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Meet Angelique Tonnaer Kırkıl, a Travelife Approved Auditor
Each month we feature an interview with a Travelife Approved Auditor. We have around 60 independently contracted auditors based around the world that must undergo an intensive training programme before they can audit with us. To continue carrying out audits for Travelife they must complete annual refresher training and a yearly performance review. Click here to find out more about our requirements for auditors.
Location: Döşemealtı, Antalya, Turkey
Languages: Fluent in Dutch, Limburgish (native language), English, Turkish, German, French and Spanish. Beginner in Italian and Arabic
Total auditing experience: 10 years
Travelife auditing experience: 10 years
Specialisations: Sustainability, Erasmus+ projects and equestrian management
Auditing fields: Accommodation, tour operators and travel agencies, destination management, agriculture (equestrian)
Angelique grew up close to nature in the small village of Thorn in the Netherlands. Her father inspired a love and respect for the environment, often taking her on walks in the wetlands where he would explain to her about nature and wildlife. She remembers that even as a child she was a ‘little activist’, always trying to protect insects and animals and often organising water clean-ups with her friends. A passion for travel was added when she began playing in the village orchestra that would often perform concerts outside the Netherlands.
“The biggest trigger for my sustainability passion was the birth of our son in 2010. This (and I am sure that other parents agree) awakens a kind of super awareness about the world and how we want to leave it for our children.”
Angelique Tonnaer Kırkıl
Knowing she wanted to pursue a more global career path, Angelique first studied international relations. It was through this that she learned about the human and social side of being a responsible custodian of the planet. After several years working with various EU institutions, she helped establish the Dutch National Youth Council that helped her understand the importance of involving youth in creating a better world, and the importance of involving people about what needs to change, and how to influence those changes.
Angelique has been auditing for Travelife since 2011. Most of her audits are carried out in Turkey, a country she now calls home, but her impressive language ability has seen her sent further afield to hotels in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
“I take advantage of as many training opportunities as I can because it is so important for auditors to stay current with changing requirements and issues in sustainability.”
Angelique Tonnaer Kırkıl
Her favourite part of auditing is being onsite at the property and providing staff with constructive ideas that will help them go one or two steps further than the Travelife minimum requirements. She finds that most hotels really welcome this feedback and often finds out later that they have implemented her suggestions. Angelique says this makes the challenge and intensity of conducting an audit worthwhile because she knows she has really helped to make a difference.
Keeping in mind her passion for conservation that began in childhood, it is not surprising that some of her favourite things she has seen hotels do are relating to biodiversity. She tells us about Reethi Beach, a Travelife Gold Certified property in the Maldives, who have made some real achievements in this area. “They do not use any artificial pesticides against mosquitos or other insects, and have been successful at controlling insects using these natural methods, ideally sourced locally. One really simple way they do this is not clearing up fallen leaves in their grounds. The leaves provide a good hiding place for lizards who eat the insects, helping to keep the numbers down whilst keeping the guests happy!”.
She goes on to explain that the whole ethos at Reethi Beach is using local conditions and endemic species in their grounds wherever possible, avoiding over-stylised landscaping so that nature can get on with doing its own thing. Guests also enjoy hearing about these types of initiatives, giving them ideas for improving biodiversity in their own gardens at home.
“Be authentic and ethical. It is currently fashionable and hip to be sustainable but it is really important that companies can back up their claims with evidence that they have taken real action.”
Angelique Tonnaer Kırkıl
Angelique believes that authenticity and being able to back up sustainability claims with real actions is an essential part of being a more responsible business. She emphasises the importance of using influence to affect positive changes in the supply chain too, such as only working with a pension fund or bank that can demonstrate they respect human rights and the environment, asking direct questions about what they are doing before signing any contracts.
Overuse of harmful pesticides is something she believes needs a stronger focus from businesses who can affect real change in this area by collaborating with pest control companies on more environmentally friendly solutions, perhaps offering to trial these at their own business. She cautions businesses to also think about pesticides in food by questioning suppliers and opting for reputable organic labels.
Angelique's advice for being a responsible consumer
Investigate sustainable options before you buy and check for alternatives. This rule applies to everything from looking for sustainable travel options, such as a Travelife Certified hotel, to questioning your use of consumables like single-use shaving utensils.
Do not be afraid to ask questions or even give tips to the company that you want to buy your product from. The more critical the customer, the more chances there are for change! This also means voting with your wallet! Stop giving money to businesses that aren’t being responsible and instead make an effort to support the ones that are. For example, switch to a bank that only invests in sustainable projects, and when leaving your last bank, make sure you let them know why.
Try not to be overwhelmed by the challenges humanity faces. This can make people think that their own individual actions do not matter, but this is not true. Every action, even the smallest one, creates hope.