Travel Notes blog
An interview with Cat Jones, CEO and Founder of Byway
by Max Lane
7 min read

An interview with Cat Jones, CEO and Founder of Byway

An interview with Cat Jones, CEO and Founder of Byway
Explore sustainable travel with Cat Jones, Founder and CEO of Byway, as she discusses B Corp values, memorable flight-free holidays, and the future of sustainable travel adventures.

To celebrate our new collaboration with Byway, a fellow B Corp travel company specialising in non-flight holidays, we interviewed the company’s Founder, Cat Jones.

1. March is B Corp month. What does it mean to Byway to be a B Corp? Do you have any special B Corp-related initiatives for March?

For us, it's a really important part of what we do. The day after I registered Byway as a business in 2020, I started the process to become a B Corp.

I founded Byway with the mission of making flight-free travel mainstream and reducing the impact travel has on the planet. As a mission-centric brand, being part of the B Corp community was a natural fit. It means we’re publicly kept accountable for the goals we set and the impact we strive to make.

Our goals are to reduce the climate impact of travel by: making flight-free holidays mainstream; boosting local economies; facilitating environmental recovery by drawing tourists away from hubs suffering from over-tourism to the wonderful places in between; and increasing the proportion of tourist spend on sustainable products and services by prioritising partnerships with sustainable businesses. All this whilst also being a responsible employer and great partner to others and the industry.

March is B Corp month but it’s also our birthday month! It’s when we start collating our data for our annual Impact Report, and when we celebrate our accomplishments with our team. We’re also launching our partnership with another fellow B Corp - The Thinking Traveller!

For Byway, networking and partnering with other B Corps is a great way to start a conversation on the same page about how we run our businesses and collaborate to achieve our mission of making flight-free travel mainstream. For our partners, it also means that we can offer a lower-carbon way of travelling that reduces the impact that travel has on the environment and help them meet their sustainability goals.

Many customers are looking to find brands that share their personal values, and being a B Corp creates an immediate level of trust for customers. It is also a great way for them to understand our company’s ethics. It kick-starts a conversation about why flight-free travel is important, and also allows customers to know that more information about our impact is available if they are seeking brands with transparency on sustainability and social responsibility.

2. What makes a perfect holiday for you?

Obviously flight-free! Also having my husband and children with me (they’re 5 and 7). We love walking lots, going running, generally being outside exploring with the children, doing new things, and having the freedom and time to do what we fancy that day - not being boxed into specific plans. We do a long three-week Byway holiday trip around Europe by train, boat and bus every summer and that's always gorgeous and the children love it.

3. What’s your favourite non-flight trip so far? Where did you go, how did you plan it?

It’s hard to choose just one, but one of our very favourites was this epic three-week summer Byway holiday around Europe. We travelled through the Netherlands to Switzerland by sleeper train, and from there enjoyed the UNESCO World Heritage Rhaetian Railway through the Alps into Northern Italy and Lake Como. We meandered through Italy and the south of France, and experienced all different kinds of journeys - sleepers, heritage lines, local services, Eurostar, the lot!

4. What are your best holiday memories of our destinations (Greece, Sicily, Puglia and Corsica)?

Wading through the shallows of the clearest sea I can remember in off-season Rhodes with my eldest as a not-quite-one-year-old in my arms, and Greek island-hopping by sailing boat with my husband’s mum, dad, auntie and brothers before either of my children were born.

5. Depending on your answer above, which of our destinations would you most like to visit next? Why?

I’ve been desperate to take the train that boards the ferry to Sicily - and my girls love the idea of a train that goes on a boat - so I think Sicily probably just about pips the others to the post for us! We’d love to spend some time in Naples on the same trip.

6. If one of our clients in the UK wanted to travel to Sicily (or Greece even) by train for their holiday, what would you recommend, in terms of routes, timings, stop-offs along the way?

Travelling to Sicily overland is one of our highlights at Byway. You can travel all the way by train, stopping over in Milan or Turin and then heading down to Naples - just like I describe above, in fact. There’s an InterCity train that is direct from Naples to Sicily. It's a lovely run, along the Italian coastline, often just feet from the water. When the train reaches Villa San Giovanni the whole train is shunted onto a ship and ferried across the Straits to Messina. The crossing takes about 20 minutes, and you can either remain on board the train in the ferry's hold, or get out and go up on deck for some fresh air. Being on a train and a ship at the same time is a fascinating experience!

7. If you could travel anywhere in the world overland, where would it be and why?

Wow, that's a really hard question for anyone who loves - and works in - travel! I think it would be Japan, because we've got a really interesting partner there I’d love to spend some time with face to face, and I’d love to spend a good amount of time there. Perhaps I could take a year, go on an overland adventure to Japan with my family, have a sabbatical, and come back! That would be amazing!

I love trips with a depth and richness of experience, meeting people along the way, especially those who live there. I love to have some real time to spend in a place and explore its surroundings and history (by bike, if possible!).

8. How do you see travel and holidays changing over the next 10 years?

We're going to see so much change over the next ten years, and we’re heading firmly in the direction of a sustainable and planet-and people-friendly travel industry. The biggest shift happening now is the one towards journey-based travel. More people are looking for multi-stop trips that make the journey just as important as the destination/s. Innovations and technologies like ours will enable many more people to choose this multimodal style of holiday using trains, boats, buses and/or electric vehicles without needing a spreadsheet or deep knowledge of where you’re going. This will lead to tourism dispersal and a journey model instead of a destination model for holidays. The quality of the journey will be the focus of the experience.

9. Does Byway have any big plans / new initiatives on the horizon?

Yes, of course we do! Making flight-free travel mainstream is a big job with lots to tackle.

Many of our plans are technical, for example we recently received a grant from Innovate UK to build more continuous learning into our Journey AI - our tech that dynamically packages journeys based on enjoyment. We’re also working on automating more of our disruption replanning, and designing a map-based trip builder.

Alongside tech, we’re launching the ability to travel to more regions this year, including Finland, Albania, Greece and more.

We are already marketing to the US, so we'll be growing that, and we're planning to launch to mainland European customers before long, expanding our footprint on the continent and help more people to enjoy this beautiful way of travelling.

Obviously, we’re also stepping up our partnerships and collaborations with other brands like yours!

Byway is our preferred slow travel partner, so if you’d like to arrive at your villa in a more sustainable way (whilst also avoiding airports and enjoying an adventure), please don’t hesitate to speak to our Villa Specialists - they’d be delighted to introduce you to our friends over at Byway.