What constitutes a Bright Idea? Since launching this franchise last September, the Traveler team has continued to revisit and refine the concept to get at just what makes an idea worth celebrating. Is it, for instance, building something that’s never been done before, or finding a way to grow something that, at scale, can create outsized impact? Is it something that pushes an existing concept in a totally unexpected direction, or that fundamentally re-frames the ways in which we think about the world of travel? As it turns out, it’s all of the above.
This list honors the ideas that are approaching travel’s most pressing issues with thoughtfulness and zeal—ideas that straddle the realms of tech, design, sustainability, community, inclusion, accessibility, and conservation. From airports making strides towards universal design and destinations sharing stewardship of lands with their Indigenous peoples to hotel programs that keep local craft tradition alive and next-gen booking platforms that are marrying efficiency with personalization, these 53 innovators are changing the way we travel, one bright idea at a time.
Read more about the Future of Travel here.
Accessibility ♿ | Community 👨👨👧 | Conservation 🦏 | Design 📐 | Inclusion🤝 | Sustainability 🌱 | Tech 🚀
Portland International Airport | 📐 🌱
The idea: When it opens in 2025, Portland International Airport’s (PDX) new main terminal will be the largest locally sourced timber project of its kind, with much of the wood coming from close partnerships with regional Indigenous communities.
Why it matters: Timber has the lowest embodied carbon impact of any mainstream construction material, and this project demonstrates how the travel sector can lead in developing equitable sourcing methods to make it more sustainable.
How it works: Imagine applying the farm-to-table ethos to sourcing materials for a historic airport renovation and you get a sense of how Portlanders approach construction (“forest to frame”). When PDX kicked off its $2 billion renovation, it wanted to pioneer a locavore model for sourcing timber. For the new terminal’s lattice wooden roof, the project team led by ZGF Architects and Sustainable Northwest spent two years developing partnerships with small, sustainably managed forests. In all, they’ve sourced 2.6 million board feet of timber from within a 300-mile radius of the new terminal, with much of the wood provided by Yakama Nation, Skokomish Indian Tribe, and Coquille Indian Tribe. In doing so, they’ve gone a long way to bolster the project’s sustainability credentials and avoid extractive clear-cutting practices.
Alaska Airlines | 🌱 🚀
The idea: The airline is working on a hydrogen-electric propulsion system that will achieve zero carbon emissions in flight technology.
Why it matters: Zero-emission flights reduce the negative impacts of the aviation industry on air quality.
How it works: In late 2021, Alaska Airlines and zero-emissions engine developer ZeroAvia announced plans to create a hydrogen-electric powertrain capable of flying a 76-seat regional aircraft. The engine, called ZA2000, will produce between 2,000 and 5,000 kilowatts of power with a 500-mile range and keep flights free of CO2 emissions by using hydrogen fuel cells to power the electric motors that spin the plane’s propellers. ZeroAvia engineers are currently evaluating aircrafts to determine the best location and configuration of the onboard systems—including the hydrogen tanks—with a plan to roll out flight testing in the coming years. This effort to create a more environmentally friendly aircraft is part of the “Novel Propulsion” pathway, Alaska’s five-part goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040. The aircraft, a Bombardier Q400, was presented to ZeroAvia in May; it’ll be retrofitted with a hydrogen-electric propulsion system to expand the reach of zero-emissions flight technology.
Hawaiian Airlines | 🌱 🤝
The idea: Hawaiian Airlines is ushering in the next generation of aviation maintenance technicians by focusing on innovative collaborations. One of the most impactful partnerships was announced in August 2022 and features an ongoing relationship with Honolulu Community College (HonCC) to help more local students graduate into flourishing careers.
Why it matters: The Hawaiian mindset of mālama—to care for people, places, and communities—is at the core of Hawaiian Airlines’ Aircraft Mechanic Apprenticeship Program (AMAP), which since launching in 2016 has hired 55 apprentices—10 of whom are current apprentices, and 35 of whom have already transitioned to full-time aircraft mechanics. The airline is creating pathways to economic opportunity for its local communities.
How it works: AMAP students not only receive training at HonCC but are also given the opportunity to work part-time shifts at Hawaiian Airlines’ aircraft-maintenance hangar. In addition to their studies, they’re able to receive on-the-job experience with training instructors to repair and maintain airplanes and parts while earning an income.
Kansas City International Airport | 🚀 📐🤝
The idea: Kansas City International Airport (MCI) unveiled a shiny new $1.5 billion terminal in 2023, providing a blueprint for what a truly inclusive airport should be.
Why it matters: The upgraded MCI does a lot more than upgrade basic amenities: It shows what an airport should look like in 2023 and beyond. Throughout the entire design process, the Kansas City Aviation Department worked closely with local organizations, including like The Whole Person, Variety KC, and Dementia Friendly KC, to ensure the terminal was as inclusive as possible.
How it works: The terminal—complete with new-to-MCI features like Clear kiosks, TSA PreCheck lines, and an impressive array of restaurants and bars—feels like a much-anticipated gift to locals. Inclusive details can be seen throughout the airport, from gender-neutral bathrooms to visual paging boards that alert deaf passengers to any flight changes. Perhaps the coolest new feature of the terminal is the Kansas City Air Travel Experience Simulation, a room that lets travelers walk through every part of the flying experience before actually heading to their gate. Whether it’s a family traveling with neurodivergent children or a solo traveler with aerophobia, anyone is welcome to book the experience online before their travel day.
Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport | 🚀 ♿ 🤝
The idea: The airport is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to translate gate announcements and display them on nearby screens in real time, so travelers who are deaf or with reduced hearing don’t miss a crucial word.
Why it matters: Most timely flight updates are currently only announced over loudspeakers at departure gates in airports around the world, excluding travelers who can’t hear them from receiving essential information.
How it works: In December 2022, Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) became the first U.S. airport to pilot talk-to-text technology for live announcements at airline gates, which MSP developed by leveraging Deepgram’s speech-to-text AI. The initial pilot—which includes five departure gates—captures every update made at the gate and displays it on screens as the announcers speak each word. The accessibility breakthrough began with input from MSP’s Travelers with Disabilities Committee. So far, the airport confirms user feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and it intends to evaluate a larger rollout across MSP’s two terminals. It’s the latest development in the airport’s inclusivity initiatives; these also include an ongoing expansion of hearing loops, which deliver all announcements directly to travelers’ hearing aids.
Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) | 🌱 🚀
The idea: Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has officially welcomed bookings for the first commercial flights on electric planes, scheduled to take off in 2028.
Why it matters: With air travel contributing to about 2.5 percent of global carbon emissions, the Stockholm-based carrier brings fuel-free service within reach for the general public—the most tangible step in the airline industry’s goal to operate with net-zero emissions by 2050.
