Managing Impacts and Maximising Benefits: ASI Reisen Quantifies Local Value Added
Worldwide (headquartered in Austria)
- Measure your impact. If you want to improve your impact, you first need to be able to understand your current situation. Measuring your impact, for example, helps you define clear targets that help you achieve your goals. What’s more, your decisions are based on solid data, which helps with credibility.
- More than just numbers. Data is important. But always keep in mind that travel and tourism is a people-driven industry, and our products are experiences, which are all about encounters and relationships. Tourism can only sustain if we ensure that these experiences are enriching, and we interact respectfully with each other.
- Listen and learn. To understand local impact, listen to your local partners. Recognise the value of local knowledge and expertise your partners bring, and create a culture of ongoing dialogue and exchange.
- Think outside of the box. Inspiration can be found outside of the travel industry. There might be ideas out there that can be applied to tourism businesses. It is always worth it to observe and learn from inspiring brands such as Patagonia.
- Be transparent. Show the data to support your sustainability claims. Transparently sharing data is a great way to empower your stakeholders (guests, employees, suppliers and local community members) with knowledge, and to inspire more businesses in the industry to commit to accountability.
Actively Engaging Local Partners
ASI Reisen was founded 60 years ago with the vision of carefully opening people’s eyes and hearts to what the world has to offer. This notion reflects tourism’s potential to positively contribute to the sustainable development of local communities. And at the core of the vision is the belief that travelling should not only benefit the travellers, but also the destinations and communities they visit.
So for ASI Reisen, travel is not just an economic activity, but a tool that, as part of a value-driven economy, creates benefits for all its stakeholders, respects the environment, and provides added value to communities. To support this vision of responsible travel, ASI Reisen’s sustainability strategy outlines three interrelated pillars: reducing ecological footprint; fostering and increasing added value; and promoting an active dialogue with and among all stakeholders.
Creating itineraries that generate added value for local communities starts with the selection of local partners. ASI Reisen prioritises small, family-owned companies who are local experts, and actively engages with them in regular dialogue, discussing key sustainability-related issues. All partners sign ASI Reisen’s supplier code of conduct, which is a useful tool for communicating about and ensuring alignment with the company’s ethical business commitments and social and environmental sustainability standards.
Measuring Local Value Creation
The aim of local value creation is not just about providing benefits to local communities, but also constantly improving local impact and increasing the value added. Achieving continuous improvement in local value creation is only possible with measuring; only by quantifying and understanding local impact in concrete ways, can steps be taken to become better. This means understanding the status quo based on solid data, which makes it possible to set specific, measurable goals.
And measuring impact is not a one-time activity; it’s an ongoing process of tracking, measuring, monitoring and evaluating data, with the aim of creating a good understanding of sustainability performance, which in turn supports efforts towards improving performance. A key part of this ongoing process is, again, stakeholder engagement. ASI Reisen team is regularly in touch with employees, guides, guests and local destination partners to collect their feedback and suggestions.
Quantifying the real added value per trip is complex. ASI Reisen’s current approach is based on a cost-breakdown, which assumes money invested in local organisations will stay within the economy, and thus add value to the local communities. The calculation does not consider additional spendings by tourists in the destination, which implies that the value created is potentially greater.
Sharing Data on Local Value Creation
Transparent communication is an important part of ASI Reisen’s responsible business commitments. Since 2020, ASI Reisen has been publishing data on local value creation through “ASI Original trips”, as well as the CO2 emissions associated with the trips.
The idea of transparently listing the local added value data came from a fashion brand called EVERLANE, which has implemented transparent pricing, illustrating a price-breakdown for each item. ASI’s local value creation data sharing was inspiring by this example. While the process was initiated at the management level (by the CEO and CSR Manager), the implementation of the project involved support from various departments.
The ASI local value creation index includes a listing of the percentage of the trip price that goes to local partners, fixed margin, taxes, international services, and operational costs. While the required data was already available through the existing mechanisms, turning data into a clear communication tool required additional steps to correctly categorising data and efficiently integrating into the website. The process continues to be work-in-progress, as the team constantly reviews and optimises the system.
Transparently sharing information on local impact aligns with the ASI sustainability strategy, and the company’s core beliefs. And the introduction of such an index was no surprise to ASI guests and partners, as the company has always been clear about its commitment to actively communicating about sustainability objectives and initiatives. The response from the industry, on the other hand, has been more pronounced, and many industry colleagues have been impressed by this move.
By showing leadership, ASI hopes to influence more companies in the travel and tourism industry to commit to transparent communication of their impacts - both positive and negative - to collectively build a movement for making tourism better.
As with everything related to sustainability, commitment to local value creation through responsible travel is a process of continuous improvement. ASI sees opportunities to further expand value creation by optimising different touch points within (and before and after) the travel experience.
For example, ASI has created an integrated charity platform for travellers to donate to carefully chosen projects, offering an additional opportunity to support social and environmental causes in the destinations they’ve visited. After completing a trip, guests receive an email reminding them of the experience, with a suggestion to give back. This helps raise awareness of the socio-economic and ecological challenges facing local communities in those destinations, and facilitates an opportunity for the guests to maintain a relationship with the people and places they encountered during their trips.
Another area of future opportunities for continuous improvement is strengthening local relationships and empowering local partners - with their local insights and expertise - to translate their knowledge into meaningful impact, in a way that effectively addresses the key sustainability challenges and opportunities in their communities. In whatever form this may be implemented, a continuous dialogue with local partners will continue to be an essential part of the shared journey.
Since September 2022, ASI has been a part of the global B Corp community, a worldwide network of businesses committed to transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet.