Tripbod embraces accessible tourism

Europe’s leading Accessible Travel organisation, Tourism for All (TFA, is teaming up with the global travel community (and all round coolest ethical tourism site around at the moment) The aim is to find as many local people as possible with a knowledge of accessibility in their area to become ‘Tripbods’ and offer their local knowledge to visitors.

Tourism For All’s Carrie-Ann Fleming, a Tripbod herself, explains that the idea is an extension of the core Tripbod philosophy. “It’s all about empowering truly independent travel. Connecting with a like-minded local Tripbod before you arrive means you get straight to the knowledge source you need. Disabled people already have all the knowledge they need gained from experiences, good or bad, to offer others with similar concerns all the information they need before they travel”.

The two organisations have been working together for some time, but are now ramping up their activity to make accessible travel core to the whole offering. Tripbod are pioneers in truly embracing accessibility into the responsible tourism model, something which has been long overdue in the ever growing supply of responsible tourism businesses on the market out there right now.’s founder Sally Broom says “You will see that every product we list on the website has an accessibility rating. We wanted to launch with this because we know it’s a central consideration for very many travellers who want to know if a particular activity is suitable for them.”

The announcement comes within days of Easyjet hitting the news for two cases of discrimination against disabled travellers and Broom acknowledges the timeliness of the partnership. “These cases reflect poorly on the travel industry and we want to show another side of the story. 2012 is a massive year for travel in the UK and it would be both a shame and a failure if visitors are unable to enjoy fully their visit due to poor information”.

Thankfully that will now not be the case as Tripbod and TFA will be ensuring that every traveller has access to a like-minded local Tripbod to help plan the perfect trip. Fleming adds, “The initial focus of the partnership will be on recruiting Tripbods in the UK with a knowledge of local accessibility, but the existing Tripbod network is global and we are welcoming everyone everywhere with a passion for independent accessible travel to join us. What’s more, we will be offering simple and effective training for Tripbods who want to help disabled travellers but need a bit more advice and support.” Let’s hope this starts a global growth in accessbility being included in the responsible tourism agenda from now on too, as Tripbod trip the light fantastic into a sector which has been in much need of attention for a long time now.
Read my other recent article on accessible tourism here.

People of the year 2009

Donkey trekking with Itinerance in Mercantour National Park, France

I once had an editor who told me that I shouldn’t write about people in travel. “Holidaymakers only want to know about the place, not the people. They’re irrelevant to travel articles”, he told me. However, writing about beaches and budget airlines, is not really my bag, as regular readers will know by now. People who create incredible places to stay or things to do, and also care deeply for their local environment, community and climate change, sell a holiday to me just as much as any piece of ‘beach lit’. And 2009 has definitely been a year about people in tourism.




Those who survived this worldwide recession without compromising their principles of responsible tourism merit huge recognition in my book. Some even dared to set up new businesses this year, such as Tripbod (, which puts travellers in touch with local guides before they travel. For a small fee, you get email contact with carefully selected local guides, who give you all the inside, finger-on-the-pulse information on the place you plan to visit. Tripbod works with an ethical ethos, and sources ‘bods’ who think the same way as they do, and top bods they are too, in my book.


One organisation which nearly lost its battle for survival in 2009, was Tourism Concern ( a charity which has been fighting for human rights in tourism for twenty years. They put out an international appeal for rescue funding, and have managed to see their way into 2010, when the appeal will continue. Taking on tourism multinationals over employment conditions, governments on indigenous land ownership issues, as well as equal access to basic resources such as water, so often usurped for tourism purposes, its role in protecting people affected by tourism is invaluable.


Many thanks also for all the lovely feedback during the year, such as the two women who travelled to Africa with People and Places (, which won Best Volunteering Organisation at this year’s Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards. These readers had great volunteering experiences, and felt as if they had made a genuinely positive contribution to the communities they visited. People and Places won this award because they not only offer a sustainable, transparent approach to volunteering holidays (they are externally audited), but they actively campaign for an end to the many cases of bad practice in the sector. Such as lack of consultancy with local communities, no police checks, abandoning volunteers in situ and, very importantly, where the volunteer’s money is actually going at the end of the day. People and Places gets what ‘voluntourism’ is about and, if you are thinking of giving time and money to people who need it, they are the people to call.


But my ‘People of the Year’ award goes to the Kieffer family in France. They run a walking holiday company in the Mercantour region of France, called Itinerance, They sent us off into the Lower Alps earlier this year, walking from gite to gite with a donkey to carry our bags. They bring hundreds of visitors to their spot in the Alps every year, teaching chlldren about the joys of nature, bringing money to many rural villages, sharing their love of slowtravel and slowfood, and running one of the most exemplary ethical tourism businesses I have come across ( So, bah humbug to that editor, he was wrong. It’s people like this who are creating a truly ethical tourism industry, and ensuring that travel is still one of the most exhilarating, eye-opening ways to spend our precious time.


An edited version of this article was first published in The Irish Times, 2 January 2010







Shopping strop

Moroccan beads. Photo: Catherine Mack
Moroccan beads. Photo: Catherine Mack

At the risk of biting the hand that feeds me,  Go’s ‘Shop through the drop’ article (14.11.09) about the ‘great’ return of Irish women to the New York shopping trip,

in search of a credit crunch bargain, took me on a nostalgia trip. I did exactly that in my youth, which was also back in the last century. But I thought we had all moved on a bit since then.  Consumer excess is a personal choice, I guess, but carbon excess in order to feed that frenzy is just not on anymore. I am not against flying per se, but there are limits, and chasing the SJP lifestyle in Barney’s is verging on carbon trashy these days.  