How it works: In June 2023, SAS released reservations on all 30 seats for three inaugural flights on yet-to-be-announced routes in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. This is just one part of the carrier’s stepping-stone goals, including 25 percent lower emissions overall by 2025 (compared to 2005) and fossil-free domestic flights by 2030. The company also plans to cut noise pollution in half (compared to 2010) and operate solely with sustainable materials. By the end of next year, biofuel contributions will be built into the price of airfare to offset travel footprints.
LATAM Airlines | 🦏
The idea: The LATAM Airlines Group set its sights on a radical new sustainability strategy, achievable through meaningful partnerships with regional organizations dedicated to conservation and reforestation.
Why it matters: Strategic partnerships protect natural heritage, combat climate change through greater CO2 capture, and help improve the quality of life for local communities. In this particular strategy, LATAM targets to offset 50 percent of domestic emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
How it works: In October 2021, the Latin American airline announced its alliance with CO2BIO—a project dedicated to the conservation of the Colombian Orinoquía, an area that covers more than 1,400,00 acres of flooded savanna and is home to more than 2,000 species of wildlife and 700 families. The initiative has the potential to capture 11.3 million tons of CO2 by 2030. To expand its efforts, LATAM is planning to extend reach across the region with projects focused on the conservation of crucial ecosystems in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru in the near future.
Hyke | 🚀 🌱
The idea: Following the automobile industry’s mass migration from fossil fuels, a new era of electrified ferries is being pioneered by players like Norwegian firm Hyke.
Why it matters: With the international maritime sector responsible for roughly 3 percent of global emissions and with air pollution contributing to over 4 million deaths annually, the electrification of ships scores big points for improved planetary and human health.
How it works: Powered by a mix of solar panels and batteries, Hyke’s 50-passenger smart city ferries tout wide picture windows, open-air decks, and autonomous-ready technology. Launching the electric ferries in Norway—in Fredrikstad in August and expanding to Haugesund later in 2023—Hyke has ambitions to bring its emissions- and noise-free vessels to worldwide waterways as some cities revive urban waterborne transport as a sustainable solution. Apart from the eco-slant, more electric ferries can help ease inner-city congestion and increase connectivity to less-serviced urban locales—not to mention, they’re just plain fun. Next up: Hyke will operate four e-ferries along the Seine during the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Hurtigruten Norway | 📐🌱
The idea: Hurtigruten Norway commits to building its first zero-emission cruise ship by 2030 under the project name Sea Zero.
Why it matters: Post-pandemic, cruising has come back stronger than ever, and with it, emissions equaling up to 12,000 cars per ship. On average, passengers on a seven-day cruise through Antarctica produce more CO2 emissions than the average European in an entire year.
How it works: Norway’s Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF) and Hurtigruten Norway have joined efforts, alongside a consortium of 12 maritime partners, in the pursuit of emission-free marine travel. Currently in a two-year research and development phase, with construction planned to begin in 2027, the vessel’s goal will be achieved by using electric engines equipped with batteries that charge in port and will feature retractable sails with solar panels, AI maneuvering, contra-rotating propellers, and multiple retractable thrusters. With plans to eventually transform its entire fleet to zero-emission vessels, the company is aiming to improve the greater cruise industry’s sustainability record and future of travel.
Ponant | 📐🌱
The idea: The French cruise line Ponant has created new technologies that will pave the way for zero-carbon cruising.
Why it matters: This year, Ponant announced a massive initiative to create a newbuild ship (the aptly named Swap2Zero) that will have zero greenhouse gas emissions and a carbon footprint that diminishes throughout its life cycle. Set to unveil in 2030, the project falls in line with many countries’ emerging regulations on emissions and will (hopefully) set a new precedent for the shipbuilding industry as a whole—namely choosing materials and equipment that put decarbonization at the forefront.
How it works: With the help of hand-selected specialists in shipbuilding and renewable energy, Ponant has designed six technologies that will make Swap2Zero a carbon-neutral ship. Stand-out designs include sails that will provide 50 percent of the propulsion energy using wind power, solar panels integrated into the ship and sails, and fuel cells operating on liquid hydrogen while actively recycling any water produced in the process. The ship will also host scientists and researchers involved in decarbonization technologies to ensure it keeps up with the ever-growing threat of global warming.
Hong Kong | 👨👨👧 📐
The idea: Alongside the Hong Kong government, local architect Marisa Yiu and her team at the Design Trust Futures Studio worked to transform four pocket parks into joyful creative spaces that better reflect the city’s rich cultural heritage and local demographics.
Why it matters: The UN projects that two-thirds of the world's population, close to 7 billion people, will live in urban areas by 2050. As cities become more densely populated—and the impact of climate change increases—maximizing the physical, emotional, and social benefits of public spaces is becoming more crucial. In Hong Kong, more than 2,000 parks and gardens—many smaller than a pickleball court—are squeezed into awkward-shaped plots of land.
How it works: Targeting some of the most neglected parks across the city, the design transformation manifested as spaces with their own vibrant personalities: a brightly colored children’s playground; a Barbie-pink garden with scented grasses and movable chairs and chess tables; a bronze-and-wooded rest area with a gigantic communal table; and much more. As a mark of the Design Trust’s success, the government has now implemented ambitious plans to further develop more than 170 parks across the city.
Muscogee Nation and Macon, Georgia | 👨👨👧 🤝 🦏
The idea: A partnership between Macon and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to create Georgia's first national park may lead to their ancestral home, a prehistoric American Indian site reflecting more than 17,000 years of human habitation.
Why it matters: As the Muscogee (Creek) Nation ancestral homeland, the Ocmulgee Mounds and surrounding corridor are home to significant ancestral sites, many of which are still threatened. If legislation passes, it will redesignate not only the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park but the Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and other lands in the Ocmulgee Corridor, as the United States’s next National Park and Preserve—the first to be co-managed with a removed tribe.
How it works: The Ocmulgee National Park & Preserve Initiative is expected to be legislated and sent to the president’s desk for approval. The 3,000-acre park is where the Muscogee (Creek) Nation once lived and built seven sacred mounds, including the Great Temple Mound—a 55-foot-tall ceremonial mound that took an estimated 10 million baskets of hand-hauled dirt to create. If the legislation is passed, the Ocmulgee Mounds will become the country’s 64th national park, with boundaries expanded an additional 50,000 acres.
Saudi Arabia | 📐🌱 👨👨👧
The idea: Diriyah looks to the country’s past and its local vernacular architecture with the goal of creating a sustainable, human-centric destination rooted in history.
Why it matters: Incorporating the UNESCO World Heritage Site of At-Turaif, considered the birthplace of the modern Saudi nation, the $62.3 billion Diriyah development forms a sharp contrast to the neighboring urban sprawl of Riyadh. The initial phase of the project has received Platinum-level LEED for Cities Certification from the US Green Building Council (it’s the first project in the Middle East to receive the recognition).
