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Travel Industry Lingo Every Traveler Should Know - Part 1

Travel, tourism and hospitality professionals use a wide variety of words and phrases when speaking with other folks working in the field. However, what's familiar for industry can also be helpful for savvy, conscious travelers to add to their repertoire! We offer a few of them for you here!


Definition: This is when companies use marketing or make misleading (sometimes false) claims that tout their green initiatives which are in fact disingenuous. Businesses do this because real environmental change requires an investment, and often a culture shift within the organization, and rather than pursuing the long-term, systematic changes to be more environmentally conscious, they opt for appearance only. This happens across all industries, not just travel.


  • Fake eco-labels or pay-to-play certifications - Don’t get us started on this topic! It’s a huge problem with the nearly 200 certifications and seals that exist in the travel industry. Even B-Corp certifications, once highly respected, have lost credibility. It’s a challenge to know what is truly trustworthy. Plus, most small businesses can’t afford the investment that is required to obtain the certifications that are legit.

  • Claiming legal requirements as their own – Like a beach resort proudly advertising “We’ve eliminated all plastic straws”, when it was legally mandated and not their eco-consciousness driving that change.

  • Using images to tell a story that is not authentic - This might look like an image of hotel workers cleaning up a nearby public space, when that is not an effort they undertake. Images can be the best storytellers, but we still need to look with a critical eye at what story is being told, and by whom.

  • Placing all the action steps on visitors and not within the business - We’ve all seen the little sign in a hotel bathroom asking to please reuse towels. When this guest action is claimed by the hotel it might sound like “We’ve saved 10,000 gallon of water this year”. While the property ignores other areas they can reduce water usage such as gardens, pools, kitchens, and so on.

  • Charitable contributions are not the same as a sustainable mission - A business might make a donation to a community organization, or non-profit, which is great, however if they aren’t paying ethical wages to their employees, they are missing the larger opportunity to create positive impact in that community

Why this is a problem: The travel industry lacks overarching, transparent guidelines or certifications to help travelers discern what is real from what is fluff. This means that Conscious travelers, seeking to align their values with travel choices, don’t have the tools they need to easily identify the good players from the bad. Additionally, Greenwashing hurts the businesses that really are working toward reducing harm and increasing positive impacts and can make it harder for them to stay in business! Let’s be honest, if a business is actually taking an action, like ethical wages, they are likely earning a lower profit margin than a company who is not interested in paying fair wages. Plus, misleading claims can hinder the important environmental/ social / cultural work from getting done, perpetuating the harmful, yet avoidable, impacts.

How to spot it: Transparency. If what a company shares about it actions on matters of environmental, economic or social impact is super vague, this could be a red-flag. Additionally, when claims are disclosed, it’s important to read the fine print.

Take for example a recent episode from Couchfish, a fresh take on a blog born in COIVD lockdown, that recounts living and traveling in Asia. Couchfish Founder and Author Stuart McDonald points out that travel company G Adventures “claims that 100% of their spend on “local expenses” … goes to “local businesses”. Yet, when McDonald examined the fine print, he found it read “to qualify as a local business or service, 50% or more must be owned by a legal resident or national citizen of the country where it operates.” As McDonald writes, “This means a business could have a resident foreigner and a foreign partner as the two owners and yet qualify as local. To my mind, this doesn’t, in any way shape or form, equate to local-owned.”

Going back to the lack of oversight in travel, businesses are writing their own rules, so its important to look for evidence to support their claims.

Group of people collecting trash on a beach
Stock photos like these can be used to give the illusion of environmental consciousness

Shoulder Season

What is it: As far as travel is concerned, there are three seasons; High (or peak), Low (or off season), and Shoulder. High season is going to be the busiest time for tourism, think Cape Cod in July and August. While low season means very little tourism, think Ibiza in February.

For destinations best suited for walking around, visiting parks or beaches, the high season often overlaps with the warmest months. But that doesn’t mean summer is always peak season. For example, Vail Colorado or the French Alps will experience peak season along with peak snowfall and dates that fall on national holidays. Off season can mean big savings in hotel room rates, however, it can also result in limited services. An example - if you happen to visit the Croatian island of Korcula in February, you’ll find most shops and cafes closed, limited ferry service and tour operators gone for the season (If you need them, it’ll have to wait, they’re off enjoying the Alps).

As the name implies, Shoulder Season is between high and low. Here’s an example - If Hawaii’s peak season is July and August, lining up with the American school calendar definition of “summer”, then it’s shoulder season could be April, May and September, October.

Another consideration when timing a holiday is peak periods. These are periods that can occur any time of year but result in a mini period of peak travel. Let’s again take Hawaii for an example - the weeks over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s will also be peak, even though not within an entire peak season. Peak periods will often be the busiest time for a destination of the entire year due to the concentration of people coming in such a short timeframe.

Special events also effect the number of travelers. An example - Loy Krathong (ลอยกระทง), also named Festival of Lights, is a famous floating lantern festival in Thailand in late November and draws huge crowds. Or Pasadena California, while typically not a tourism hot spot it fills up with folks hoping to watch the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. Sporting events, art festivals and international conventions are some of the things that can affect the number of visitors in a place at the same time.

How to spot it: If you are familiar with the climate and main attractions in a destination you can probably make an educated guess about the general high and low seasons. But since the travel seasons are unique to the exact place, not just the region, its best to do a little research before selecting when to travel.

Why every conscious traveler should know this term: First of all, Shoulder Seasons can be an ideal time to travel! Think of this time as the sweet spot where things are open, but not crowded, prices are midrange and weather tends to be mild.

  • The place is better able to welcome and accommodate visitors since it is not facing a crush of too many folks in the same place at once.

  • Your money will go further! As mentioned, hotel prices are usually midrange, and you can probably avoid any pesky minimum stay requirements.

  • You get to spend more time with locals. We’ve found that in the places we visit, the locals love where they live. Their deep love for their culture and community is something they are happy to share with guests – when they're not overworked, and depleted (makes perfect sense)

  • You'll avoid crowds! Most of us don’t particularly love the mobs of people encircling a sight we’ve gone to great lengths to get a peek at. Or the oversold planes, overflowing metros, or lines that wrap the block. You can avoid all this by traveling when everyone else is not!

"Don’t let the prospect of unfavorable weather stop you from traveling in shoulder season! I spent April in France when the forecast called for rain, but we had nothing but sunshine the entire two weeks. And bonus, spring means cool evenings so I got the benefit of sun-drenched days at the beach and countryside followed by nights sleeping in a perfectly chilly room, rather than one warmed by summer high temps that made me wish I packed my a/c.”

Tara – founder of CTC

Host & Guest

The words host and guest have a fascinating history!

Guest (noun):

1a: a person entertained in one's house

1b: a person to whom hospitality is extended

1c: a person who pays for the services of an establishment (such as a hotel or restaurant)

2: a usually prominent person not a regular member of a cast or organization who appears in a program or performance

In the Proto-Indo-European word, gho-ti, the root of guest, the meaning contains "stranger” “guest” and “host”. The word holds not only the meaning of mutual exchange, but with stranger as meaning potential enemy.