“It is a large and growing industry that is suffering from its own success,” says entrepreneur David Urban, founder of Beyond Your World, a video production company producing “travel series with a conscience”.
The company’s main client is UNESCO, with Urban’s aim being to promote “more responsible, ethical and sustainable form of tourism”.
“Many destinations focus on attracting visitors at any expense, which has led to a glut, compromising the quality of what tourists see, the lives of local residents and the local, macro environment,” Urban adds.
Urban incorporated the company in 2018 but had the idea for producing travel series the year before when planning a trip to Russia for the World Cup.
“We set out to tell a different story from football in parallel with the world’s greatest sporting event. We visited Siberia’s Lake Baikal where the delicate ecosystem was managed for millennia by the local Buryat tribes but today, young Russian eco-activists have joined the fight and volunteer to protect the lake which holds a fifth of the world’s unfrozen freshwater.”
He continues: “We started the company to highlight the issues and opportunities that can come with travel, and this parallel is especially clear at UNESCO World Heritage sites.”
Urban hopes, through his company’s productions, to encourage people to visit destinations closer to home.
“Travel editors, influencers and holiday providers face an uncomfortable truth. Flying, so central to the sector, is one of the worst things anyone can do in terms of environmental impact.
“Many in the industry see the solution, going flight-free, as incompatible with their audience or market. BYW view this, and the fact that aviation will inevitably face greater levies, competition and price hikes in the years ahead, as an opportunity to embrace the future now and disrupt the status quo by promoting slow, grounded travel.”
Urban believes storytelling is a vital component in changing people’s attitude towards travel.
“All too often though, we see glib narratives filling the travel space. The biggest travelogue on Earth is Amazon Prime’s The Grand Tour – three middle-aged provocateurs driving gas guzzlers with no aim or higher purpose.”
Urban seeks to change the narrative with his latest series The Green Weekend, which focuses on eco-travel. One episode, set on the UK’s Jurassic Coast, features restaurants whose menus exclusively feature locally-sourced food, a distillery making vodka from waste products, and family-run businesses.
“From the start, I wanted to make more eco-travel seem doable,” Urban explains. “The effect of visual content, whether Bob Hunter’s ‘Mindbomb’, Agnes Denes’ wheatfield, or my own Life Without Limbs viral video for BBC Studios – watched 91 million times – can achieve as much impact than any policy change or corporate initiative. Timely, emotional and visually compelling stories punch through.”
In the future, Urban hopes to promote a change in tourist management schemes.
“Can package holiday providers become more sustainable? Employ more locals? Create hyper-local food menus? Arrange day trips to visit community success projects rather than oversubscribed sites?”
He also hopes to make travel more inclusive for travelers with disabilities, and highlighting responsible wildlife holidays.