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Top 10 Takeaways from Country & Town House's New Travel Guidelines

Published on By Ben Thornton Harwood

The world’s first B Corp certified glossy magazine announces new guidelines for travel features. What does this mean for the future of travel writing – and for your travel brand?

Country & Town House was the first glossy magazine in the world to gain B Corp certification. And it remains one of the highest scoring media institutions in the UK in its impact assessment, required for B Corp status.

But for any B Corp, staying at the top of its sustainability game means constant self-awareness, measurement and consideration. It’s almost like an exercise in mindfulness – for an entire organisation.

And so, in this process of learning about itself, the magazine discovered something startling: nearly half of the Scope 3 emissions it produced over a year came from the travel content it featured, and the flights arranged for editorial. You can read more about what scope 3 means here.

Lucy Cleland, the Editorial Director of Country & Town House, was shocked.

But the magazine’s response has been swift. It has now launched a comprehensive set of travel guidelines for writers, travel brands and PRs alike, aimed at purposeful, mindful travel content.

Cleland believes this is the start of something bigger – and while Country & Town House might be the first, it’ll be far from the last publication to make a statement like this.

The more I speak to travel journalists and people in the industry, the more there is an awareness of the fact that – like in every industry – business as usual is just not viable. But what a huge opportunity to get creative, to get thoughtful and to work together. Nothing is achieved without collaboration and communication. How can we each look at our impact all along the chain to check who's really benefiting? When done well, travel benefits both the traveller and the community/location to where they are travelling. There are so many ways to do it well.

Lucy Cleland – Editorial Director, Country & Town House

Travel will always be ingrained into Country & Town House's identity. But as an organisation, it has to acknowledge the need to examine the how and the why of travel content creation.

The new travel guidelines from Country & Town House are as deep and rich as any other piece of content you’d expect from the magazine, but there are some real standout features that we want to focus on here – the ones that we (as a fellow certified B Corp) consider the most impactful.

Let’s unpack the key insights we’ve pulled from the new guidelines, and what this means for the future of communications for travel brands.

Top 10 key insights

Let’s look at the headline changes to the guidelines, and how this shifting landscape will impact the comms and ops strategies of travel brands.

1. Embrace Sustainable Modes of Travel

The aim here is to help journalists reduce their carbon footprints by using lower emissions transport. That might mean prioritising trains over flights. The environmental impact of budgeting and planning needs to be considered.

Each writer is also being asked to fill out a form that monitors their carbon footprint. Travel brands should help them with this, and wherever possible, limit internal travel. This is particularly relevant for tourism boards and hotels.

Produce destination guides – especially flight-free ones. These contribute to a journalist maximising time in one place, to get as much information as possible. We’ll cover slow travel in the next point, but the key here is that brands should be generous with their press trip stays, creating itineraries that showcase the whole destination, not just a single property. This could mean fostering more collaborations, or working with neighbouring hotels or destinations to encourage a longer stay without the cost.

2. Promote Slow Travel

For journalists exploring destinations, it's crucial to shed light on the detrimental effects of rushed, bucket-list tourism. Beyond the obvious environmental concerns, there's a profound impact on the local communities we visit. It's time to shift our focus away from merely ticking off popular spots and instead highlight alternatives that offer authentic experiences beyond the Instagram facade.

A slower-paced itinerary allows for deeper immersion in the destination's culture and fosters meaningful connections. Journalists can advocate for longer stays, providing guests with ample time to grasp the true essence of a place. By experiencing the destination at a more leisurely pace, guests can witness firsthand the tangible benefits their presence brings to the local economy.

Extended stays encourage spending within the community, enriching the wider economic landscape beyond the confines of a single brand. Moreover, advocating for travel during off-peak seasons can mitigate the strain of high tourist footfall on local resources while bolstering the economy during quieter periods.

Through a journalist's lens, it becomes evident that promoting sustainable travel practices isn't just about preserving the environment—it's about nurturing the communities we visit and amplifying their voices in the broader tourism narrative.

