Sustainable travel and the ASTW

Mount Field National Park. Photo: Sarah Reid

Considering the impact of our travel is increasingly important in the world we live in and the countries, regions and cities we visit on assignment. Many destinations we know and love have declared a climate emergency since Wales and Scotland got the ball rolling in early 2019, including almost 100 jurisdictions within Australia.

Travel companies, organisations and individuals are also making their own declarations, through Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, which launched in January 2020.

The ASTW, representing Australia’s leading travel media professionals, has long recognised that it has a key role to play and a responsibility to lead the way in sustainable, responsible travel – not just because we travel more than most people, but because we’re in the business of promoting and encouraging others to travel and can influence the way everyone travels.

The shift towards more sustainable, responsible, ethical travel that respects the people and places we visit has already begun. The question now is: can it keep moving in this direction fast enough to ensure the longevity of our industry?

We think it can, and we’re committed to inspiring all our members, as well as the general public and all the businesses we come into contact with, to operate and travel as sustainably and as responsibly as possible.

We’re also committed to doing all we can to reduce the environmental impact of our member events, from lunches and workshops to trivia nights and our annual ASTW Convention and awards night, and making sure they are run in a responsible way.

In the wake of COVID-19 there will, of course, be new challenges, as well as opportunities to reboot travel businesses in exciting new ways and to normalise sustainable travel. The more we all think and talk about it, the sooner what we now call “sustainable travel” will become just “travel”.

Sustainable Vs. Responsible travel – what’s the difference?

“Sustainable” and “responsible” are often used interchangeably to describe travel or tourism practices striving to “do the right thing” by the people and places we visit and the planet as a whole.

Sometimes “sustainable” has more of an environmental focus while “responsible” can be more about helping people and communities. Some make the distinction that “sustainable” travel addresses big issues such as climate action and “responsible” travel covers individual actions in specific destinations.

Our view is that sustainable travel/tourism is the ultimate goal, in terms of creating a travel industry that can thrive over time and change with the times, which we can collectively achieve by making more responsible decisions right now.

For this reason, we prefer the term “sustainable travel”. It’s positive, proactive and less of a killjoy term than “responsible”! The UN also favours the term “sustainable” with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 2017 was the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

Either way, it’s a wide-ranging topic. Sustainable/responsible travel covers climate action and reducing our carbon emissions, animal welfare and wildlife conservation, fair trade and gender equality, child welfare, porter protection, ethical eating, overtourism, reducing pollution and waste products such as plastic, to name just a few issues.

Your Sustainability Committee

The ASTW’s Sustainability Committee, formed in 2019, is the first point of contact for members for any issues related to sustainable or responsible travel, and reports to the ASTW Board.

Our mission is to encourage all ASTW members to work and travel as sustainably as possible and inspire others to travel more responsibly through our words and actions.

Some of the ASTW’s sustainability achievements so far:

  • Carbon neutral flights. Board members’ flights for ASTW business, such as to interstate Board meetings, are offset by the ASTW
  • More sustainable conventions. Sustainability has long been a priority at ASTW events, but we ramped that up for the 2019 AGM & Convention held in Cairns by introducing 9 Sustainability Guidelines. Members, hosts and event sponsors were encouraged to offset their flights, reduce plastic and food waste, promote sustainability, support ethical dining (through local, seasonal, responsibly sourced and/or plant-based menu options) and adopt other sustainability measures for the three-day event.
  • Sustainability guidelines. Sustainability is progressively being added to documentation such as the ASTW lunch guidelines, the ASTW Convention Tender document and the information kit given to all new ASTW members.
  • Sustainable travel awards. The ASTW’s annual awards include the long-running Best Responsible Tourism Story award as well as a new one for PR members in 2019, the Award for Responsible and Sustainable Travel Practices.
  • Sustainable travel blog posts. Our Pro Tips blog on this website includes posts covering various aspects of sustainable travel such as 7 sustainable questions to ask before your next famil
  • Eco product deals. Discounts for members on sustainable travel products such as NueBar travel kits of shampoo and conditioner bars (see Benefits of ASTW membership).

Sustainable travel updates are available to members via the ASTW newsletters and the ASTW members’ Facebook page. Members are welcome to contact any of the Sustainability Committee members below with ideas, suggestions, comments or feedback, or to lend a helping hand:

Lady Elliott Island, Queensland. Photo: Kara Murphy Images.

Sustainable travel resources

Links to help inform and inspire you in a more sustainable travel direction. Feel free to contact the Sustainability Committee with others.



  • Information for journalists reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and issues: An introductory resource for the media
  • The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by all UN member states in 2015, aim to protect the planet, end poverty and protect the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere and are increasingly being used in the travel industry as a blueprint for a sustainable future.
  • ChildSafe, based in Cambodia, promotes child-friendly tourism and has 7 tips for travellers to raise awareness of how travel can harm children and young people.
  • The Child Safe Tourism Campaign in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, part of a program run by World Vision and the Australian Government, has child-safe travel news, tips and resources, as does The Code (short for The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism).
  • The International Porter Protection Group helps ensure trekking guides and porters in mountain destinations are treated fairly by tour operators.
  • The International Institute for Peace through Tourism promotes travel’s “higher purpose” as the world’s first global peace industry through conferences and its seven-point Credo of the Peaceful Traveller.



  • Want to offset your flights? Atmosfair, a German not-for-profit, is one of the best carbon offsetting organisations recommended by climate experts.
  • Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, launched in January 2020, is a collective of travel companies, organisations and individuals (including travel writers) committed to finding solutions to the climate crisis by, for example, advocating for change and reducing their carbon emissions.
  • See which destinations around the world have declared a climate emergency at Climate Emergency Declaration.
  • Tomorrow’s Air, created in mid-2020 by our US-based colleagues at the Adventure Travel Trade Association, promotes carbon removal, not just carbon offsets, for the travel industry.
  • Leave No Trace Australia is a not-for-profit organisation promoting responsible outdoor tourism and has 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.
  • 10 pieces is an Australian initiative that encourages travellers to pick up 10 pieces of litter a day to make a positive impact on the natural environments we visit.
  • Switch your search engine from Google to Ecosia, which runs entirely on renewables and uses ad revenue from online searches to plant trees in disadvantaged regions around the world.