Veganism is no longer simply about what you eat. The travel industry is also hopping on board the ethical train, and becoming more plant-based. Now vegan travellers can do everything from book speciality food tours to kip at vegan-friendly hotels – with not a sausage in sight (well, only veggie ones).
Even airlines are beginning to offer inflight meals that cater to passengers wishing to avoid animal products.
Paul Eyers, co-founder of Vegan Food Quest, has noticed an immense difference in the offerings for vegan travellers in the past five years. He says: “Huge international brands now offer vegan menu options, whereas before you would need to rely on communicating your dietary requirements directly – and keep your fingers crossed that they were understood!”
There are a growing number of websites dedicated to vegan travel, such as Veggie Hotels, which lists vegan-friendly properties, and Happy Cow, which helps you track down plant-based restaurants in your destination. And new vegan travel companies, like Veg Jaunts and Journeys, are offering tours run for vegans, by vegans.
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Large travel companies are also responding to the demand for vegan tours. Intrepid Travel recently unveiled three new, eight-day Vegan Food Adventures trips in India, Thailand and Italy. The trips have been so successful that more are being rolled out for 2020.
“Food is one of the best ways to connect with local cultures, but dietary requirements can be tricky with language barriers,” says Neil Coletta, Brand and Product Manager for Food at Intrepid Travel. “Why should vegans miss out on authentic food experiences?”
And yet, vegan travel consists of more than simply finding plant-based food on holiday. Enter, vegan accommodation. Wendy Werneth, creator of The Nomadic Vegan, believes hotels have a role to play if they want to enhance the experience of their vegan guests.
“It's important to know whether the toiletries provided by the hotel are both vegan (devoid of all animal products) and cruelty free (not tested on animals),” she says. “In order for a hotel to be truly vegan, bed linens and furnishings should also be free of animal products such as wool, down feathers, silk and leather.”
One hotel that has sat up and taken note of the growing vegan movement is the 5* Hilton London Bankside. In February 2019 it launched the world’s first vegan suite, complete with a plant-based keycard, eco-cotton carpet and stationary devoid of animal traces.
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The suite – given the nod of approval by The Vegan Society – also features bamboo flooring, environmentally-sourced bedding, and headboards and armchairs made from a natural leather alternative. The in-room menu has been tweaked to include options ranging from avocado and scrambled Quorn and quinoa to cauliflower steak and five-bean dhal.
“We don’t believe that veganism is a fad,” says James B. Claire, general manager at Hilton London Bankside. “People are becoming more aware of sustainability issues and conscious of the products they buy or consume. The positive effects of a plant-based diet have been growing year on year and we believe this is a lifestyle choice that brands should be taking on board to cater for their audience needs.”
The move by Hilton – whose vegan suite costs £549 + VAT per night – is a sure-fire sign that veganism is becoming more widespread, and that big businesses are taking notice. “Hopefully, the next step will be for hotels in more moderate price brackets to follow suit,” says Wendy Werneth. “Veganism is still seen by some people as expensive and elitist, when it certainly doesn't need to be.”
In Scotland, Saorsa 1875 has taken the concept even further than a single suite. The entire hotel has been specifically "designed for vegans, vegetarians and the plant-curious". When it opens in June 2019, it will be the UK’s first completely vegan hotel.
The 11 boutique bedrooms – which start from £100 per night for a single room or £130 per night for a double – showcase “ethical luxury”, according to its website. It will be completely free of animal products, with everything from the bedding to the cleaning products all vegan and cruelty-free.
“More people are cottoning on to both the brutality and the environmental impact of animal agriculture,” says Jack McLaren-Stewart, head of lifestyle at Saorsa 1875. “As passionate vegans we've been really frustrated by the options available in the hotel industry and felt that it was something people were screaming out for.”
The hotel’s electricity will be provided by Vegan Society-certified Ecotricity, and toiletries have been chosen in partnership with “local, ethical brands”. There will also be a plant-based menu, designed by head chef Luca Sordi, featuring dishes made using local, organic ingredients. Guests can also expect cocktail masterclasses, wine tastings and yoga classes.
“The travel industry has been very slow to respond to the increased demand for vegan-friendly experiences,” McLaren-Stewart says. “Like it or not, it's here to stay and I think companies that don't adapt will soon start to struggle.”