3. Collaborate on Press Trips

Don't shy away from partnering with competitors, or neighbouring destinations to organise joint press trips. Collaboration can lead to excellent coverage, while promoting sustainable travel practices. It’s more efficient, and journalists will be grateful to make the most of their time. There is value in sharing coverage too, for example, when we work with Basel and Lausanne Tourism Boards, we encourage a dual-stay, with longer itineraries – especially when the coverage is highly relevant, for example “How to make the most of these two Swiss Cities”.

Practically-speaking, this will mean negotiating press coverage for two separate pieces, and a more detailed itinerary that includes working with competitors to maximise efficiency.

4. Engage Local Freelancers

Find and work with journalists who are based in destination areas. This has a few great benefits – notably, the biggest is the reduced carbon impact from not sending a journalist out.

But besides carbon emissions, working with freelancers on the ground is an amazing way to get authentic insights, and real-world storytelling into content – making it richer, tanigable and more relatable.

5. Transparency is Key

Be transparent about your sustainability efforts and their impact on guests. And be prepared to answer questions.

What percentage of staff (including management) is local? How much food is produced locally? Do you have a biodiversity project?

Clearly communicate what your brand is doing to minimise its environmental footprint, and how it affects guests in practical terms.

And the only way you can do this is to measure it…

6. Track and Measure Sustainability

Use tools like Weeva for carbon footprint monitoring and reporting. By tracking and measuring sustainability metrics, you can make informed decisions and demonstrate your commitment to environmental responsibility. You can also showcase your impact – and for brands based in Europe, fulfil your sustainability reporting under the CSRD.

It really helps if you have a plan in place around conservation, regeneration and community projects – and if you can’t allocate resources to start your own, then investigate and support the ones already running.

7. Get Carbon Literate

Get ahead of the emerging trend of carbon labelling within the travel industry. Instead of vague commitments to sustainable tourism, demonstrate concrete actions by investing in carbon literacy initiatives. Equip your brand with the knowledge and tools to quantify and reduce carbon emissions associated with travel operations.

Engage with journalists to showcase the tangible impact of carbon-conscious decisions in tour operations. Provide comparisons between trips, illustrating the varying carbon footprints and emphasising the importance of choosing low-impact alternatives. By integrating carbon literacy into your brand ethos, you not only contribute to environmental preservation but also stay aligned with the evolving standards of responsible tourism.

Being Carbon Literate means you can engage in meaningful discussions with journalists and your guests about the environmental impact of travel.

8. Use Roundups

Take advantage of roundups. These can secure coverage without a press visit. Think about being included in roundups like “The best things to do in [destination]”, or “Top-rated vegan hotels” – whatever fits your brand or offering, that can be done remotely.

A proactive press office can secure your brand's inclusion in relevant roundups, boosting visibility and credibility.

9. Highlight Eco-Friendly Accommodation Options

Demonstrate your care by communicating your brand's eco-friendly practices and initiatives, such as the use of renewable energy and efforts to reduce waste. Emphasise your commitment to sustainability in promotional materials and guest communications.

If you represent a tourist board, publications typically lean towards featuring independent or locally owned hotels. Therefore, when presenting journalist itineraries, prioritise these establishments. This approach not only aligns with their preference for authentic experiences but also supports local communities. It ensures that your brand's dedication to sustainability is authentically portrayed, fostering meaningful connections with travellers and media outlets alike.

10. Educate and Empower

What, as a brand, do you want the journalist and reader of an article to feel? Does it inspire, teach – and motivate positive change?

Use your platform to educate and empower people to make eco-conscious choices. Give them the resources and knowledge to reduce their carbon footprints, to support local communities, and to preserve natural environments.

Travel writing is changing…

Country & Town House is just the first publication to make a move – but this is going to be a movement across the industry. Brands need to be open to the new way of working with journalists and PRs. You need to be ready, and to have an agency on your side that understands this.

To become a trailblazer in responsible travel, you need to become proactive – spearheading initiatives like developing a carbon reduction plan, or establishing a carbon budget. Investing in carbon literacy training can empower your team to make informed decisions, and lead the charge towards a more environmentally responsible future.

Country & Town House has set a new industry standard, influencing and guiding the future of travel journalism towards sustainable practices in the years ahead.

And if you’re looking for support navigating this new world of travel writing – let’s talk.