How it works: It’s largely built in the traditional vernacular architecture of the Najd region, which evolved in response to the harsh climate; key features will include passive ventilation systems and thick walls for thermal insulation. Narrow streets and internal courtyards providing shading and natural cooling also make it a walkable, pedestrian-friendly city year-round, with large-scale infrastructure kept underground. The heart of the project, Bujairi Terrace, will eventually be home to 38 hotels (including properties from Capella, Rosewood, and Six Senses) and over 150 fine dining venues, including Michelin-starred restaurants. Plans also include six museums covering Saudi heritage and “Journey of 100 Stories,” a sensory-boosted exhibit highlighting Diriyah’s history.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida | 🤝
The idea: One of Florida’s top destinations puts inclusivity and accessibility at the forefront of its marketing campaign.
Why it matters: Florida and inclusive rarely appear in the same headline these days. So when Fort Lauderdale launched its “Everyone Under the Sun” campaign in October 2022—an initiative hinged on the very concept of inclusivity—it felt as much an act of bravery as a clever marketing initiative. The idea took around three years to bring to fruition (the pandemic certainly didn’t speed things up), but the campaign feels more vital now than ever—especially if other destinations start following suit.
How it works: As its name suggests, the “Everyone Under the Sun” campaign is about making travelers (yes, all travelers) feel welcome. Alongside typical draws like shopping and sunny weather, the tourism board is now showcasing accessible beaches, LGBTQ+ neighborhoods and museums, drag shows, and Black-owned restaurants. (Just check out the “Inclusion & Accessibility” tab featured prominently on Visit Lauderdale’s home page.) The rebranding also included filming new ads and press photos focused on actually including a diverse group of models. The rest of Florida, please take note.
Zanzibar | 👨👨👧 🌱
The idea: Zanzibar is spending $54 million to create jobs for young citizens, specifically in the fields of ocean-based activities and tourism.
Why it matters: Zanzibar is beloved for its white sand beaches and brilliant blue waters, but climate change and overfishing are posing an enormous threat to the island’s marine ecosystem.
How it works: The Republic of Tanzania responded to these global perils in the summer of 2023 by launching the Skills Development for Youth Employability in Blue Economy project—a program that helps Zanzibari youth find jobs focused on oceans and coasts. The project will help prepare around 43,000 youth (40 percent of them female) to start their own ocean-based enterprises. Tanzania is following guidelines laid out by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which has a strategic plan to reach blue-economy parity, with efforts including coral reef restoration, establishing protected marine areas, and promoting safe tourism practices. The initiative is two-fold: preserve the health of Zanzibar's marine ecosystem and provide opportunities for locals—namely women and marginalized communities—to get jobs and generate income via tourism.
The Ellinikon | 📐🌱
The idea: Athens’s new coastal development is on track to revitalize its defunct airport as Europe’s largest coastal park. The Ellinikon will be an urban center built with sustainability and accessibility from the outset.
Why it matters: Ellinikon represents a landmark in smart urban regeneration and will model mixed-use, accessible, and sustainably built communities.
How it works: What to do with an abandoned airport? In Athens, the answer was to start from scratch, reimagining the deserted space as a tech-forward, eco-friendly community. The Ellinikon Experience Park will ultimately become a part of The Ellinikon Park. It spans 75 acres and includes more than 900 trees and 80,000 Mediterranean plants. The Ellinikon Experience Centre will introduce visitors to the smart city of the future via digital and VR displays. Still under development are 30 miles of pedestrian walkways and 18 miles of bike lanes, a marina, Vouliagmenis Mall (Europe’s largest at 45 acres), villas, and residences, as well as another 494 acres of parkland, the largest part of which will be delivered in 2026.
Málaga | 📐🌱
The idea: In its efforts to become a true SmartCity, Málaga strives to improve its energy efficiency by promoting startup accelerators focused on city and tourism management improvements, as well as sustainability.
Why it matters: Málaga has become a model for other cities in how it approaches technology, modernization, and innovation to support sustainability. This smart city uplifts research and knowledge, as well as the use of new technologies.
How it works: Among local government’s energy and sustainability projects over the past decade are the installation of LED technology in more than half of the city’s street lamps and the expansion of the solar-panel network, which has increased energy production and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, other initiatives are focused on digital transformation—specifically Project Centesimal, which aims to create a telecommunications network that measures environmental statistics. In one instance, the new program will use AI to gain insight into the interests, attitudes, and motivations of both locals and travelers during the city's Feria de Málaga festivities. This essential information will aid in decision-making when these events are organized in the future.
Belize | 🦏
The idea: In an effort to combat degradation of future coral reefs, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) has launched a streamlined program to help reef systems around the world survive.
Why it matters: Coral reefs are at risk of extinction in our lifetime if radical change doesn’t take place.
How it works: The GBRF, UNESCO, and the Belize government launched a landmark alliance dedicated to protecting the Earth’s endangered reefs. In May 2023, they released a strategy to safeguard the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System from the impacts of climate change—the first big outcome of the partnership. With research in hand from the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program, the GBRF is passing this on through knowledge sharing and effective management systems. The pilot project focuses on four threatened reefs, collaborating with Indigenous communities in Belize to promote reef conservation and sustainable fishing and tourism. Beyond the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, the pilot program will work with the Lagoons of New Caledonia, Rock Islands of Palau, and the Ningaloo Coast. The next phase is focused on threatened Pacific reefs.
Peninsula City, Sierra Leone | 🌱 👨👨👧
The idea: A smart city-development project breaking ground in 2024 is set to revolutionize Sierra Leone’s burgeoning tourism industry by harnessing the country’s natural resources for sustainable growth.
Why it matters: In a country still reeling from a decades-long onslaught of punches (civil war, Ebola, and COVID-19, to name a few), Sierra Leone’s rebirth into a burgeoning African tourist destination for urban activities, eco-tourism, and wildlife viewing can serve as a beacon of hope for surrounding nations.
The details: One of the most significant tourism projects on the books in West Africa, Peninsula City plays into Sierra Leone’s Transform Freetown strategy, which aims to improve livability and sustainability in the capital. At its core, the project will have a luxury hotel, a tourist resort, a marina, a performing arts center, a medical center, and sustainable housing—all within 35 miles of Freetown. The project will roll out in phases over several years, with significant milestones expected in 2024.
Greece | ♿ 🤝
The idea: Greece is making more than 223 beaches fully accessible for wheelchair users and people with mobility issues.
Why it matters: The Greek islands are among Europe’s most popular holiday destinations, welcoming some 33 million tourists each year. But the islands’ famous beaches are not exactly welcoming for disabled travelers—until now. All travelers should be able to enjoy the ocean safely and easily, and Greece is setting a standard for all beaches around the world.
