Variety Cruises: Creating a Better World at Sea
Mark Bibby Jackson talks with Filippos Venetopoulos, CEO of Climate Friendly Travel Registry member, Variety Cruises, which aims to set the standard for sustainable small cruises.
When Filippos Venetopoulos took over the family business in July 2020, it could hardly have been at a worse time. The cruise industry was in tatters due to Covid.
“Instead of selling cruise experiences I had to weigh in on managing cash flow, bringing most of our fleet back to Greece for lay-up and unfortunately temporarily down-sizing the company,” he explains.
Still Filippos had a vision for Variety Cruises, which his grandfather Diogenis had founded, as Zeus Tours, in 1949. His aim was to turn the company into the “leader in small ship sustainable cruising”, continuing his grandfather’s legacy of creating a ‘better world at sea’. The 36-year-old’s has a vision to operate a fleet of 60 small ships sailing in all seven continents by 2050.
360º Approach to Sailing
Variety Cruises offers immersive seven-day sailing adventures that “explore the true identity of a destination”. The company’s signature 360º approach to operations starts with designing and building state-of-the-art vessels, to crafting and executing detailed itineraries, and ensuring the safety and comfort of guests in their “home at sea.”
“We maintain our small ship cruise spirit, hosting no more than 100 guests in any given sail, offering an intimate and personalised experience that Variety Cruises is known for around the world,” explains Filippos.
“We aim to do all the above via responsible cruises that keep in mind the environment and the communities we visit while leaving a minimal footprint behind. We introduce our guests to the local cuisine engaging with sustainable food sourcing.”
One way in which the company makes a positive difference is via its charitable foundation Variety Cares. Taking €5 from every booking, Variety Cares has a series of programmes focused on education, diversity and inclusion, and investment in projects to ensure cleaner oceans.
“This takes my grandfather’s original focus of protecting archaeological heritage a step further with the mission of clean oceans, gender equality and education for all,” says Filippos.
One such initiative was the establishment of the Lamin Koto School in the Gambia in 2012. This provides education for 100 local children with art at the forefront.
“We provide local cultural experiences that help our guests connect in a deeper way with the local community,” Filippos explains. “Becoming involved with this school project is one way that this is effectively achieved. It also helps not only minimise our footprint in the areas that we visit, but in fact help leave a positive footmark.”
Filippos believes it is important to decarbonise the business.
“As the boating industry is quite behind in terms of electric and alternative fuels it is imperative that we as an industry take responsibility and find ways to neutralise our carbon emissions in the meantime,” he says.
Initially Variety Cruises measured its carbon footprint. Now they are producing a “plan of action” to become carbon neutral. This includes creating itineraries that are lower in carbon emissions, and investing in projects that help neutralise carbon emissions via certified organisations and Variety Cares.
Specific measures include reducing the use of single-use plastic and using marine diesel oil, rather than non-refined heavy fuel oil which is more polluting. The company also sources local services including excursions, guides and local food, as well as employing local teams on board its vessels where possible.
The aim is to become the largest small ship cruise that is certified as carbon neutral by 2050.
“The cruise industry is one of the most heavy impacting industries for the environment carbon emission wise,” he says. “Once we understand and accept that, we can find ways and solutions to become more carbon neutral and to plan for the future so our impact becomes less as we grow instead of more.”
Joining the CFT Registry
In addition to joining Tourism Declares Climate Emergency, Variety Cares recently became a member of the Climate Friendly Travel Registry (CFTR). For Filippos the decision was a ‘no-brainer’.
“One of the most important parts of a sustainable environmental strategy for any organisation is to start the conversation and to do so with the right partners,” says Filippos. “CFTR provides a strong platform for us to raise the topics that can help us grow in terms of our sustainability strategy and to have the right partners in achieving our goals.
“Once CFTR presented their case and their close ties with Malta which is one of our key destinations, it was a no-brainer for us to join and find ways to improve in terms of our sustainability efforts in that region and beyond.”
With such clear and visionary leadership, Filippos could easily fulfil his grandfather’s legacy, of not just creating a better world at sea, but leading the way for tour operators on land as well.
Article first published in eXist, the climate-friendly travel bulleting and reproduced with kind permission of SunX Malta.