As I exited Heathrow this past summer, I was greeted by a life-size elephant. More specifically, a giant billboard that advertised how one of the world’s largest airports was switching to 100 percent renewable energy and sustainable fuels—or, in its words, “tackling the elephant in the airport.”
When I looked for an Uber, the app offered the option to take an electric vehicle. As we drove into London, road signs stated that we were entering a designated Ultra Low Emission Zone. And at the Waitrose supermarket in Victoria, I spied a carbon-neutral IPA beer.
As little as five years ago, it felt to me that sustainability was still on the fringes. Some individuals and organizations considered their carbon footprint, but the average traveler to London wouldn’t think too hard about making a “green” choice. Now, industries across the globe, including travel and tourism, have been forced to consider climate in their daily operations. An increasing number of tour operators, destinations, and airlines are doing more for the environment—and making sure consumers know about it.
That’s why I’m so thrilled to present the 2023 AFAR Travel Vanguard. Every year, we honor the top organizations that put people and planet first. This time, our team reviewed 200 pages of applications and selected seven companies making a significant difference with regard to sustainability, diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility. We hope the 2023 Vanguard honorees can serve as inspiration for other organizations around the world.
We also venture out on epic, life-altering trips. Contributing writer Peggy Orenstein walks through the dramatic peaks and fairy-tale villages of Slovenia. Novelist Sarah Thankam Mathews returns to Oman for the first time as an adult and experiences the country on her own terms—including navigating its narrow mountain passes and snorkeling in its turquoise waters. We accompany other writers as they rappel down rocks in Utah, trek across Swiss glaciers, and travel through the southern United States along the Civil Rights Trail.
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