Focusing resources beyond popular attractions, and a personal sense of pride and care for a place and its people, creates the conditions for well-supported communities. Because of this, regionally focused travel companies are uniquely situated to ensure tourism creates positive ripple effects where they operate.
Like any companies that obtain B Corp certification, travel organizations must undergo rigorous assessment related to their impact on workers, community, environment and customers; and they must also respond to questions about their governance structure and accountability. For those regionally focused travel companies, this commitment hits particularly close to home.
“I just hoped to create a company that is a benefit for my state and not add to the negative impacts of tourism,” said Debbie Misajon, founder of The Coconut Traveler, an on-site destination-management company (the “travel agent’s travel agent”) in the Hawaiian Islands. In March, the company received B Corp certification. Its impact on the local community, by stimulating a circular flow of capital among Hawaiian-owned small businesses and non-profit organizations, was particularly relevant.
“In Hawaii, there is a saying. It’s to ‘travel pono.’ It means to explore with care, offering your kokua (help) to preserve our natural resources, cultures and communities,” Misajon said. For The Coconut Traveler, this means actively seeking mission-aligned partners to create a multiplier impact in the islands. From surfing instructors to musicians, the company seeks out Hawaiian-owned businesses to fill its bespoke travel itineraries. “Our ethos is to keep as much revenue as possible in the islands and to give visitors the opportunity to engage with the community on a deeper level.”
Similarly, Up Norway, a luxury travel curator and Certified B Corp, notes on its website that “our love and enthusiasm for Norway shines through the experiences we create.” Its team is committed to connecting travelers with vibrant, hyper-local experiences that benefit both travelers and residents.
And in the United Kingdom, Byway works with local destination-marketing organizations to highlight lesser-known locales and taps into technology to fill its itineraries with experiences that benefit pockets of communities normally overlooked by travelers.
“Our itinerary-creation tech penalizes hotspots and favors regenerative tourism,” said Cat Jones, Byway’s founder and CEO. As a flight-free, B Corp-certified holiday operator that optimizes for enjoyment through grounded transportation instead of speed, Byway travelers naturally get off the beaten path.
This intentional effort to infuse economic resources beyond popular attractions, combined with a personal sense of pride and care for a place and its people, creates the conditions for well-supported communities that prioritize residents’ wellbeing. Because of this, regionally focused travel companies are uniquely situated to ensure tourism creates positive ripple effects in the places where they operate.
“Regionality — or local experiences — is at the root of our focus, as we know that allowing travelers to connect with the right people and places in an authentic place is at the core of transformation,” said Up Norway founder Torunn Tronsvang. The company incorporates activities such as crafts and cultural history into its itineraries, and partners with musicians and storytellers who bring local identities to life for travelers.
On this front, building relationships, supporting partners and meaningfully “giving back” are crucial. Yet, what this looks like in practice is often opaque in the tourism industry — not so for regionally focused companies that keep that sense of community front and center. Up Norway, for example, publishes an economic nutrition label that specifies how money is distributed throughout its value chain, with a detailed explanation of what this means for each expenditure area.
For its part, The Coconut Traveler has a responsible tourism fee included with every trip itinerary. It is calculated using the globally accepted annual carbon footprint per person, the number of days they are visiting, and their method of travel to Hawaii. 100 percent of these fees are donated to mission-aligned local organizations.
“Our guests are made aware of the exceptional work of local volunteer organizations that directly impact them during their visit, such as the Hawaii Association of Watershed Partnerships — whose efforts manage watershed activities, which have a positive impact on our environment and community,” Misajon said. “Organically, tourists enjoy these benefits while they’re in the islands.”
Transparently sharing this information with travelers and helping them care for the places they visit in turn creates healthier, flourishing places where travel businesses, the people who own them, and their communities thrive. As the tourism industry seeks to integrate more regenerative practices into its products and services, this place-based intentionality underscored with B Corp accountability promises to be a powerful combination.
“Sustainability is not just about being carbon neutral. It is about representing the diversity both in the ecology of the flora and fauna, and also in the culture,” Tronsvang said. “Ecology is about relationships with the land. To focus on regionality, we help preserve and deepen the human-nature connection.”