How it works: Greece’s former tourism minister Vassilis Kikilias recently announced a new initiative to make a total of 223 beaches across the islands fully accessible to people with mobility issues—220 of which would be ready for summer 2023. The project (rumored to have cost over $15 million) involves installing the Seatrac system, a fixed track mechanism involving a remote control–operated chair that can be moved in and out of the water. The prototype for the system was created in 2009 and commercialized in 2012, and it’s currently installed on shores across Greece, Italy, Cyprus, and Latvia, with plans to launch in new markets across Croatia, Spain, the UK, UAE, US, and Turkey this year.
Visit California | 🌱 👨👨👧
The idea: Visit California partnered with Kind Traveler to make traveling with an impact straightforward: A simple booking platform enables visitors to channel their tourism dollars to community and environmental organizations.
Why it matters: The Travel California–Kind Traveler Partnership speaks to the generation of travelers who seek to leave the destination in better condition than when they arrived.
How it works: In April 2023, Visit California and Kind Traveler launched the first state regenerative-travel program. Visitors heading to the Golden State can unlock exclusive rates and perks through Kind Traveler’s Get + Give hotel booking and education platform upon donating $10 (or more) to a local vetted charity. So far, you can choose from 64 participating hotels in California that direct tourism dollars to programs like the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert and Rancho Cielo Youth Campus. In September 2023, Kind Traveler will roll out their pilot Every Stay Gives Back program, which fundraises for local charities through hotel bookings, regardless of the booking platform.
Wintjiri Wiru | 👨👨👧 🦏
The idea: A breathtaking light show in the skies of Uluru brings the ancient Mala story of the Indigenous Aṉangu people to life—in their own voice.
Why it matters: Though Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia has been bringing authentic Indigenous Australian cultural experiences to travelers for years, this is the first time that the tourism operator has told an Indigenous story in this way, on this scale, and in partnership with Uluru’s traditional landowners, the Aṉangu.
How it works: Picture 1,200 luminous drones dancing across the desert sky—it’s the world’s largest permanent drone show—depicting parts of the Aṉangu’s Mala story. Narrated by the Aṉangu themselves in their local Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara languages, the score features traditional inma, or ceremonial music. Wintjiru Wiru launched in May 2023, with two nightly performances from May through to December: a three-hour Wintjiri Wiru Sunset Dinner experience and a one-and-a-half-hour After Dark show.
Origin Park | 📐🌱
The idea: The River Heritage Conservancy is creating the Midwest’s first climate-adaptive park, which will span 430 acres in Clarksville, Indiana, and provide green space for more than 1 million residents when completed.
Why it matters: Urban parks create equitable outdoor activities for city residents and stimulate local economies with new job opportunities.
How it works: First created in 2016 by nonprofit River Heritage Conservancy, Origin Park is a 430-acre urban recreation ground in southern Indiana, within a 10-minute drive from Louisville. The park, envisioned by leading landscape architecture firm OLIN, is designed to be compatible with seasonal floods and usable for more than 90 percent of the year via pathways elevated 30–40 feet. Twenty-two miles of walking and biking trails will include a 3.2-mile multi-use path that links Origin Park to the Ohio River Greenway. The project is currently in phase one—which is expected to be completed by 2026—and includes a 140-acre park with canoeing and kayaking and the 100-acre Buttonbush Woods, both currently open to the public.
Grootbos | 🦏
The idea: Grootbos Private Nature Reserve in South Africa’s Western Cape has enlisted safari guides to help guests learn and study why insects are key to biodiversity—one of the biggest considerations in climate-friendlier travel experiences.
Why it matters: Think safari, and you’re likely imagining the Big Five. Minibeast safaris encourage travelers to look harder—and shift their attention to a whole other world.
How it works: Grootbos not only carries out vital scientific research into the importance of insects, but they celebrate the ecosystem through art exhibitions and entomologist-led field trips. Grootbos Florilegium is their impressive botanical art project, which illustrates the critical role insects play in pollination. The Explorer program is also coming in 2024, which will encourage visitors to head out on safari with a big white net to catch insects to study. Since this is a new field of research for this part of the world, should you find an insect smaller than 0.11 inches, you’ll likely be credited with discovering a new endemic species.
Phāea Resorts | 🌱 👨👨👧
The idea: Loss of connection to heritage food systems spurred this luxury resort group to create a sanctuary for regenerative travel emphasizing food provenance and responsible consumption.
Why it matters: Phāea’s innovative programming shows hotels can foster connection between locals, the land, and traditional agricultural methods.
How it works: In 2021, the Crete-raised Sbokou sisters—Agapi and Costantza— introduced Phāea Farmers Program to invest in employees’ agricultural efforts. An agronomist trains staff (and families) in organic farming and sustainable land use. The resort buys the bounty at fair market value, providing an additional revenue stream for employees. To expand the program, the Phāea Farmers Feast launched in June 2023, allowing guests to harvest from on-site organic gardens guided by a Phāea farmer. Executive chef Yiannis Kalliveratakis teaches the ancient Minoan art of slow cooking, further linking guests, farmers, and native culture. Beyond aiming to source 100% of their honey and olive oil from Phāea farmers by 2024, the next phase opens the initiative to farmers outside the resort, seeding a reciprocal relationship between tourism and local communities.
Manta Resort | 👨👨👧 🦏
The idea: Off the coast of Tanzania, Manta Pemba Island is taking Africa’s famous terrestrial safari concept underwater for scuba divers with the Pemba Island Coral Safari.
Why it matters: In support of conservation and community through Manta’s Kwanini Foundation, the new underwater safari experience gives a guided interpretation of the Kwanini Marine Reserve. The safari helps divers understand the interconnectedness and value of the marine environment in its protected state, with a portion of safari proceeds going to the foundation.
How it works: The groundbreaking underwater safari experience uses state-of-the-art full-face masks with built-in microphones to allow two-way communication between the guide and up to two divers. In collaboration with BlueWild EcoVentures and Africa’s leading safari-training experts at EcoTraining, Manta Resort guides have been trained through a pioneering specialty course aimed at interpreting marine wildlife behavior and guiding underwater. Newly launched in July 2023, the safari deepens divers’ understanding of North Pemba Island’s thriving underwater world.
Green Safaris | 🌱 🚀
The idea: Already known for its eco-friendly safari vehicles, Green Safaris recently added an electric dhow (reportedly the first in the world) to its fleet.
Why it matters: As the company name suggests, Green Safaris’ collection of lodges and camps (scattered throughout Zambia and Malawi) is all about sustainability and conservation. The outfitter pioneered the “silent safari” concept with its solar-powered accommodations and vehicles, including electric Land Rovers and e-bikes. The latest addition to this eco-friendly fleet is the eDhow, an electric-powered dhow (inspired by traditional wooden boats in Malawi) that started carrying travelers down the Zambezi River in August 2023. “The eDhow is not just a novel addition to our safari experiences but also a testament to the potential of sustainable travel and green technology in the African tourism industry,” said Vincent Kouwenhouven, Green Safaris’ founder, in a press release.
