Tapping knowledge and experience from work, study and travel, Natalie Lyall-Grant to ensure that clients travel responsibly to destinations on six continents
Jacada Travel is taking a giant step toward ensuring that responsible travel is at the forefront of the customized trips it creates for clients with the appointment of Natalie Lyall-Grant as Positive Impact Coordinator. A passionate traveler who has worked with a range of hotels, destination management companies (DMCs), and tour operators around the world, Natalie is now immersed in the finer details of Jacada’s offerings, taking stock of experiences fashioned by the company’s trip designers with consideration of local partners and the preservation of the destinations that guests explore.
“Positive impact travel has been part of Jacada’s DNA from the start, and when we do it right, we can change the world,” says Alex Malcolm, who founded Jacada Travel in 2008. ”Natalie is going to be a key player in ensuring that we have a positive impact on the places we visit. Knowing that we are making a difference simply by being there and supporting responsible travel will inspire our guests to experience destinations on a deeper level.”
Managing Travelers’ Impact
Natalie arrived at Jacada’s London headquarters fresh from 12 years of working with travel outfits from Vietnam to Sri Lanka and Australia to Indonesia. Along the way, she became well acquainted with the many positive aspects of low-impact travel, including the benefits of tourism on host communities and environments, while also developing sustainable strategies and travel experiences that inspire travelers to connect with destinations through their people, history, heritage, and the natural environment.
Among her notable achievements, Natalie was a pioneer for change in Sri Lanka, where in 2015 she convinced the DMC she work with to become the first in the country to remove elephant riding from its itineraries. The decision made waves in Sri Lanka and sparked a debate that led many other DMCs to follow suit.
Natalie holds a Master’s degree in Media for Development and Social Change from the University of Sussex, ranked first in the world for development studies, and spent time studying sustainable tourism at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, widely regarded as the most sustainable university globally. Her combined studies and work experience gave her the tools and resources to navigate the complexities of creating tangible change at the local level.
“I want Jacada to take a longer-term approach to ensuring that future generations are able to enjoy the kind of high-value, low-impact travel that we offer today,” she says of her new role. “When travel is done responsibly, it can have a positive impact on the environment, host communities and those who travel, as well as the many people who are employed both directly and indirectly through tourism.”
How can travel be more responsible?
So, how can the travel opportunities Jacada creates for guests be more responsible? A multitude of ways. Natalie explains, ‘Jacada will consider our hotel choices, how we engage with host communities, how we interact with wildlife, and how much waste we create as we move around, to ensure minimal impact and maximum benefit to the destinations that we visit’.
Indeed, the company’s experiences across six continents are designed to take the weight off the shoulders of travelers by providing them with knowledge and advice they need to feel empowered to make better choices. As Natalie puts it: “We seek out accommodations, guides, transportation, and partners that are ‘purpose-driven’ and can demonstrate their commitment to both the environment and their local communities.”
Moving from responsible to positive impact travel
Jacada is able to take clients beyond the concept of “responsible travel” into realms of “positive impact travel,” which Natalie explains as “travel in which trips contribute to longer-term goals, such as rebuilding ecosystems, solving complex social issues, or protecting threatened species and habitats.”
Asked to name recent industry breakthroughs that excite her, she notes promising news from Jacada’s parent company Wilderness, which has partnered with Carbon Ark and the Zambian Ministry of Green Economy and Environment to launch a carbon store and sequestration project that aims to protect millions of hectares of game management areas around Kafue National Park.
“The area has been degraded by logging for charcoal production, as well as burning for farming and hunting,” she explains, “but now it will be protected, creating over 1,000 community jobs as well as restoring areas bordering Kafue National Park and helping with the important work of decarbonizing.”
Natalie’s top picks for positive impact travel
- By choosing to stay at Tswalu, South Africa, Jacada’s guests can become part of the game reserve’s conservation efforts without compromising on luxury. Located on the southernmost edge of the Kalahari, Tswalu restores vital habitat to ensure biodiversity can flourish again, and continuously supports local communities. Guests also have the option to sponsor young rhinos in support of the camp’s overall rhino conservation goal, taking part in tagging and notching procedures, a means of continuously recording the ranging and feeding patterns of rhino to inform future conservation efforts.
- Take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galápagos Islands for incredible wildlife encounters. Arrive at the local airport, run completely on solar and wind power, with strict entry regulations in place to protect the fragile marine haven. Stay at the breathtaking Galapagos Safari Camp, constructed sustainably to lighten the human footprint. The elegant and contemporary camp also makes use of rainwater treatment and solar panels throughout.
- Stay at Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik in Croatia, where past guests have included kings, queens, and Hollywood royalty. A hotel that perfectly pairs luxury style and environmental and cultural consciousness. Embracing a “light touch” approach to tourism, guests receive guidelines on how to follow conservation-driven rules of the national parks during their stay on in-room IPTV slides, as well as energy-saving tips to support Excelsior’s eco-efforts genuinely.
- Visit Shinta Mani Wild, a beautiful eco camp in Cambodia that throws a lifeline to the Cardamom National Forest. Home to some of Cambodia’s most endangered species, the camp employs a dedicated Wildlife Alliance ranger to patrol its 865 acres, arresting poachers and loggers and releasing captured wildlife, among a host of other tasks. Sustainability is at the center of every decision: from employing staff from local villages, to celebrating traditional Khmer treatments in the spa with tonics from the surrounding rainforest or indulging in a menu of ingredients recently foraged from the area, every stay makes a difference.