Guillaume Cromer, sustainable tourist
The president of the French organisation Acteurs du Tourisme Durable (ATD) dreams of changing the way people travel on holiday. Meet an activist tourist.
Who would have thought that this son and grandson of car dealers would become a fervent activist advocating for sustainable tourism? After several years working as a barman and searching for his vocation, the Strasbourg native ended up in Evian, where he had what he describes as an epiphany. “I quickly realised that what I liked most was the mountain behind the hotel,” recalls the slate-blue-eyed 36-year-old, a Patagonia cap moulded to his head. He decided to enrol in a mountain career programme at an IUP university institute and went on to study tourism at La Rochelle Business School, where he graduated first in his class. “I wanted to acquire basic management and marketing skills that I could apply to my values, because I knew it was possible to integrate sustainable development goals into business strategy.”
Bespoke, zero-carbon trips
A few years later he set up his own consulting company ID Tourism. Its purpose is to devise tourism promotion strategies for regions, community groupings, recreational parks and other sites and, more importantly, to rethink tourism models and visitor mobility by developing, for example, bespoke, eco-responsible trip packages. “It’s possible to have a zero-carbon experience for short, nearby trips,” says Cromer. “The Bay of Arcachon tourist office asked me to develop eco-friendly mobility solutions. What this means for a holidaymaker is being able to arrive by train, then rent a bike, go kayaking, or whatever, and leave without having generated any pollution.” This kind of inter-modality is an underlying feature of a more virtuous vision of tourism. In rural areas, travellers often have to struggle with the “last kilometre problem” on the final leg of their journey to the place they are staying. The development of autonomous collective shuttles is one solution that is stoking up interest as a way of optimising tourist travel.
Cromer also promotes green travel and sustainable tourism at Acteurs du Tourisme Durable (ATD), an organisation of 150 members (travel agencies, hotels and lodging establishments, non-profits, mobility providers, etc.), over which he has presided since 2013. His goal is to reach beyond the general public and convince government agencies and tourism companies to incorporate sustainable tourism principles into their operations. “We don’t want to focus only on the most virtuous players, because to change things, we need to include everyone – even giants like Airbnb, Center Parcs and Club Med – and galvanise their commitment to sustainable tourism.”
To accomplish his objectives, Cromer, a digital nomad, blogger and influencer who has “spent around 10 nights at home during the past two months,” teaches classes and attends “a lot of seminars and conferences”, has made lobbying his number one priority. “It’s crucial because the French government doesn’t have a tangible sustainable tourism strategy. We need funding for green mobility solutions for tourists and investments in eco‑friendly mobility projects.” But how do you get the government to change its vision on visitor mobility when it’s aiming for 100 million international visitors? When low-cost demand is booming and the International Air Transport Association is predicting that the number of air passengers will double to 8.2 billion per year over the next 20 years? “If we want to be the world’s leading tourist destination, it’s up to us to pave the way, to create another form of travel and become a benchmark in responsible tourism,” says Cromer. “We need to persuade stakeholders to stop focusing on mass tourism from abroad and concentrate on a more local-based tourism. There’s a real awareness of the visitor mobility challenge, and local authorities are paying more attention, particularly to environmental concerns.”
A new rating system for tourism?
To spark change, Cromer is working on a new idea. He wants to change the way tourism performance is evaluated by introducing the triple bottom line concept. This approach not only takes into account profit and visitor numbers but also social and environmental considerations, looking at the overall well-being of tourists and their impact on the host community. He hopes to test this new ranking system with the City of Paris. Cromer is a purist who applies his values to his own company. “At the end of the year, my three employees and I measure our carbon footprint. Using a carbon price of €50 per tonne, we donate the total amount every year to a project that we champion, like combating deforestation or eliminating coal-powered plants.” It’s one small step towards the green revolution that he so ardently desires.