How it works: The eDhow runs on a 10kw electric motor that is recharged through an electric power station adjacent to Victoria Falls. Green Safaris plans on using solar power to fuel the boats in the future.
JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge | 🌱 👨👨👧
The idea: The JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge in Kenya’s iconic Masai Mara National Reserve is launching an initiative in September 2023 to empower and uplift local girls through an ambitious training program.
Why it matters: Gender equality remains a struggle in many parts of the world, including East Africa, and the lodge’s targeted engagement with women will help empower them to become leaders in their local communities while expanding their opportunities far beyond.
How it works: After opening in April 2023, the lodge is investing in local communities to build a talent network. The initial participants in the immersive six-month apprenticeship curriculum will be trained to build a versatile skill set through mentorship opportunities across the 20-tent, all-inclusive resort, from the front desk and housekeeping to kitchen, food and beverage, and guest services. Communication is emphasized throughout the entire process through feedback sessions, performance assessments, and the pairing of each apprentice with a seasoned professional from the lodge to provide guidance at every step. Apprentices will receive a certificate at the end of the program and the lodge will help them seek employment, either on-site or within Marriott’s greater hospitality network.
Populus | 📐🌱
The idea: When it opens, Populus will be the first carbon-positive hotel in the US.
Why it matters: Named for Colorado’s native aspen tree, this 265-room, 13-story hotel is poised to be a benchmark for the future of responsible hospitality development.
How it works: Acknowledging that buildings are responsible for 45 percent of greenhouse emissions in the US, Urban Villages—the team behind this landmark downtown hotel—wasn’t content solely achieving the already rigorous LEED Gold status. Decisions like deliberately excluding a parking garage (steel and reinforced concrete are large contributors to a building’s carbon footprint) and offsetting construction emissions by planting over 70,000 Engelmann spruce trees complement its rigorous 100 percent recyclable and compostable waste-management strategy and its plan to run on 100 percent renewable energy. When it opens in spring 2024, the hotel will feature an impressive two-story entrance with 30-foot-tall windows—and a rooftop restaurant offering 360-degree views of Denver and its surrounding mountains.
Southall Farm & Inn | 🌱 👨👨👧
The idea: This working farm resort introduced agricultural experiences that bring guests closer to the land, including a hydrology plan modeling what sustainable water usage means for healthy ecosystems.
Why it matters: With its emphasis on regional food production and local ecosystems, Southall’s mission inherently educates visitors—sometimes through hands-on learning—on the environmental impacts of travel. The hydrology plan—including wetland water recirculation, rainwater collection, and land terracing—reverses damage from poor farming practices and extreme weather, leading to less municipal water usage, more wildlife, and a cooler environment.
How it works: The owners’ passion for water conservation and addressing food scarcity manifested as the 325 acres at Southall, which opened in December 2022 in Franklin, Tennessee, after 5-plus years of planning. Through the property’s blend of timeless agricultural methods with innovative technology (hello, property-wide pollinator tracker system), guests learn about food provenance by participating in seed-saving, beekeeping, grafting workshops, and more. Future plans include irrigating more gardens with on-site water and expanding the existing 30 acres of native grasses to reduce watering while maintaining wildlife habitats.
Siro | 🚀
The Idea: Rather than building hotels with great gyms, Siro develops properties that put functional fitness first through partnerships with world-class athletes combined with integrated digital technology.
Why it matters: Siro’s programming—developed in conjunction with top sporting figures like British Somali boxer Ramla Ali and medics, trainers, and players from Italy’s AC Milan soccer team—goes far beyond the usual hotel offerings, targeting both serious athletes and those who just want to stay healthy on the road.
How it works: Providing more than just celebrity endorsements, the professionals worked closely with Siro’s team of experts to develop programming and testing protocols based around five “biohacking” pillars: fitness, nutrition, sleep, recovery, and mindfulness. Stays kick off with personalized pre-assessments and 3D body scans, with individual data loaded onto an app for use during and after each visit to help guests reach and maintain peak performance. Recovery is prioritized as much as training with programs based on elevating visitors' physical and mental endurance. That philosophy continues into the rooms, designed as “recovery cocoons” with soundproof walls, thermogenesis mattresses, and stretching spaces. The first Siro opens in Dubai’s new One Za’abeel development in early 2024, followed by Boka Place in Montenegro later next year.
Ocean Builders | 📐🌱
The idea: Ocean Builders’ SeaPod is an eco-restorative, floating take on the overwater bungalow with a minimal (and moveable) footprint on the seabed and the power to regenerate coral growth on its very structure.
Why it matters: With ocean levels rising and more than 1 billion people expected to be living in low-lying coastal areas by 2050, exploring new ways to live along the coast is essential.
How it works: The SeaPod uses solar power not only for electricity but also to send electrical currents through the floating steel tubes that support the pod’s living structure, attracting calcium carbonate to the metal—the foundation of coral growth. Ocean Builders is working with reef restoration organizations to pursue 3D-coral printing capabilities to further stimulate coral regeneration on artificial reefs on and around the SeaPod. The company plans to transport its original SeaPod—which welcomed its first guests in June 2023—farther offshore for a true off-the-grid seasteading experience where it will operate entirely on solar energy, wastewater recycling, and rainwater collection. The company is currently in talks to potentially build out fully floating resorts in Dubai and other locales across the Middle East and Europe.
The Place Firenze | 👨👨👧 🦏
The idea: Hospitality Experience (an Italian-owned collection of hotels and resorts) founded The Place of Wonders, which provides resources for Italian students to continue their education fueled by fees from exclusive guest experiences offered at The Place Firenze.
Why it matters: Launched in 2023, the project funds scholarships and training opportunities for aspiring craftspeople in Italy—and lets hotel guests learn more about the cultural traditions of the city they’re visiting.
How it works: The Place of Wonders chose LAO (a.k.a. Le Arti Orafe, one of Florence’s best craft schools) as its inaugural partnership, subsidizing a series of three-year scholarships for aspiring Italian students. To finance the scholarship fund, The Place Firenze offers guests exclusive visits to local workshops and ateliers—and 100 percent of the tour prices go directly to the foundation. It’s a symbiotic system in which tourists get to learn about Italy’s craft traditions, and those exact traditions get new life through exposure and an influx of new artists. The foundation is already active in Florence, at the Place Firenze, and plans are already in place to extend the program to Londra Palace Venezia (another Hotel Experience property).
Southern Ocean Lodge | 🌱 🦏
The idea: After being destroyed during Australia’s Black Summer bushfires in 2020, the iconic Southern Ocean Lodge was rebuilt and will reopen in December 2023 with a focus on sustainability and fire resilience.
Why it matters: In 2020, bushfires burned more than 72,000 square miles across Australia, including almost half of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island. Three years later, the island’s tourism industry is still recovering, in large part due to the destruction of its world-renowned Southern Ocean Lodge. The reopening is a boon for local producers of every kind and will help support Kangaroo Island’s economic recovery.
