Interview by Everett Potter
I met Irene Lane at the Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) in Chiapas, Mexico last autumn and was impressed by her approach to travel. Her company, Greenloons, is both kid-friendly and eco-friendly, and she seems to have found a new niche in the world of adventure travel. I was eager to hear more:
Everett Potter: How would you define the Greenloons concept?
Irene Lane: Greenloons makes it easy to connect people (families in particular) to meaningful and unique nature-based travel experiences all over the world. Because we are the only company that solely works with third-party eco-certified tour operators and accommodation providers, Greenloons provides a level of assurance to eco-conscious travelers that these small group vacations not only offer distinction and quality in pristine natural surroundings, but these trips have been independently verified as emphasizing conservation education, respecting local cultural traditions and supporting local communities.
EP: How did you get involved in adventure travel?
IL: I’ve had the good fortune to live in 5 countries and travel to 28 more. My parents instilled in my brother and I a love of travel, culture and nature, which I think I’ve passed on to my son, who at 7 years old, has already been to 13 countries and can regale stories about each of them. Ultimately, my son was my inspiration to start Greenloons. When I appreciated the potential that ecotourism had for creating teachable moments or moments that captured his interest whether it was a cultural tradition, wildlife habitat, or explaining the fragility of an ecosystem, I wanted to be able to offer that opportunity to all families. I also wanted these travel experiences to be as authentic and environmentally responsible as possible.
EP: What led you to start the company?
IL: I started Greenloons in May 2010 while completing my Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Management and after I realized that there was a lot of misinformation about ecotourism and very little transparency about the industry. I wanted to help travelers work with tour operators and accommodation providers that have gone the extra mile in terms of environmental accountability, social responsibility, and economic transparency. Greenloons does this by educating travelers about eco-certifications, providing practical tips and information about eco-travel, and offering eco-certified vacations around the world. Travelers can share their stories and concerns about ecotourism on our forum boards and we are in the unique position to be able to share this feedback with international organizations, such as the Rainforest Alliance and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, which are responsible for strengthening international eco-standards. With Greenloons, you have an effective ecosystem of customers, suppliers, regulators and non-governmental organizations all working toward authentic ecotourism.
EP: Has it always had a strong eco-focus?
IL: Yes. Given that tourism is the largest industry in the world, the potential of ecotourism to alleviate poverty, conserve wildlife and habitats, bring greater cultural understanding, and of course affect climate change is very large. I think when given the choice, people want to travel responsibly. Until Greenloons came along, it wasn’t as easy for eco-conscious travelers to figure out how to choose vacations in which the suppliers were not just talking the talk, but walking the walk when it came to exemplifying the foundational components of ecotourism.
EP: How would you define the essence of a Greenloons trip — how does it differ from what your competitors offer?
IL: Unlike other travel aggregators that have their own (and not necessarily standard) ecotourism criteria, Greenloons works directly with smaller operators who have obtained independent verification and recognition that their trips are socially responsible, environmentally sustainable, and economically supportive of local communities. We don’t directly run these trips. Rather, we easily connect you with these small operators who are focused on running high quality, comfortable, conservation-focused trips that allow small groups of travelers to connect with the land, the people, the wildlife, and the culture of the area. Our goal is that everyone in the Greenloons Community establishes a deep connection with the places they are visiting and that we help to raise the younger generation to be globally responsible citizens.
EP: Why should someone choose a Greenloons trip over that of another operator?
IL: If you are looking for the opportunity to travel with like-minded individuals who enjoy unique travel experiences with naturalist guides, prefer supporting local communities, and demand personalized service, I would invite you to check out www.greenloons.com and be inspired for your next vacation.
EP: How would describe your typical travelers?
IL: Our clients are well-traveled (in other words, they’ve been there and done that) and, instead, are looking for unique experiences beyond what the guidebooks cover. They don’t want to be part of a crowd and don’t want to be hurried from one stop to the next. They want experienced guides who are knowledgeable and personable, and they feel good knowing that the money they are paying for the vacation is going directly toward supporting local communities. Finally, they want their children to have a memorable, educational and safe travel experience, while also having a really fun time as a family.
EP: Any new destinations for Greenloons this year?
IL: This year, we are featuring some phenomenal trips throughPrince William Sound(Alaska),Croatia,Newfoundland,Patagonia(Chile), Galapagos (Ecuador), andSweden. So far, they’ve proven to be very popular with clients.
EP: Where are you scouting for future trips?
IL: I just came back from traveling through the eastern part of Ecuadorwhere I found some really amazing travel experiences and will be going to Poland in a few months to scout for some more trips. In addition, I’m always on the lookout for additional trips right here in the United States. However, eco-certified accommodation providers and tour operators are not as easy to find here as they are in other parts of the world, which I find so interesting and hope that I can help change.
EP: With all of your travels, where do you find your center of gravity?
IL: While I’m traveling, meditation keeps me on an even keel by helping me to remember that there are stories and a wonderful, natural world out there that people should know more about. However, in general, it is my husband and son who keep me balanced and centered. Sometimes, I am able to bring them with me on my travels, while other times I cannot given work and school schedules. When I cannot, my absolute favorite family time is when I can share all the pictures, videos, awe-inspiring moments, and funny stories with them and share in the lively discussions!
For more information, contact Greenloons