AHI Travel International

AHI Travel International (AHI) was established in 1962 as the first travel company offering programs exclusively for college and university alumni. With a strong focus on education, AHI organizes tours around the globe for numerous university alumni associations. AHI is a family business, owned and operated by the Small family, and is based in Chicago, Illinois.

Sustainability in the Home Office

Executive Support is key to implementing change, both through direct operations and at destinations and with suppliers. As a member of the USTOA and a founding member of Tourism Cares, AHI has demonstrated the executive support needed to implement sustainable practices. AHI reported its current sustainability team consists of a conglomeration of roles throughout the company, including members from Product Development, Marketing, Sales, and company owners. Forming this team is a powerful step in AHI’s sustainability journey, and exemplifies AHI’s interest in integrating sustainable practices into its overall company strategy. Dedicating a team of people to such sustainability work can streamline efforts, ensure that resources are applied to priority areas, and advance the ambition of AHI’s sustainability initiatives. Sustainability is holistic and encompasses all three pillars - Environmental, Socio-Cultural, and Economic. Here are highlights of AHI’s efforts in these three areas in sustainability in travel:

Environmental Sustainability

AHI has active initiatives in the following areas of Environmental Sustainability:

  • Biodiversity, Wildlife, Natural Areas
  • Greenhouse Gas Reduction
  • Food
  • Overcrowding
  • Waste
  • Water

AHI has goals for sustainability pertaining to: Greenhouse Gas Reduction, Energy, and Waste.

Furthermore, AHI’s suppliers (hotels, ships, etc.) have active initiatives in all the Environmental Sustainability areas listed above - plus Energy.

AHI recognizes the impact of overcrowding on destinations and has these initiatives:

  • focuses on catering towards small group sizes and
  • traveling during the “serene season.”
  • Consideration was given to the capacity of sites and the levels of pressure on those sites in determining AHI’s group size and timing of visits.

By traveling in the “serene seasons” and with smaller groups, AHI helps to alleviate pressure on natural areas.

Among its goals, AHI is working to include offering carbon offsets to passengers, using motor coaches that run on renewable fuels, and researching systems to reduce single-use plastic (particularly water bottle) consumption.

  • “We will be offering a carbon offset program to our passengers.”
  • “Energy goals include increasing the use of electric or clean fuel motor-coaches.”

In addition, AHI’s suppliers are working to:

  • to eliminate plastic straws on river cruises and hotels,
  • emphasize fuel and energy efficient transportation (river cruises, motor-coaches),
  • composting/recycling close to 100% on river cruises
  • composting/recycling up to 90% in hotels.

Socio-cultural Sustainability

AHI is very active around Cultural Heritage. AHI relies on its suppliers for Local Relationship Management. Most of AHI’s programs feature the cultural diversity of destinations, and all of their programs contain a culinary component.

“Showcasing cultural heritage is part of experiencing a locale. Each of our trips contains a culinary component. This can be a trip to the food market with a local chef, a cooking demo or class cooking local cuisine with local products.”

Economic Sustainability

All of Community Development initiatives are conducted by AHI’s suppliers. Working with ships, hotels, and other suppliers which prioritize sustainability is crucial, and demonstrates AHI’s interest in sustainable practices. As a tour operator, AHI is a pivotal player in driving this change across its other suppliers.

Of the Economic Sustainability initiatives AHI directly supports, there is particular emphasis on trips to local markets and supporting local businesses.

“Of the hotels we use around the world for 2020, 29 are family-owned or owned by a small local business group. 35 hotels are part of large chains of hotels, but many chain properties can be affiliated with the chain but run by a local management group. An estimate for how many are run by a local group would be at least 50%.”