How it works: Southern Ocean Lodge will officially reopen on December 6, 2023, and will largely maintain the original lodge’s footprint—though each of the 25 suites has been reoriented ever so slightly to offer even better views of the ocean and coastal wilderness. Upon reopening, the lodge will highlight exclusively local and seasonal food and beverages, from fresh-caught seafood to South Australian wine and beer. To protect against future fires, a 65-foot wilderness buffer—consisting of fire-retardant native succulents and the area's own endemic juniper—has been planted around the lodge.
IHCL | 🌱
The idea: IHCL, India’s largest hospitality group, is converting historic and incredibly luxurious Grand Palaces into energy-efficient, future-thinking properties by implementing renewable energy initiatives to reduce their overall environmental impact.
Why it matters: These combined efforts have conserved an impressive 1,550 megawatts of energy and 146 KL of high-speed diesel in the last fiscal year, which translates to estimated savings of about $350,000 for the palace hotels and a substantial reduction of 1,536 metric tons of CO2 emissions. The initiatives light a way forward for heritage properties across the globe, demonstrating how hospitality chains can bring the future to the past with bright ideas and creative solutions.
How it works: IHCL is retrofitting its heritage hotels—including Hyderabad’s Taj Falaknuma Palace and Jodhpur’s Umaid Bhawan Palace—with integral sustainable energy solutions for the future. New integrations include low-flow aerators for taps and showers, solar-power plants, phasing out single-use plastic, building EV charging stations and in-house bottling plants, and more. In May 2023, the group’s landmark hotel—The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai—announced its switch to 100 percent renewable energy, an endeavor that is particularly commendable for a building that opened in 1903.
ReShark | 🦏
The idea: In a global first, ReShark is working to reinforce juvenile leopard shark populations, which have drastically shrunken.
Why it matters: Sharks are the second-fastest-declining vertebrae group in the world due to the legal and illegal fishing trade. As apex predators, they are vital to healthy marine ecosystems—but leopard sharks in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, are endangered. ReShark aims to reverse the extinction trend with plans to release 500 of them over the next 10 years to restore the population.
How it works: The first three juveniles—whose eggs came from Sea Life Sydney Aquarium—were successfully released in January by Raja Ampat Research and Conservation Centre (RARCC) and in July 2023 by Misool Foundation. This rewilding project involves the collaboration of 76 working partners from 15 countries and is the first time a captive shark species has been successfully bred with the goal of reintroduction to the wild. The eggs and juveniles are cared for at two purpose-built nurseries, at Raja Ampat Research and Conservation Centre (RARCC), and barefoot luxury conservation-focused Misool Resort.
Biogents | 🦏
The idea: German company Biogents has created an eco-positive system of mosquito traps as a highly effective—and cheaper—alternative to toxic-chemical fogging.
Why it matters: More than an annoyance for hotel guests, mosquitoes are responsible for one of the deadliest diseases in human history: malaria. Eradication is the only long-term solution, and Biogents’s traps offer a sustainable path to a mosquito-free world.
How it works: Chemical pesticides eliminate mosquitoes but also take out beneficial insects, as well as potentially cross-contaminating the ocean. So when Eva Malmström, a cofounder of eco-excellent Soneva resorts, caught a TED talk on mosquito control—which she, along with her husband and cofounder Sonu, had been working on—she made it her mission to bring the system to Soneva Fushi. Soon the Dutch entomologist Bart Knols, PhD was in the Maldives, setting up a system of traps that use a combination of visual cues and human-odor bait to lure mosquitoes into a bag. Capturing about 99 percent of the biting bugs, there was an immediate drop in the numbers—and a steady return of bees, butterflies, and birds. The traps have now been rolled out at 10 more resorts in the Maldives, as well as at a handful of hotels in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Healthy Hospo | 👨👨👧
The idea: Healthy Hospo is a nonprofit aimed at improving the physical and mental health, happiness, and sustainability of workers within the hospitality and restaurant industry.
Why it matters: The hospitality sector is the behind-the-scenes workhorse of the travel and leisure industry, yet it suffers from toxicity in the workplace and ranks second in terms of suicidal ideation among employees.
How it works: Former global brand ambassador for a large drinks corporation, Tim Etherington-Judge realized the need for a solution and founded Healthy Hospo in 2017 after attempting to end his life in 2016. Healthy Hospo offers a variety of resources and courses that cover the five major pillars of workers’ well-being: sleep, nutrition, mental health, connecting socially and with nature, and exercise. Healthy Hospo takes a preventative approach to health with the belief that it’s better to build healthy workplaces rather than wait for problems to arise and then deal with them. In 2022, Healthy Hospo started working with Business for Health (B4H), a UK-wide initiative to make all workplaces healthier.
Community Rhino Conservation Initiative | 👨👨👧 🦏
The idea: Community Rhino Conservation Initiative’s (CRCI) white rhino-conservation project—the first of its kind in Zimbabwe to be located entirely on community land—is working with Imvelo Ngamo Wildlife Sanctuary to return rhinos to the region bordering Hwange National Park and Imvelo Safari Lodges to educate guests on preservation.
Why it matters: In addition to protecting Zimbabwe’s near-threatened white rhino population and providing employment for locals, all gate fees from the CRCI directly benefit the surrounding communities. To date, proceeds from the project have expanded the local village’s medical clinic, bringing free health care to five villages in the immediate vicinity.
How it works: Launched in May 2022, the initiative successfully reintroduced two white rhinos onto community lands, where they are cared for by a community protection unit (the Cobras). While the hope is ultimately to reintroduce the animals into the 5,657-square-mile national park itself, CRCI first plans to line the park’s borders with a string of sanctuaries that serve as a buffer zone. After the first sanctuary’s successful launch, the second preserve on community land is currently under construction with plans to house more white rhinos as early as September 2023.
IGLTA | 🤝
The idea: The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA) has developed a new hotel-accreditation system to ensure that people from the LGBTQ+ community are welcomed into safe and thoughtful environments.
Why it matters: Many hospitality businesses like to wave their rainbow flags throughout the month of June, but LGBTQ+ accreditation demands a comprehensive dig past the performative.
How it works: Founded in 1983, the IGLTA has built a global network of free travel resources for the LGBTQ+ community, from tour operators to destination guides. Now they’ve introduced a hospitality-accreditation program that takes a more comprehensive approach to inclusivity. In June 2023, the W Costa Navarino in Greece became the first property to tick all eight criteria—diversity, equity, inclusivity, policy, community, advocacy, transparency, sensitivity—and earn certification. As a result, the hotel now has an LGBTQ+ liaison, gender-neutral bathrooms, unisex amenities, and public displays of nondiscrimination policies. Twenty-eight more hotels are in the IGLTA’s pipeline; properties in Amsterdam, Osaka, and NYC have already received accreditation.
