx of tourism dollars is to ensure the money we are spending is directly filtering through to the local economy. If you stay in massive chain hotels and shop for cheap souvenirs purchased in Vietnam but made in China, chances are you could make some easy improvements here.

4. Be culturally sensitive. To me this is plain common sense, but it’s also the one that you see violated most while travelling. The number of times I’ve seen travellers wearing inappropriate clothing or draping themselves over important cultural sites for photographs, I can’t even bear to count! It’s very simple to do a little bit of research to make sure you don’t inadvertently cause cultural offense while you’re travelling. For example in some Muslim countries it is forbidden for women to show any skin. In others, tourists must cover their hair to enter important religious sites. Some cultures don’t allow photographs to be taken of any military or religious sites. The list is endless! But what it boils down to? DO YOUR RESEARCH!

5. Think about sustainability in everything you do. The World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainable travel as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. How beautiful is that? If you can make this statement your own personal travel mantra, you will absolutely minimise your global travel footprint every day. Lots of famous tourist destinations have really bad reputations for having hugely negative impacts on the environment and the local culture. We’ve all experienced restaurants that cater only to foreign tourists, world heritage landmarks strewn with rubbish and tacky souvenirs peddled at busy cultural sites. If we can all become better at questioning our behaviour while we travel and having a discussion about the potential negative impacts, we can go a long way to becoming more intentional, sustainable travellers.

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Why Travel Agents Should Use Technology to Automate Their Back Office

When it comes to execution, back office operations are a crucial part of any organization. Travel agents are often seen balancing and memorizing the clients and the revenues over the month. For travel agents and agencies, identifying and extracting manual activities are a challenging task due to the nature of well integrated processes at the back end. Hence, this requires identification of these manual activities at the very beginning.

Below are a few manual activities that agents come across as a part of their work routine that can be replaced by automation at back end offices:

1) Accounting and Reporting

Since allocating revenues via account is a comparatively easier, it still stands apart from costs. Why costs? Because it is difficult to calculate the cost of sales for various accounts depending upon the efforts. Consider finding out the number of hours invested in the account every month and then capturing it in spreadsheets. How about reporting exact cost and analyzing the profitability of individual accounts? Manually tracking payments, commissions and booking revenue is a complex and time consuming task that is prone to errors. Hence, using an effective Travel Agency Software for on-time reporting and calculating costs without much manpower/manual work can be a good decision. Here, making use of technology will reduce the manpower required and also the manual errors.

2) Business Intelligence related Travel Account Services

Providing progressive travel pattern reports, travel policy compliances, etc., can add to the travel agents’ business value but, it surely involves a lot of manual work. This further increases the labour expense and results in the insignificant stage of poor competitiveness, thereby leading to loss of revenue. Hence, automation of the back end office is a must to reduce down the labour cost and enhancing productivity, reducing time consumption through its integrated applications.

3) Business Rules and Revenue Management

Travel Agencies work with a wide range of customers, agents and suppliers. They vary in terms of type, location, size, booking etc and require separate business rules, such as markups and margins based on predefined criteria for effective revenue management. Traditional processes demand the manual application of these business rules for each transaction and on multiple entities.

Let’s say you have different markups for flights and hotels and you also have a commission structure for sub-agents based on the number of bookings they make. Every time you or your sub-agent makes a booking, you need to manually apply the relevant markup depending on whether it’s a flight booking, a hotel booking or a car booking. You’ll also need to calculate the commissions you need to pay your sub-agent, based on their class. If you do b2c then you may even have to apply an additional markup based on the customer class.

If you do 5-10 bookings a month, it may not be such a big problem but if you do hundred odd bookings a month or more, doing all of this manually for each booking can become extremely time-consuming and prone to errors. A Travel Agency System can automate this process and save you a lot of time and manpower cost. You just have to configure the policies once and the system will automatically apply them on every booking.

4) Supplier and Agent Commissions

Calculation of commissions of sub-agents and vendors or suppliers such as airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, etc. can get too confusing against the total revenue generated. A sophisticated travel ERP can help in calculating outstanding commissions, release payments and notify accounts of remaining or due amounts.

5) Last Minute Itinerary Changes

Corporate travel accounts often make changes to the travel plans at the last moment. Hence, customizing it manually every single time is a tedious job that makes dealing with corporate accounts less flexible for travel agents. Through an automated integrated system at the back end, travel agents can flexibly make changes in travel plans without compromising on the time. This will help in managing account relationships in a better manner and not losing out on implementing last minute changes.

How can you Automate your Back Office?

A Travel ERP is designed to provide integrated applications that work for front office as well as back office business processes. A majority of departments or processes in an organization comprises of payroll, HR and accounting.

Likewise, ERPs have the capability to render these roles effectively through their primary software applications that can help the travel agents in having standardized processes and thereby reducing the cost to company/agents. Common data structures/models and standardized processes are the most important values these ERPs can add to the back office of agents. It is because of lack of one or both of these aspects, the manual activities are carried out in non-integrated systems.

Through common data structures, the information can be collated and drafted once and can be updated or customized at individual levels as per the requirement, thereby adding flexibility to the processes and hence, reporting of information or data becomes an easy task every day.

Business intelligence is the need of the hour for the travel agents in order to have a systematic and structured flow of work processes such as accounting and payroll where the flow of information needs to be smooth.

Travel agents need to understand how travel management can be simplified through automation of back end office by replacing manual work activities with software applications that bring down the frequency of committing manual mistakes.

Investment on automation software or dedicated ERPs for travel agents is a one time investment that can resolve manpower issues and management issues of the travel agents.

Considering the recent evolution of travel and tourism industry, there has been a sudden spurt in the competitive nature of the travel industry, which demands bold investments and result oriented functions to be brought in place for increased efficiency.

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