Europe & Britain | People & Stories

Introducing our first Swisstainable tour: entirely Swiss, entirely sustainable

Trafalgar has just released its first Swisstainable tour, the fully sustainable Contrasts of Switzerland. We chatted to Lucie, our Sustainability Manager in the Travel Experiences team to find out what it takes to make truly sustainable travel a reality – and what you can look forward to on this trip.

Who is Lucie? 

Lucie has been with us for 10 years, and is a passionate advocate for sustainable tourism, holding a Masters degree on the topic. She works with the wider team to make sure Trafalgar (and its sister brands) are hitting the targets outlined by the business’s sustainability strategy, our TreadRight Foundation promises, and the UN Sustainability goals.

“I’m kind of the representative of sustainability, But everyone in the team is aware of it and it’s also part of their day-to-day job. We are all equally passionate about looking after the destinations that we go to so that our guests and future generations can also enjoy the places we visit.”

Image of Lucie, standing at a viewpoint overlooking green hills and cloud-covered mountains in Switzerland

What does Swisstainable mean?

“Swisstainable is a really wonderful initiative from Tourism Switzerland that aligns sustainability and Swiss excellence. It’s essentially a program promoting the best of sustainability in Switzerland. It came about a couple of years ago, and it invites the whole of the travel industry to join together so that we’re moving towards sustainability as a whole,” Lucie says.

“It’s making it extremely easy for any traveler, whether they are our guests or individual travelers coming to Switzerland, to clearly identify or find sustainably minded businesses, whether it is hotels or accommodation or restaurants.”

Image looking down a glacial valley in Switzerland, with Staubbach Falls tumbling into the frame on the right hand side

Why is Switzerland the perfect destination for a truly sustainable itinerary?

“When we look at sustainability, the first thing we look at is the carbon emission. It’s probably the most challenging aspect when creating an itinerary. We wanted to reduce the carbon footprint and Switzerland has the most wonderful rail networks. Trains are one of the most sustainable ways to travel, so we took our train-only itinerary – Contrasts of Switzerland – and looked at ways to make it even more sustainable.

“Switzerland makes sense because nature is such an important aspect of the culture. When you go to Switzerland at the weekend, everyone’s taking the train to go to the mountain to go climbing or do outdoor activities. So it’s just very much part of their day to day lives.”

So Trafalgar’s Contrasts of Switzerland is now a Swisstainable tour. Can you tell me what changes were made to achieve that?

“This itinerary already used train travel, but we went deeper to identify opportunities to reduce our footprint even further. So for example, the luggage that guests take doesn’t come on the train with us because there’s just no storage. We used to use road vehicles to transport the cases to the next hotel, but now we’ve found a way to get our luggage delivered by train rather than road too. This is one of the solutions that we came up with to reduce our carbon footprint even further.

“The other Swisstainable change is the choice of the partners that we work with, like restaurants or experienced providers. We made sure that we’re only working with partners who care about sustainability and want to have an impact. Some of them are very early on in their journey, but they’re keen to reduce their impact and promote local food or experiences and support their community.” 

TAKE THE TOUR: Contrasts of Switzerland

Image of the snow-covered Swiss Alps with the Matterhorn Gotthard railway in the foreground and the Matterhorn visible in the distance

What has been your favorite Swisstainable addition?

“Switzerland is such a famous destination for chocolate, but cocoa beans are not grown in the cool climate. We’ve added a new MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience, partnering with this wonderful social enterprise, a small tour operator in Zurich that offers social impact walking tours. They combine discovering Zurich – a modern hub for finance and its ancient history – with meeting local change-makers. 

“On the tour guests stop at small female-owned chocolatier who works bean-to-bar, producing everything using Fair Trade cocoa with a direct relationship to the farmers. Everything else they choose to source locally, such as Swiss milk, and the packaging is always sustainable and production is small scale. Everything is traceable and transparent. Traditionally chocolate is a male dominated industry, so it’s really nice to be able to support female entrepreneurs. 

“I did a blind tasting and my favorite one was actually the sustainable chocolate. It’s really interesting because often we may think that being sustainable might mean compromising on taste, but it doesn’t negatively impact flavor at all.”

Aerial image of Zürich, Switzerland, with Lake Zürichsee in the background and the Alps in the distance

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What nature will guests experience first-hand?

