To celebrate the news that our Easia Travel Vietnam office has recently achieved the status of being Travelife Certified (following hot on the footsteps of our Laos office), we caught up with Huong Giang in our Hanoi office to learn more about the award, and what it means for Easia and our clients. As the Sustainability Coordinator for Easia Travel Vietnam (among her many other roles!) Huong Giang was happy to share the details.
What motivated Easia to work with Travelife?
Since 2007, Travelife has been one of the leading international sustainability certification bodies working in the travel sector, providing guidance and certification to tour operators, travel agents, hotels, and accommodation.
As a DMC we care deeply about our impact on the destinations we operate in. Travelife offers a way to assess and improve our operations on the ground, both in how we service our clients’ travelers and also in the way we operate as a business.
The guidelines and criteria they provide (with support from a personal Travelife Coach) help allow us to design a path towards improving how we operate, with the end goal of becoming a more responsible employer and positive influence in the travel supply chain.
The training Travelife offers also helps our staff improve their personal understanding of their individual responsibilities to contribute to their communities, be it by saving energy or influencing others in their social circles in a positive way – every little helps the planet!
How long does the application process take, from start to completion?
There are 3 stages to work through: ‘Engaged’, ‘Partner’ and ‘Certified’. For Easia Vietnam to get to this point today, we began work to become ‘Engaged’ in 2017.
So, one reason we celebrate so much for completing the process is that it takes around 4 years! You could say that investing the hours, weeks, months, and years in becoming Travelife Certified and complying with the 200+ criteria elements shows the real commitment from a company to act responsibly – if it was easy, there would be less value to it. Good things do indeed take time!
The level of detail and time required to invest in the process probably also explains why so few DMCs in Southeast Asia are currently Travelife Certified – Easia Vietnam has now become only the 4th company in Vietnam’s travel industry to reach this level and the 16th company in travel overall in the Southeast Asian countries we sell (one of which is also Easia Travel Laos!).
This ‘Travelife Certified’ award we have achieved is valid for a period of two years, with annual checks conducted by Travelife.
What are the benefits for a DMC like Easia of being a Partner of, or to be Certified by, Travelife?
For the clients, we work with within our markets, it shows that we don’t just talk about ‘sustainability to sound good, we invest our time, resources, and money into making measurable improvements. As I mentioned before, it’s not a quick or easy process, which helps demonstrate our commitment to becoming more responsible.
The training and tools they provide help us to ensure our staff live the philosophy and act as agents of change individually. Again, these are small details that alone may not have a noticeable impact, but if we can influence stakeholders (i.e. our employees, clients, communities, etc.) in our destinations and supply chain, then the impression can grow little by little, step by step.
What steps did the local team on the ground in Hanoi need to go through to prepare for the Certification status?
The audit (onsite and offline) was performed and evaluated by independent auditors. All standards are required to fall in line with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Criteria and are formally recognized by the GSTC.
As I mentioned before, the preparation to become ‘Certified’ can begin only when we are already a Travelife Partner, with several extra – and more demanding – steps to progress to ‘Certified’ status.
Here are a few of the things we undertook to prepare for the audit:
- All our company policies, projects, and guidance about our sustainability had to be made public, and available via our website. Every staff had to be trained and aware of these policies and guidelines
- All staff at Easia Travel Vietnam were required to complete the online training courses provided by Travelife, to have an overview and basic knowledge about sustainability, while we also requested all staff to complete our own internal training course on our new E-learning platform to introduce sustainability at Easia Travel
- Many direct pieces of training and workshops were regularly organized by Sustainability Coordinators and Green Teams, in coordination with our Training and Development Department, as well as regularly joining events, seminars, and training organized by sustainable organizations such as Impact Vietnam, RTC (Responsible Tourism Club), Pan Nature to share and learn experiences and best practices
- Green Teams in each destination regularly undertook CSR activities to help local communities in a practical way
- Achievements were regularly shared with our guides, clients, and local suppliers to act as a positive influence and support education and awareness. Guides were invited to join our training, while local suppliers were also invited to sign our sustainable pledge and to take part in all our actions and projects
- We developed many tools in our Agent Hub to help our clients to help promote sustainable activities and hotels
- We completed and continually updated our Travelife Report, worked on their evaluations & feedback for improvements until approved
The audit itself has both an on-site and offline part. The on-site audit is conducted over a full day in our office and involves interviews with the Easia team as well as some guides and suppliers we work with. The offline part reviews the reports of the audit performed on-site as well as the assessments and reports completed by the team, then two months after the audit was completed we happily received the news of our success!
I can honestly we couldn’t have completed the above steps without the help from the Travelife Coach, and especially the support & involvement of our team, guides, clients, and suppliers.
I would like to take this moment to say a big ‘thank you” to everyone for the great teamwork and commitment that has helped us become Travelife Certified!
What’s next, now that Easia Travel Vietnam has achieved Certified status?
Obviously, the last 18 months have been a very strange time for everyone in the travel industry. While the impact of the pandemic has forced us to put many things on hold, we wanted to make use of the ‘long low season’ in a productive way and work on key projects (such as becoming Travelife Certified) that are important to us as a company, and to the co-owners Thuy Hoa, Philippe and Huy.
As well as the Travelife process (which we’re also close to Certification in Cambodia and Thailand – hopefully, good news from there soon!), our teams have been developing ‘Sustainability Commitment Indicators’ to help us self-audit our activities, hotels, and services.
We’ll be revealing more information about this system soon, but it’s already possible to view the indicators and explanations in our factsheets, stored in the Product Portfolio section of the Agent Hub.
We hope that these indicators can help our partners understand the impact (either positive or not) of the activity, to help them qualify and personalize their customers’ experiences at a much higher level – especially for those travelers interested in responsible & sustainable journeys.
As well as this, we are continuing our work on our carbon offsetting project, and have plans to begin a reforestation project in Mai Chau nearby our new sister project Avana Retreat.
And lastly, as per the Travelife philosophy, we hope to continue to inspire more local guides, suppliers, and communities to join us on our journey towards becoming a truly positive influence on the regional travel industry.