In discussions on climate change,
much attention has been paid to the travel industry, particularly
to the green initiatives (or lack thereof) in the airline, hotel
and car rental sectors. Public discourse has yet to look into what
role travel agencies might play in reducing carbon emissions.
Agencies, of course,
are not completely on the sidelines. A desktop released by Carlson
Wagonlit for corporate customers earlier this year included a
carbon-offset calculator so companies could compare the emissions
of various modes of transportation. And some agencies will assist
clients in buying carbon offsets.
But Sho Dozono,
co-owner of Azumano Travel in Portland, Ore. (No. 42 on the Travel Weekly Power List), wants agencies to
raise their profile in the greening of travel.
Dozono has a long
history of involving his business in hot-button issues. He first
drew national attention when, in the weeks after 9/11, he organized
a visit to New York City by 900 Portlanders to march in the
Columbus Day Parade and help fill empty hotel rooms, restaurants
and Broadway theaters.
After the tsunami,
Dozono brought a delegation of industry leaders to Phuket,
Thailand, to assess damage and offer assistance.
And in the wake of
Katrina, he organized volunteers to help rebuild stricken areas of
When he talks about
his efforts, Dozono tends not to differentiate between altruism and
Travel agents, he
said "need to address the issue of climate change head-on, or we'll
be swept under in the wake. There will be a cost to getting
involved, but the positive effects will pay off in the long
And as with past
initiatives, his approach to climate change "involves both what I
know and who I know," he said.
After buying offsets
to make his 12 agencies carbon neutral, he reached out to his
customers, suppliers and American Express, with whom Azumano is
especially large corporate clients, to voluntarily purchase carbon
offsets is a delicate process.
"I wouldn't push, for
example, Nike to make all their travel carbon-neutral. That might
cost them as much as $4 million -- quite a commitment. My intent is
to see how much they want to green. Rather than ask them to go for
100%, we might suggest that they look at 35% or even
He said he had also
spoken with Celebrity Cruises about what it would take to make
Azamara and Xpedition ships carbon-neutral, adding that they had
expressed interest in learning more.
Dozono works through
the nonprofit Bonneville Environmental Foundation to buy "green
tag" offsets. "We chose BEF because they're local and have a great
reputation," he said. "They're not the cheapest, but we have 100%
confidence about how the money will be spent."
He said he did not
charge a fee or receive a commission for arranging carbon
As for AmEx, he said
he found a receptive ear for his proposal that the next rep network
meeting be carbon-neutral. He further wants to use the meeting as a
platform to show other rep agencies the benefits of
"It's a symbolic
gesture because the energy expended by typical travel agencies is
not all that great," Dozono said. "But the agency community can
lead the way toward making our overall industry more sensitive to
an issue that impacts all our businesses."
Consumer demand for
green travel is growing. Expedia, for example, has sold offsets for
more than 350 million air miles merely by adding a link a year ago.
But a more intense form of demand may be brewing. At London
Heathrow last week, climate-change campaigners staged a weeklong
protest, with a militancy that took authorities by surprise,
against expanding the airport.
For Dozono, it's no
longer a question of whether the industry will embrace steps to
address climate change.
"The only real
alternative would be carbon-neutral transportation," he said. "And
I don't think that at this point there's a large enough market for
travel by barge to support us all."