Coral Gardeners | 🌱 🦏
The idea: Coral gardening is fast becoming a widely adopted strategy for restoring our planet’s dying coral reefs, and while highly effective, it’s often criticized for not being scalable. Coral Gardeners is using AI to help change that.
Why it matters: Scientists forecast that the world’s coral reefs, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, could disappear by 2050. Some 500 million people around the world directly rely on reefs for food, coastal protection, income, and more.
How it works: Titouan Bernicot founded the organization in 2017 after witnessing the degradation of reefs around his home in Moorea, French Polynesia. He launched CG Labs in 2021, an in-house R&D team to develop AI-assisted technology to scale efforts. Devices like smart buoys relay real-time data to help gardeners optimize planting, while an underwater robot generates 3D imagery of the reef to track the growth of outplant sites. In 2022, the program planted 15,225 corals—double the amount it planted in the previous five years. Coral Gardeners added restoration sites and nurseries on three more French Polynesian islands and has a plan to launch in Fiji by late 2023, all with the goal of replanting 1 million corals by 2025.
Rainbow Registered | 👨👨👧 🤝
The idea: In an effort to provide a more inclusive and safe environment for the 2SLGBTQI+ (Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex+) community, Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce launched the Rainbow Registered accreditation program.
Why it matters: In alignment with the Government of Canada’s diversity, equity, and inclusion mandates, Rainbow Registered answers the need for a Canadian program that accredits and promotes businesses demonstrating a commitment to welcoming and accepting the 2SLGBTQI+ community.
How it works: Developed by the CGLCC and Tourism HR Canada, with initial funding and support provided largely by the Government of Canada, the program is an internal and external review with a personal assessor to ensure that both employees and customers are being welcomed and celebrated. Areas of consideration include the use of appropriate gender-neutral language and internal evaluations on paid leave for a person transitioning. If needed, they get feedback and recommendations from their assessor and additional support to help improve and tackle some of their blind spots. Rainbow Registered businesses are visible in the community through decals on shop windows and a public listing on the Rainbow Registered website.
Whakarewarewa Forest Loop app | 🚀 👨👨👧
The idea: Rotorua, New Zealand’s interactive Whakarewarewa Forest Loop app, mixes augmented reality with video, audio, still art, and animation to share Māori stories with mountain bikers setting off on the 20.5-mile trail.
Why it matters: Conceived and developed as a cultural collaboration, the app weaves iwi artwork and storytelling throughout the bike journey to enrich riders’ understanding and enjoyment of the place and its people.
How it works: As one of New Zealand’s 23 Great Rides, the Whakarewarewa Forest Loop meanders among native trees, ferns, and towering redwoods, with views of volcanic Lake Rotorua. Representatives from local iwi partnered with the Rotorua Lakes Council and New Zealand software developers to create a companion app, available in both Te Reo Māori and English, highlighting the land’s significance to the Ngāti Whakaue and Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao people. Launched on June 10, 2023, the app has geolocation tools that allow cyclists to pinpoint trail information while sparking tales of the forest into life along the way.
SOSTUR | 🚀 👨👨👧
The idea: Panama’s updated tourism model focuses almost entirely on cultural heritage and conservation, including a new digital platform (SOSTUR) that makes it easy for travelers to book tours in rural communities.
Why it matters: While many tourism models focus on hotels and beaches, Panama offers a compelling alternative: inspiring travelers to visit a country purely for its biodiversity and local communities. The target audience—discerning travelers who seek transformative experiences over five-star amenities—is one of the fastest-growing markets in the travel industry. In fact, Ivan Eskildsen, the erstwhile minister of tourism for Panama, predicts the country’s visitor numbers will exceed 500 million over the course of five years.
How it works: In 2022, the Panamanian Alliance for Community Tourism and APTSO expanded SOSTUR, a website where travelers can browse and book tours across several pilot communities. Experiences range from hiking through national parks to turtle conservation, and the digital platform includes suggestions for accommodations and restaurants in each location. The result is an easy-access gateway for travelers to not only improve themselves but also to boost the local communities with tourism dollars and awareness.
KINO Italy | 👨👨👧
The idea: KINO Italy creates coworking experiences that lure remote workers from crowded digital nomad hot spots and welcome them into fading towns in Italy, where they can positively impact local communities.
Why it matters: For small towns and villages with declining populations, taking advantage of the work-from-anywhere revolution presents opportunities to revitalize their ailing economies.
How it works: As the pandemic thrust remote work into the mainstream, Serena Chironna and Andrea Mammoliti saw an opportunity to shift the narrative in their home country by partnering with local communities to create monthlong coworking retreats in lesser-known locales. The pair, who themselves had spent time in popular remote work destinations like Portugal, could see firsthand that any such arrangement needed to take a more participatory approach—one that included, and could benefit, locals. The walled Tuscan village of Pitigliano is one participating destination, where KINO works directly with the local municipality to arrange short-term accommodation for workers, who get access to a coworking space and social events with locals. The company, which hosted several pilot retreats in 2022, followed by its first retreats in 2023, has cumulatively welcomed nomads from more than 18 different countries on six different retreats, and they have plans to expand in 2024.
Expedia Group | 🚀
The idea: Expedia Group’s Open World Accelerator is designed to help start-ups in the tech industry fast-track their growth and make travel more accessible.
Why it matters: At the beginning of 2023, Expedia Group announced the first cohort of its Open World Accelerator program—an initiative designed to boost start-ups in the travel tech industry, in the hope that these companies would grow and serve as a model for other small businesses. The theme of the inaugural program was “accessibility and inclusion,” with selected start-ups, including Green Book Global, a review website for Black travelers, and Becoming RentABLE, a short-term rental platform that features 36 filters for different disabilities.
How it works: For roughly six months, the cohort received technology and business mentorship from industry experts, a nonequity grant, and access to Expedia Group’s online platform. The program ended in June with a “Demo Day” at Expedia Group’s HQ in Seattle, where start-up investors and Expedia Group personnel gathered to discuss partnerships with the first group of start-ups—and some pilot programs are already being tested to improve Expedia Group’s accessibility features. The company will unveil the theme for its subsequent programs in the near future.
Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) | 🌱 👨👨👧
The idea: Through its national guidelines and brand, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) helps Canadian-wide businesses affirm their quality and authenticity.
Details: Around the world, national associations such as NZ Māori Tourism support and promote Indigenous tourism. There are also quality assurance marks, such as New Zealand Tourism’s Qualmark, that identify high-quality travel experiences, including those run by Indigenous people. In 2021, ITAC combined both concepts by launching The Original Original label to highlight the quality and authenticity of Indigenous-run companies in Canada; it’s awarded only to companies at least 51 percent Indigenous owned. Since then, the initiative has resonated worldwide. In Finland, researchers have invited ITAC to present to help inform their own criteria for a Sámi tourism label.
