Travelife was developed in 2007 in response to a growing global understanding that businesses needed to take a more proactive role in operating responsibly to address climate change and conservation. Travelife was intended to be a means by which the UK and European travel industry could show that measures were being taken to address these issues, along with growing concerns on social issues and labour rights. In 2009 Travelife became a wholly owned subsidiary of ABTA, the UK travel association.
Work on the current Travelife Standard began in 2004. A group of industry stakeholders and environmental experts reviewed the standard that accommodation providers would need to follow in order to display the Travelife mark, and thus make it easy for both tour operators and their customers to identify which properties were operating responsibly.
This detailed process involved extensive consultation with European NGOs, trade associations, and a variety of subject experts. During this time, it was established that tourism had a significant impact on in-destination social issues, so eventually standards relating to human rights, labour, and community engagement were added. The Standard is occasionally updated to address new issues and to reflect any changes made to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Standard, a set of globally recognised criteria. Travelife remains one of the few standards that comprehensively addresses business management, environmental impacts, and social issues, and is the only standard that was specifically designed by the tourism industry for the tourism industry.
Travelife certifies hotels against a GSTC-recognised Standard containing 163 criteria. Properties join Travelife through payment of a fee that includes a two year membership and an audit. Upon joining, they gain access to a web-based system that contains tools for them to carry out a self-assessment against the Travelife Standard and a suite of resources to help them implement necessary changes.
Three to six months after joining, Members work with Travelife to schedule an audit. Travelife has a network of approximately 60 independent contract auditors who have been trained by an external auditing consultant. Travelife allocate an auditor to a Member and an on-site audit, normally taking around six hours depending on the size of the property, is carried out at a mutually agreed date against the Travelife Standard.
The auditor submits a report to Travelife and a specially trained certifications team quality checks each criterion in the Standard then communicates with the hotel directly on any further improvements that are required. It is common for properties to have some improvements to make and they are given six months to make these. If their audit identifies 40 or more improvements, they are failed and will need to pay for a new audit should they wish to continue with certification.
Once the Certifications Team is satisfied all the criteria are met, the property is certified and given a Travelife Gold Certification in the form of a logo and certificate they can display. The certification is valid for two years at which point the property must renew membership and undergo another audit. Properties must continue to do this every two years in order to maintain their certification.
Travelife also has a travel trade membership product for tour operators and online travel agents (OTAs). A weekly membership status report is sent to these Members so they can update their systems to show which properties in their supply chain have sustainability certification. Tier Two Members are also invited to participate in Working Group meetings and to work with Travelife on bespoke strategies to increase the number of Certified properties in their accommodation supply chain.
Travelife has developed a commercial agreement with Preferred by Nature offering their certified properties the option to become Travelife certified Members via payment of a reduced membership fee.
The Travelife Team
Audit operations manager
Hugh joined us in 2022 from ABTA, the UK travel association. Since 2011 he worked on their sustainability team supporting the development and expansion of ABTA’s sustainability strategy. He also helped to develop resources and guidance for the UK travel industry. This included collaborating with Deloitte to develop the ABTA Climate Action Guidebook, developing ABTA’s Volunteer Tourism Guidelines and ABTA’s Animal Welfare Guidelines.
With more than 20-years experience in travel and tourism, Hugh also has an MSc in Tourism, Conservation and Sustainable Development from the University of Greenwich and a BSc in Agriculture and Biological Sciences from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Hugh loves to travel with highlights include repping for school groups on the Greek islands and on the Catalunya coast, as well as leading treks and conservation programmes in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Madagascar.
Senior customer support executive
After finishing school in London with A-Level qualifications in; psychology, English literature and fine art, Sophia started working with Travelife in 2018 as their first ever apprentice. Sophia has travelled to various destinations around Europe on holidays and is excited to now be able to get involved in helping accommodation providers improve their sustainability.
Certifications, compliance and quality control specialist + Finance administrator
After leaving school , Sara’s first job was a flight agent at a travel agency in West London, she then went on to pursue a secretarial career and spent three years living/travelling in Turkey. Whilst there she enjoyed integrating with the community, teaching English to locals and helping out at a local secondary school.
Certifications, compliance and quality control manager
Michelle obtained her Bachelor’s degree in International Business from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. During her studies she completed a university exchange in Surabaya, Indonesia. Michelle then moved to London in order to complete a Masters in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at Birkbeck, University of London. She developed a lasting passion for sustainable tourism during dissertation research in Thailand. As a result, Michelle decided to do an internship within the Sustainability and Social Responsibility department at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) headquarters in Bangkok. In between her studies, Michelle embarked on working holidays in Australia and New Zealand, and travelled throughout South-East Asia. She has also been to several countries in Africa and Europe.
Certifications, compliance and quality control specialist
Travelling with friends, family and solo has led me to recognise how important tourism is for people across the world and I want to know I am contributing to the sustainability of the industry.
I graduated with a BA Geography degree from the University of Plymouth, completing my final year dissertation on the sustainability of accommodation providers in South Devon. I completed the GSTC Sustainable Tourism Training Programme in the various COVID lockdowns and then secured a job at Plymouth City Council in their Natural Infrastructure and Sustainable Transport Teams.
In September 2021, I began a part-time MSc in Responsible Tourism Management at Leeds Beckett. Usually in my free-time I’ll be by the sea, whether that’s swimming or paddleboarding.
Certifications, compliance and quality control specialist
Rosie completed A Level Geography, Psychology and Sociology. These subjects generated an interest in the social impacts of geography and tourism. Rosie has travelled to various destinations in Europe such as Greece, then after leaving school went further afield to Australia, leading to passion for the tourism and travel industry. She began her career as an apprentice with Thomas Cook where she achieved her qualification with distinction. After 2-years with Thomas Cook, and following their failure, she joined ABTA then moved to Travelife in 2021. Rosie believes that working at Travelife will offer a more hands-on and impactful approach to improving sustainability in travel and tourism.
Business development manager
Fascinated by travel from an early age, which likely stems from having family in the industry, Larisa went on to study International Tourism Management at university. Her passion for sustainability, one of the most prominent issues facing the tourism industry, paved her path to Travelife as a Business Development Manager. With this enthusiasm, her ambition is to see as much of the world as possible, whilst working to help maintain and develop destinations sustainability.
Business development manager
Born in Spain, Susana’s extensive experience in the industry commenced with a degree in Business Management in Tourism before working for a number of tour operators in Madrid. She then relocated to London where she has lived for the past 10 years, gaining valuable international tour operator and hotel industry experience in a range of operational roles. As part of the Travelife business development team, she is now responsible for growing our presence in Spanish and Portuguese–speaking countries. Susana believes that increasing awareness of sustainability issues in the sector will help to preserve tourism destinations long into the future.
Originally from New Zealand, Carolyn’s diverse career in tourism began almost 25-years ago working with inbound visitors to New Zealand before moving into education as a vocational travel & tourism lecturer. After moving to London, she spent 15-years with Virgin, first working with Virgin Limited Edition, a collection of properties privately owned by Sir Richard Branson, then at Virgin Galactic in sales before moving to New Mexico, USA for 5-years where she was primarily focused on hospitality experience design and tourism development. Sustainability has been a strong thread throughout her career so she was delighted to take on the role as Travelife Commercial Director when she returned to London in 2017.
The Board of Directors
The Board of Directors meets to oversee the business, help set direction and to provide support to the Travelife leadership team.