Egencia, EGA members tackle sustainable business travel

Working towards more sustainable business travel

By Wendy White, CMO of Egencia with special guest Alexandre Motta, CEO of Tour House

Egencia, EGA members tackle sustainable business travel

Our friends at Tour House offer customers corporate travel and event solutions — not unlike Egencia. That’s why we’ve made such great partners for the last 10 years. As part of the Egencia Global Alliance (EGA), Tour House is Egencia’s local partner in Brazil and leads our EGA efforts across the region. I sat down with Tour House CEO Alexandre Motta to talk about our partnership.

Wendy White: This week Tour House is celebrating 10 years as our Brazilian lead in the Egencia Global Alliance (EGA) — thank you! At Egencia we know our customers benefit every day from the network of local, expert companies and local supply options in EGA and from the great leadership that you and your team bring to that programme. But how has Tour House benefited from being part of this important programme?

Alexandre Motta: Wow, that’s an amazing question. To tell you the truth, we can’t imagine our life without Egencia. Our partnership boosted Tour House’s position to another level in our local market, changed our mindset and guided our company to another level in the Latin America (LATAM) region.

We’ve learned a lot and improved our processes over the last 10 years. For me, the greatest benefit was learning from Egencia’s behaviour. I would ask myself, “How does Egencia think?  How is Egencia moving forward? How does Egencia promote their governance, teamwork and customer centricity?”

By asking these questions, I was able to learn how we could we improve our performance, increase our productivity and gain scale. Today we are operating with more control, efficiency and simplicity. And at the end of the day, we can invest time and resources in developing solutions and new products for the entire LATAM region.

Egencia and Tour House celebrate 10 years of collaboration

WW: At Egencia, we are hearing more and more from our customers that they would like our assistance in building more sustainable business travel programmes. This is an important emerging trend with corporate clients and Egencia just announced a consulting practice to support it. What are you hearing from your customers across Brazil and Latin America about their focus on sustainability?

AM: We hear a lot of the same things you do, and that’s why I fully agree that it is a global trend — the focus on sustainability is no different in our region. Here in Brazil and LATAM, we have discussions with our clients every day about more sustainable travel programmes.  Those discussions tend to focus on three big areas:

  • Green suppliers: Clients are interested in working with green-friendly suppliers who have real and measurable mitigation programmes. Once these suppliers are identified, they often become priority suppliers. For some companies, we are noticing that this is more important than the price factor.
  • Carbon offset programme: Many clients have an official programme to mitigate their operations by purchasing carbon offset certificates.
  • Planting trees: Another initiative that is growing — pun intended — across our client base are tree planting programmes. Through collaboration with a social company, clients are creating programmes within their companies to assist in reforestation.

WW: This week at the 2020 Business Travel Show (BTS) in London, Egencia announced that we are collaborating with Tour House and our broader Egencia Global Alliance members, including Andromeda Viajes and Villa Tours, to support a tree planting exercise in Brazil. The goal is to offset travel for all clients that visit us at the Egencia stand during BTS.

As part of Expedia Group, Egencia already operates as a carbon-neutral company, and our Egencia team has already committed to going swag-free or only using sustainable materials for event giveaways. This tree planting exercise is a new venture for us as we think about how to further reduce the impact of our customer events. During the terrible fires in the Amazon last summer, you and I spoke about the importance of the Amazon rainforest as the “lungs of the planet”, and that inspired me to partner with you on this. Tell me more about your inspiration.

AM: Tour House and Egencia — we have the same vision. Pioneering is part of both our DNA. So, let’s get straight to the point and get to work — or in this case, get to planting!

The Tour House group has had a long-standing environmental commitment. In 2007, we were the first agency in Brazil certified to offer a carbon offset programme. For the past four years, we’ve been the official carbon offset agency for high-profile trade shows in our industry.

The Amazon fires in 2019 have made us even more vigilant. We realised that we can make a difference and inspire others in the market, inspire new leaders and inspire other companies from other business segments to do the same.

We were motivated to take action and to venture into an area that is so urgent and is fuelled by people’s passion. It is a great pleasure to start another project with Egencia, and we look forward to attracting attention and building a more robust sustainability movement across the industry and with our mutual clients.

WW: Our joint tree planting programme was not your only effort in 2019. Tour House launched a programme in 2019 called E-Trip Green Friday. Can you tell us more about that?

AM: Yes, good topic. In the face of so many environmental catastrophes, we had a strong feeling that we needed to do something different. In the lead up to the holiday, everyone was talking about Black Friday, but with that came this concept of “black” and “fire” for us. When you think about what was happening at that time not only in the Amazon, but also in Australia, this concept of “Black Friday” did not sound good to us. No, no, no, we needed to send out a positive and productive message throughout the market for people.

In September, E-Trip Green Friday was conceived. We launched the programme in November and changed “Black Friday” to “Green Friday”. The idea was to promote conscious consumption by offsetting all purchases during November by planting trees.

We launched a campaign that was a challenge to the market, asking a large number of companies to participate. In the end, 14 companies from different business areas across Brazil participated and the result was 8,000 m² (1,500 trees) planted in the Atlantic Forest.

In its first year, Green Friday had great participants such as Air France KLM, Movida, GOL and others. Today this new partnership with Egencia and our friends across the EGA countries comes at the best time, helping us transform E-Trip Green Friday into a global movement, with tourism being a pioneer in sustainability actions. It’s amazing!

WW: Alexandre, thank you and the team at Tour House for everything you do on behalf of Egencia clients and now on behalf of more sustainable travel programmes!