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Meet Travelife Audit Operations Manager, Hugh Felton

Based at our London office, Hugh leads our audit operations and customer support team.

Describe your role at Travelife

My role is to manage the operations of Travelife audits and hotel customer support as smoothly as possible. I provide audit operational support for Travelife auditors, hotels and staff. I also help with the development and delivery of our comprehensive auditor training and quality control programme. A typical day includes prioritising audit requests from hotels and matching them up with suitable auditors all around the world. From South Africa to Laos to Greece, it really is a global operation.

How did you end up working at Travelife? 

I joined Travelife in late 2022 from ABTA, the UK travel association. I had worked on the ABTA sustainability team since 2011 where I supported the development and expansion of their sustainability strategy and resources for their travel industry members. For example, I have helped write sustainability guidance for tour operators and their ground handling agents across environmental impacts such as carbon management, plastic waste, and for equally important areas including modern slavery and animal welfare.

I find sustainable development a very interesting and important topic. I studied an MSc in Tourism, Conservation and Sustainable Development from the University of Greenwich, UK in 2000 and have been working in the travel industry ever since. In my twenties, I enjoyed repping for school groups tour operators on the Greek islands and on the Catalunya coast, as well leading treks and conservation programmes in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Madagascar.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of this job for me is helping hotels tackle the sustainability challenges they face through providing practical and real-life solutions. We all, both personally and professionally, are facing a real challenge in terms of the environment, so it is important that we treat people well. It feels good to be working on the sustainability agenda in the accommodation sector and supporting real action on the ground that we know has positive impacts.

What is the most inspiring thing you have seen an accommodation provider do?

The biggest thing for me is that many hotels have gone from having no customers during the COVID-19 pandemic to suddenly experiencing a big demand. They are extremely busy juggling the many challenges we are all facing today, yet they remain committed to sustainability and doing their very best whilst providing a first-rate service to their guests. So even though there are many pressures, many properties are still giving it their all and I find this inspiring.

I also get inspiration from seeing properties do small things well. Sweating the small stuff, often away from the limelight, is where you will often find the sustainability champions.

What advice would you give to a hotel just starting on their sustainability journey?

Start off small and bring your colleagues on board to help share the work to maximise the impact. Also, start the measuring process as early as you can so you know what your current performance is, whatever the area, for example plastic waste, carbon emissions or even measuring your staff’s awareness on sustainability matters. 

What one piece of advice would you give to a hotel that is already working with Travelife?

Share the load. Engage your colleagues as early as possible and you will start to see changes across your business, not just in one department. Try not to be overly prescriptive either and engage your staff who have strengths in different areas. Some may be analytical and would naturally enjoy crunching energy data, others may enjoy giving a staff presentation about sustainability. Either way try to get your colleagues involved and make it an enjoyable experience for them and help them to develop skills and confidence at the same time.

Hugh's top tip for sustainable living

Making good sustainable purchasing decisions from the outset will help you down the line. For instance, reducing your intake of plastic packaging in supermarkets when choosing food. Also buying local and seasonal produce has been fun. It has helped me to reduce transport-associated carbon emissions, but also has helped me introduce new ways to reduce meat consumption. I try to use it as an excuse to create new tasty meals by looking up  recipes and will often pick up leaflets and in-store magazines at supermarkets for cooking inspiration. 

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