If you have signed up for Ireland’s 10:10 challenge ( where people are committing to cut their personal carbon emissions by 10% in a year, you will have noticed that the first tip is ‘Fly Less, Holiday More’, encouraging us to take fewer but longer trips. The sixth tip is “Buy Good Stuff”, and think about waste and ethics on our shopping trips.


So if, for example, you are limiting your flights to one a year, and your Christmas shopping trip is it, use the Carbon Friendly Flight Search tool on, which finds the cheapest flight as well as the greenest. It does this by assessing the carbon efficiency of each fleet and whether the route is direct or not. It shows that a return flight from Dublin to New York, 10209.56 kms, emits1.25 tonnes of carbon per person.


For about the same price, and half the amount of carbon, you can get a real bargain in the markets of Marrakech, and keep money in the local economy, with grotto after grotto of gorgeous artisan jewellery, leather, rugs and, of course, spices.  Morocco’s argan oil, for example, has to be one of the finest beauty products, and now sought after by those in the know.  And no over-heated malls, over-packaged goods, and over-loaded plates of food either. Take a local guide around the souks, such as one recommended on (share the cost with a group of girls) to find all the best bargains and get your head around haggling. You will have to swap the Margharitas for mint tea though.


Even strolling the streets of Istanbul is half the carbon cost of fighting your way along Fifth Avenue. Choose a locally owned accommodation, treat yourself to a Turkish Bath, and bring back a load of Turkish Delight for granny. You can book a great short trip, with use of local guide, on


Staying closer to home, take the boat and train to Edinburgh or Glasgow, where you can buy plenty of local crafts or produce, not only in some superb boutiques, but also at the capital’s Ethical Christmas Fair from 12-20 December ( will feel as if you have walked onto a set of Sex In The City in Glasgow’s Che Chamille (, which works with young designers directly, using ethically sourced materials. There are lots of other ways to enjoy Scotland in winter while you are there, as seen at which has taken a whole white theme this year.


Or just stay at home, and support some of Ireland’s local producers. Take the train or bus to a town you don’t normally visit and stock up on local produce. The choice is endless, such as The Burren Perfumery, Sligo’s Voya seaweed products or Kenny’s Bookshop in Galway. The list is endless. Please feel free to send me all other suggestions as a comment to this article on my website, and I will add them to the list.


An edited version of this article was published in The Irish Times, 28 November 2009






Don’t be a stranger with Tripbod

tripbod-for-blog-2_optI headed to Paris for a three year stint in the early eighties, knowing noone and feeling very much the stranger in town. Someone recommended that I post an ad for digs at The American church there, as that is where most English-speaking expats congregated to exchange information. It worked – I found a flat, some cool flatmates, a bike, a futon, and a few party invites to boot. Social rather than spiritual guidance, it has to be said.

Times have changed, however, and as my travels take me further afield I, like many others, use the internet as my starting point for international guidance. And Tripbod ( is my newly chosen, and invaluable, first port of call, when heading off to new frontiers.

Tripbod, is a web-based service, where independent travellers register, so that they can be introduced online to a vetted local expert who will offer real insight to their home country, as well as inspiration to discover an authentic rather than tourist-driven destination. These experts, or Tripbods, equip visitors with the most up to date information and on-the-spot knowledge, for a nominal fee ranging from £10.99-£150 sterling (the company is based in UK). The basic package, called Trip Planner Light, allows you to ask your Tripbod five questions, and receive advice and recommendations along with a Google map of recommended places to visit or stay. The full Tripbod package provides a private online space for real time communication between the traveller and Tripbod, starting from £35 sterling, and going up in price, depending on the period of time you want to maintain contact with your Tripbod. So, if you are planning a six month trip to Australia, for example, you might want to invest in a longer period of time, during which you can pick your Tripbod’s brains. Whatever the length of time, you’ll have all the travel tips you could hope for, through a variety of live chat and messaging, an online planning page, and maps.
Sally Broom, the founder of Tripbod, is one of the most dynamic, passionate and committed proponents of responsible tourism I have met. She has organised international conferences on responsible tourism, created an inspiring network of businesses working in this field, and has rightly gained high praise from Rough Guides this year for Tripbod’s contribution to ethical travel.
Sally chooses her friends carefully, with each Tripbod going through a unique and thorough vetting process which ensures that they really are the best, trusted, local travel experts. Tripbods can be found in thirty countries at the moment. They range in age and profession such as Albert, the son of a Tenerifian farmer, who is keen to show visitors the island he grew up on and loves, hidden well behind the bars and binge drinkers; Allan, in Mexico, an ecotourism consultant for Mexican nature tourism businesses, or Lee from Laos who, between working as a tourism consultant and Tripbod, has won ten international caps playing rugby for Laos.

There is, however, one gaping hole in Tripbod’s service, and that is in Ireland. The search is on for a new Irish Tripbod, someone who is committed to a responsible form of travel, and knows how to guide a visitor well beyond the Book of Kells and the Blarney Stone. Anyone interested should contact Tripbod via their website.

Meanwhile, back in Paris, there is something comforting about the fact that The American Church is still going strong and, not to be left behind, also has a website ( It describes itself as A Beacon on The Seine, and way back in my youth it certainly helped me find my way. Tripbod is, however, shining its light across many continents now, sharing information, goodwill, and a much needed first point of contact for people who are going to be new in town. So there really is no need to feel like a stranger any more.

For more information see
(This article was first published in The Irish Times, 19 September 2009)