“The most scenic way of experiencing nature in Switzerland is aboard the Glacier Express. This iconic train, equipped with big panoramic windows, takes us through stunning landscapes of lush green valleys in the summer and snow-covered mountain slopes in the winter. Even better, now guests can take comfort in knowing that not only do we get to experience Switzerland’s stunning beauty, but do it knowing the Glacier Express is a Swisstainable-accredited provider. That means they have taken steps to ensure that their business operates more sustainably.”

How will guests eat local while touring?

“Most of the meals on that itinerary will be locally sourced or from the neighboring region. Most of it will be organic, most of the restaurant providers will have some sort of system in place to reduce their waste, to manage their waste and recycle or upcycle. The whole point of sustainability in tourism is making it accessible for guests so that it is enjoyable.”

Image of Switzerland's green Alpine pastures, with snowy peaks in the background

How will guests connect with culture on this Swisstainable tour?

“Trafalgar’s Be My Guest experience are an immersive, intimate way we connect with locals. On Contrasts of Switzerland we meet Geraldine, the owner of a winery located in a UNESCO World Heritage site of Lavaux on the banks of Lake Geneva. It’s absolutely stunning and to me this is quintessential Switzerland – beautiful green pastures with the cows in the background, the blue of the lake, and snow-capped mountains. The family-run winery has 840 hectares of vineyards overlooking all of this.

“For thousands of years the people of Lavaux have been protecting the unique geography of this land and respecting the natural environment. Everything that Geraldine and her family cultivate and grow is all with natural products, from fertilizing the soil to harvesting by hand. Everything is made to ensure the local landscape is protected. Even the building has been created to sit in harmony with nature and includes sustainable features, like a solar snake.”

Image of the vineyards of Lavaux, with Lake Geneva and Alps in the background

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How do you find and verify sustainable businesses for Trafalgar tours?

“There are two parts to this. How do we find them? There’s no one way. I wish there was a search engine or platform where we could easily find cool experiences and partners. A lot of it is me in front of the laptop doing a lot of research and speaking to a lot of people.  What I love about my job is being able to speak to so many different people about sustainability and the main concerns in a destination. Chocolate was actually one of them that we’ve been working on for a long time, because we know that chocolate is an important aspect of visiting Switzerland – but we wanted a way for it to be more sustainable.

“I have amazing colleagues and we’re a very diverse team who have traveled a lot, so we have connections and our Travel Directors on the ground. Most of the time it happens through word of mouth, and it’s amazing to be able to support somebody’s friend, cousin or neighbor who has come up with an initiative or social enterprise that we as a big company are able to support and make a difference. 

“The second part is how do we make sure that this is a good fit for our tours or our brands? As an example, for a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience there is a process. Businesses need to fulfil a number of criteria that have been assessed against the UN Sustainable Development Goals. So the second part of my job is to make sure that those experiences fulfil this criteria with our assessment tool.”

Image of a red mountain train winding through green hills with a snow-capped mountain in the background

Are there plans to make more fully sustainable tours?

“Yes, absolutely. So Contrasts of Switzerland is the first. Ideally we would like every trip to be fully sustainable and we are constantly working on improving. Each of our Swiss tour itineraries has sustainable elements throughout them, but it does take quite a lot of time to come to that stage as every component of the trip has to be certified as sustainable.

“We are already working on the next fully sustainable trips – watch this space!”

THE FIRST SWISSTAINABLE TOUR: Contrasts of Switzerland

Aerial image of a village near Lavaux, looking towards the Swiss Alps across Lake Geneva

What sustainable actions can guests take while they’re traveling with Trafalgar? 

“That’s a really good question. I would love to direct everyone to our TreadRight sustainable travel checklist that the team has put together. We recommend going through the checklist, which gives great guidance on how to best be a more responsible traveler.

There are loads of suggestions and question prompts on the checklist. Ask yourself “can we take a direct flight?” rather than several flights to get there. Can you fit a refillable water bottle in your luggage? Can you learn a few words in the local language so you can connect with locals? Your Travel Director will be able to share destination tips, details on how to recycle etc, but being a mindful traveler means doing some prior research.

And it’s about how you consume. In hotels, can you switch the lights off or not leave taps running? A hotel buffet breakfast is my favorite thing, but we can be mindful of how much we put on our plate so that we limit the waste. And with souvenirs, consciously choose locally made items over mass produced. These are a few changes we can make on a personal level.

Ready to travel sustainably with Trafalgar on our Swisstainable tour? Leave us a comment with your tips for traveling more sustainably…

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