Green Concierge Travel, an eco-friendly travel agency, specializes in creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences for its clients. Owner and founder Liz Wessel prioritizes finding activities that immerse travelers more in the local culture while minimizing the ecological impact of their trip.
While doing contract work for a nonprofit back in 1999, Wessel performed a market survey, during which she discovered the existence of a growing green tourism industry. That moment would change her life.
She learned that “a green travel agent serves as a consultant and partner for travelers seeking a group or independent travel experience that has a smaller ecological footprint and maximizes buying local and sustainability,” she says. “And [we also] offer ideas for what to do at your destination.”
Wessel soon started taking classes and assembling a business plan, and in 2006, she opened Green Concierge Travel, which she continues to own and operate solo, with the occasional help of an intern.
Green Concierge Travel specializes in helping travelers create unforgettable, eco-friendly trips in North America, but Wessel has planned trips to South and Central America, the Caribbean, and Europe.
“We contribute experience, the time to evaluate options both for cost and environmental criteria, as well as a professional relationship with vendors at destinations. We can find travel products including international air fares that are very competitive,” she says.
Often, people approach Green Concierge Travel wanting to do a variety of these things on a budget and a tight schedule. Wessel recalls two clients who wanted to tour Alaska: “They wanted to see a lot of Alaska and include some special experiences— rafting, hiking, kayaking, wildlife watching.”
Wessel created a magical ten-day itinerary that started in Juneau, went through three national parks, and included a guided Alyeska Glacier hike; a kayak tour of Blackstone Bay; river rafting on the Nenana River; and glacier, wildlife, and whalewatching cruises.
The itinerary featured the greenest transportation and hotel accommodations possible, including a stay at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, operated by Alaska Wildlife Adventures, which Wessel says “sets the bar for green travel operators in Alaska.”
Alaska Wildlife Adventures focuses on tours that maintain a low-impact on the natural environment and provide economic growth to the area.
She wants everyone to know that you don’t need a travel agent to minimize the ecological impact of your trips: “Use public transit, stay at green hotels or inns, and consider a walking or biking tour. Support the local organizations and institutions that make your visit great.”