Why it matters: Appropriation of Indigenous culture by non-Indigenous tourism operators has long been a problem. Certification labels allow travelers to better identify Indigenous-owned tourism businesses.
Google | 🚀 🌱
The idea: Google has invested in search tools that make it easier to find sustainable travel options.
Why it matters: Google is used by billions of people around the world, so any eco-friendly steps taken by the company are guaranteed to make an impact. Over the past couple of years, the search engine rolled out tools that help travelers keep sustainability in mind when booking trips, like putting an eco-label on certain hotels.
How it works: Google’s latest set of eco-conscious tools has three stand-out features. First is a “Low Emissions” filter on Google Flights, allowing users to see carbon emissions data front and center. Similarly, there is now an “Eco-certified” filter on hotel search results; Google is working directly with the US Green Building Council and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council to ensure accuracy. Finally, folks wanting to travel by train can now shop for rail tickets directly on Google Search—the feature exists only in a few countries now, but the company hopes to expand to more locations (and launch a similar widget for bus tickets) in “the near future.”
Nemo | 🚀
The idea: This digital trip planner combines the functionality of an online booking platform with the support of a traditional travel agent—and appeals to modern travelers.
Why it matters: There is no denying the perks of working with a travel specialist to plan a complicated vacation—but younger generations are famously hesitant to pick up the phone and chat with strangers. That is what makes Nemo, a digital trip planner that launched in 2019, so compelling. The company’s core values of sustainable practices, authentic experiences, and local empowerment are just as forward-thinking as its technology.
How it works: Travelers can browse Nemo’s itineraries (which range from safaris in Kenya to island-hopping in Greece) and filter by trip type, destination, personal interests, or preferred month of travel. And the service is about to become even more bespoke: Later in 2023, users will also be able to choose hotels, add transfers and experiences (e.g., guided hikes), and even extend their stay or add on a second destination via the itinerary builder. The Nemo Travel Experts then take care of booking all the reservations and activities.
Sustonica | 🚀
The idea: A new certification program introduces sustainability standards for short-term rental properties.
Why it matters: The hotel industry has many certifying agencies that measure environmentally sustainable operations; the same is not so for short-term vacation rentals.
How it works: Based in Spain, Sustonica aims to correct this issue by establishing criteria based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which focus on energy and water conservation; community involvement; and waste reduction. Specifically, these standards would include the use of energy-efficient appliances, recycling bins, and dual-flush toilets. The threshold for certification is low: A rental must score at least 20 percent of possible points—but, crucially, the program doesn’t end there. To renew the certification each year, rentals must show a 2–4 percent annual gain depending on their current score. The certification badge, which owners may use on websites and rental platforms, aims to help travelers easily find greener options among vacation rental choices. Launched in 2023, Sustonica is on track to certify 70,000 rental properties this year.
GPSO | 🚀 🌱
The idea: France is working to eliminate the need for intra-country flights—and make fast and sustainable travel available across the country—by heavily investing in its southeastern rail network.
Why it matters: Earlier this year, in an ongoing effort to cut carbon emissions, France banned domestic short-haul flights between cities where the same journey could be made by train in under two and a half hours. The extensive rail network is getting a further boost with a 14-billion-euro initiative that will connect Bordeaux with two cities: Toulouse, in Occitaine, and Dax, in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, essentially making the destinations reachable from Paris within a three-hour train ride. The project complements France’s 2-billion-euro program to double the number of bicycle lanes, making it one of the greenest countries to travel in.
How it works: Work will begin in late 2023, and the Bordeaux-to-Toulouse rail section is expected to open in 2030. Elsewhere in France, the next-generation high-speed trains—which are made from 97 percent recycled material—will be in service in time for the 2024 Olympics.
Coradia iLint | 🌱 🚀
The idea: Germany debuts the world’s first hydrogen-powered trains, marking the beginning of emissions-free rail travel.
Why it matters: As hydrogen-powered train service expands, passengers can travel on transportation networks that emit nothing but steam.
How it works: In 2022, Germany unveiled the first-ever network of 100 percent emissions-free passenger trains, called the Coradia iLint. Powered solely by hydrogen and emitting only water vapor, the network passes through idyllic North Sea landscapes and charming small towns on a 150-mile loop in Lower Saxony, between Hamburg, Bremen, and Bremerhaven. The hydrogen cars run on behalf of the Lower Saxony regional transport company (LNVG) through the company EVB in Lower Saxony, and RMV in the Frankfurt area. LNVG has ordered 14 Coradia iLint hydrogen railcars and will gradually replace the existing Coradia Lint 41 diesel railcars. Currently, five railcars are in service. Step by step, the number of hydrogen trains will be expanded until all diesel railcars have been replaced, proving the viability of fossil-free rail travel, having already saved nearly 425,000 gallons of diesel and 4,400 tons of CO2 (annually) vs. traditional trains. Five months after northern Germany’s successful launch, Frankfurt unveiled its first hydrogen-powered train cars.
SpaceX | 🚀
The idea: Commercial spaceflight could reach historic heights as the Polaris Dawn voyage aims to set a new record for the highest Earth orbit ever flown.
Why it matters: As the first in a series of three flights funded by fintech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, the Polaris Program represents a more ambitious era for citizen-led space travel, with private citizens carrying out increasingly sophisticated missions.
How it works: This isn’t merely another flight where billionaire space tourists wave at Earth from its orbit. Yes, there will be one billionaire onboard—Isaacman, Shift4’s CEO and a trained pilot. When the Polaris Dawn mission finally takes off—potentially by the end of 2024—the four-person crew will spend up to five days on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket attempting to achieve a series of firsts, including being the first commercial mission to complete a space walk. While it’s not anywhere near Elon Musk’s eventual dream of settling on Mars, Polaris Dawn will also research the impact of space travel on human health. It’s another leap forward for the growing private space tourism economy.
Lead editor: Betsy Blumenthal
Editors: Arati Menon, Erika Owen
Lead visuals: Pallavi Kumar
Supporting visuals: Andrea Edelman, Danielle Amy
Illustrations: Giorgia Ascolani
Production: Caitlin Morton
Research: Alexandra Sanidad, Anna Gladwin, Anika Sackrider
Copy: Joyce Rubin, Marisa Carroll, Rachel Whalen
Lead social media: Mercedes Bleth
Supporting social media: Kayla Brock
Contributors: Alicia Erickson; Amy Eckert; Ayesha Khan; Caitlin Morton; Carrie Honnaker; Elaine Glusac; Elissa Garay; JD Shadel; Jen Murphy; Jonny Bierman; Juliet Kinsman; Karen Gardiner; Krisanne Fordham; Kristin Braswell; Laura Beausire; Lee Cobaj; Marta Sahelices; Nicola Chilton; Rachel Chang; Smitha Menon; Terry Ward; Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey