It takes a gutsy agent to turn stick to their principles and turn away business but Annika Nickson says that three years after becoming a Not Just Travel homeworker she’s found the confidence to more boldly promote sustainable travel and reject bookings that don’t align with her passion.
Not only that, but she’s successfully charging customers a little bit extra for every booking so they’re making a small contribution towards saving the planet.
She’s just relaunched her business, now called Nickson Travel, and redesigned her website with an earthy colour palette and a clear sustainability message.
“Now I have the confidence to really put myself out there and be clear about what my business is all about. I am able to have my own voice by having my own brand,” she said.
While – with a few exceptions – Annika won’t refuse to book clients what they want, she said she will try to ‘gently switch sell’ or at least make some suggestions about how they can make their trip more sustainable. For example, she recently had a honeymoon couple who wanted a US multi-centre and she persuaded them to take the train rather than fly between the cities.
“If clients really aren’t for turning, then I will book what they want and hope that at least I’ve opened up a conversation and potentially made some improvements, and hopefully I’ll be able to influence their future travel plans,” she said. “I think I can do more good by having these people as my customers and, over time, having some influence over how they travel, and at least if they book through me, they are contributing to rewilding projects.”
All Nickson Travel’s bookings include an automatic £5 per person contribution to Mossy Earth, which supports rewilding projects around the world. Annika’s agency also makes a monthly payment to the scheme.
So far, in three years, only one client has refused to pay the £5pp and Annika estimates the business has contributed more than £2,000.
One thing Annika is adamant she won’t sell is any attraction using captive wild animals, including marine parks and elephant rides, and she ‘actively discourages’ clients to include these in holiday itineraries.
“There are certain things I simply won’t sell – this is mainly around animal welfare and if anybody asks me about those things I can point them to my animal welfare policy [on her website].”
Annika believes it’s down to agents to make customers more aware of the small changes they can make for their holidays to be more sustainable. She sends customers her Top Tips for Sustainable Travel document when they sign up to her mailing list or make a booking, and after she completed a Sustainable Travel Masterclass with Kiwano Hotels Annika recommends other agents who want to improve their knowledge do the same.
“Many people think sustainable travel means staying in an eco-lodge, but that’s not the case,” she added. “I think people want to do the right thing and it’s up to me and other agents to show them how.”