November 9, 2013 @ 10:22 am - posted by Robert

Justin Francis explains how ‘Lonely Planet’ and ‘Body Shop’ shaped his ideas of Responsible and ethical travel and inspired him to set up ResponsibleTravel.com

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The Body Shop: Ethical Trade

How Lonely Planet & Body Shop influenced Responsible Travel on my Career Break / Sabbatical – Transcript

This was my bible I guess, the Lonely Planet, and many of you who may have travelled on their Career Break or Sabbatical may also have used guide books in that way.  I think more latterly as I got more experienced in travelling I started to abandon the guidebook and ask people for ideas and inspiration.

But the extraordinary thing about the Lonely Planet back then, and this is going back 25 years, is it had a section in there on responsible travel ethics, and it talked about how to not cause offence to local people, it talked about the ethics of begging and of haggling with local people.  And it really awakened my consciousness, because I was travelling in such a deep and immersive way it became very important to me, I became very sensitised to how the local communities and people I met might be feeling about me as a rather an alien traveller.

So Lonely Planet really started to get me thinking about Travelling Like a Local, but also about embracing Responsible Travel.

When I came back from my career break or sabbatical, I left the advertising agency I was working for and I went to work for a lady, a remarkable lady Anita Roddick who founded the Body Shop.  And on the left is one of the campaigns that the body shop ran.  This is fat barbie, I hope theres no Mattel lawyers in the room.  We weren’t allowed to call it fat Barbie at the time because Mattel who owned Barbie were very angry about it.  But this was one of the womans issues campaigns that the body shop started.  And Anita’s philosophy was that she wanted to run a business, she wanted to make money, she wanted to sell hair and beauty products.  But she felt there was something wrong in her industry so she wanted to campaign, she wanted to be an activist about it and that going back 25 years was a alien concept.  Either you were a business person in which case you focused on just making profit or you were a Charity person and campaigned for change.  But to do both was a very unusual thing.  To run a business in an ethical way was very unusual and very different.  And I loved that and I also found her rebellious activist spirit addictive and her entrepreneurial zeal addictive.  I got thinking that I too wanted to start a business with some of her philosophy.

I went to study a Masters Degree in Responsible Travel, and it kind of developed my thinking that had first been spiked in and provoked by my own travels and I’ve come to think of Responsible Travel, about authentic real travel that creates better places to live and better places to visit.  And the interesting bit here is the better places to live in.  I don’t think tourism is just about conservation or about environment.  It has to be about local people and its their home.  We have to create tourism that first and foremost creates better places to live.

And I started this business in April 2001.  I went back to Anita [the Body Shop] and I said I’m thinking about starting my own business.  And she took me to her office which is fabulous.  It’s full of nuts and seeds and ingredients she’d collected all over the world, and she got out a big sheet of paper.  I thought what an earth is she doing, and she got a pencil out and she drew a line down the middle of the page and she sat me down and she said ‘on the left hand side is all the rules of the tourism industry’.  And I wrote them down, all the conventions I thought of tourism and how it’s operated.

And then she said ‘right, on the other side of the paper, break every single one of them.  do the exact opposite’.  I wrote all those down and it gave me the spark if you like to create  the business.  And I think for any entrepreneur, rule breaking entrepreneur, that was a great lesson.  And, this [website] looks old fashioned now but this was the early days of the internet.  And I was told very loudly that it would fail.  It was ethical, it was bound to fail, it was a dot.com, this was 2001 after the dot.com collapse, dotcoms were bound to fail and I had no experience in running a business, but off we started

 

 

 

 

 

About Robert

Robert was born with a Wonderlust and nothing excites him more than travel. He recently spent time living in Vietnam teaching English. Upon his return, he and Liz set up CareerBreak360 to help others achieve their Career Break goals.

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