Old Dogs, New Tricks: Bringing Regenerative Practices to Legacy Tour Operators  

By Melissa DaSilva, President of TTC Tour Brands, North America – Trafalgar, Contiki, Brendan Vacations, Costsaver, Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold 

For more than 100 years, The Travel Corporation has been taking travelers off the beaten path and into the destinations we serve. In those years, that ever-beaten path has become winding and deep. We’ve watched and adapted as buzzed about travel destinations became mere stops on a multi-country adventure, untouched destinations became harbingers of overtourism, and wonders of the world (of which there are now eight) became Instagram feed fodder. A demand for the “next experience” steadily rose with every new “where to go” headline; in turn, we saw an increase in international bookings and industry real estate as travel operators sought new and better.  

As President of TTC Tour Brands North America, I will never turn my nose up to new and better. Innovation is at the core of The Travel Corporation’s mission and that value informs everything we do. But with new and better, comes tried and true, revisited and improved.  

With a focus on reducing carbon and regenerating the planet, we’ve assessed our mission from every front. As we continue to traverse new destinations on new itineraries, we’ve refocused our sights on our existing itineraries and frequented regions. We’ve modified existing itineraries to include responsible travel experiences we call MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences, which address issues related to climate change, sustainable food production, waste reduction, diversity and inclusion, cultural preservation and wildlife protection.  

In terms of sustainability in travel, the words “net zero” are on everyone’s lips. So, what does it mean? Moreover, what can tour operators, hoteliers, and major servicers do to achieve “net zero” status? 

In 2020, we began a five-year mission we call How We Tread Right, which measures sustainability efforts across four core pillars – measure, reduce, restore, and evolve. In 2022, we became the first tour operator with validated near-term, long-term and net zero targets, which were supported by an industry-first Carbon Fund, created to finance the decarbonization of our business.  

The fund’s first investments were made in renewable energy for our properties and biofuel for the coaches our guests board. These investments aligned with the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) green investment priority for tourism’s recovery and future growth, and coupled with further nature-based solutions, contributed to our primary goal of reaching net zero emissions.  

So, what have we done? We’ve partnered with the Scotland-based Trees for Life to support its Wild Pine project, a rewilding project aimed at restoring Scotland’s globally important Caledonian Forest and its unique wildlife. We’ve supported the Australian-based Rainforest Rescue to enhance their efforts in the Daintree Rainforest, where the nonprofit is working to further its protection and restoration of the fragmented lowland rainforest, increasing the carbon storage potential of the rainforest. We’ve done all of this and more, but for us, regenerative tourism goes beyond the environment. As such, we’ve taken strides to make our business one that stimulates economies as much as ecology, and culture as much as tree coverage.  

Over the years, we’ve seen a rising interest in ethno-tourism – travel focusing on the exploration of Indigenous populations and their respective culture and traditions. In 2019, we polled our community of travelers and found that half cited interest in booking an indigenous travel experience, but a quarter of those travelers didn’t know where to start.  

In partnership with such organizations as AIANTA (American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association), ITAC (Indigenous Tourism Association Canada) and The Indigenous Tourism Collaborative of the Americas, we have placed Indigenous tourism among our top priorities as travel leaders. By amplifying Indigenous-owned businesses along our itineraries, we increase access to ancestral wisdom, preserve and reclaim culture and ultimately drive economic benefit to support the livelihoods of Native peoples across the world. 

We are proud to share that as of 2024, 66% of Trafalgar itineraries include at least one indigenous experience. Further, 100% of the proceeds of Indigenous experiences on Trafalgar tours go directly to the participating communities. 

We understand that a legacy is fruitless without a forward commitment to innovation and adaptability. We’ve been here for more than 100 years, and as long as people continue to traverse, explore, and amplify the world they inhabit, we will be here. In prioritizing sustainability, inclusivity, and economic empowerment, we are not just leading the way in tourism, but also shaping a brighter and more sustainable future for the planet and its people. 

About the author

Melissa DaSilva is President of the TTC Tour Brands for North America with an industry career spanning 30 years and has worked in both the US and the UK.  She has been recognized for her ability to rapidly adjust in a changing business environment, resulting in enhanced business practices, increased productivity, and profits.  She has a proven success record of recruiting and developing strong, collaborative teams and delivering consistency in multi-channel organizations 

The Travel Corporation family of brands is deeply committed to MAKE TRAVEL MATTER.  We recognize our responsibility to ensure our impact on the planet, the people we visit, and the wildlife we find there. Choosing to travel with us means choosing a travel company that puts sustainability at the heart of everything we do. 

Travel is both a personal passion and a professional pursuit. She is motivated by the impact travel has and believes that travel has a tremendously positive effect on people.  It helps broaden perspectives through the connectivity of shared experiences of adventure, exploration, learning and laughter showing how we are all more alike than different.             

An avid traveler herself to more than 50 countries, Melissa currently resides in Southern California with her Brazilian husband and two daughters, with whom she has shared the travel bug. 

About TTC Tour Brands  

The ease of touring has never been more important nor relevant, and no one does tours better than TTC Tour Brands. The portfolio includes the award-winning brands of Luxury Gold, Insight Vacations, Trafalgar, Brendan Vacations, Costsaver and Contiki. TTC Tour Brands are the global leaders in tours for any and everyone.  From budget to luxury and everything in between, the portfolio brings agents access to over 1000 tours, across 80+ countries via one single sales, reservations and marketing team, with the added ease of a single sign on booking platform.   

  TTC Tour Brands is part of the family-owned and run The Travel Corporation (TTC), driven by service for over one hundred years.