The World Travel Market (WTM) in London last week showed that the hotel and leisure industry is seeing growing demand for responsible travel.
Faced with a changed economic climate, travellers are seeking less luxury and more authenticity by getting closer to the people, communities and surroundings of their destinations. Often this involves taking on an activity rather than sunbathing constantly.
Notable highlights of the WTM included:
- As South Africa gears up for next year’s World Cup, it is the only country in Africa to grade tourism products and services with regard to fair trade and responsible tourism. (See examples at http://www.southafrica.net/ and www.traveldreamcatcher.com).
- A flight-free UK-USA ticket by the Oz-Bus company – now that’s something different.
- Shanghai’s World Expo theme in 2010 is ‘Better City Better Life’, with major exhibitions on eco-friendly technologies for a sustainable future.
A Condé Nast Traveler survey has shown strong ‘green demand’ from consumers. Meanwhile, the US National Leisure Travel MONITOR’s 18th annual survey found that 80 per cent of travellers consider themselves environmentally conscious, 38 per cent would select an environmentally friendly hotel if they knew about the hotel’s commitment to the environment and 30 per cent would pay more for an eco-friendly hotel (60 per cent said they would pay up to nine per cent more). Deloitte’s business traveller survey in 2008 reached similar conclusions.
As the International Centre for Responsible Tourism award winners this year showed, in response to this demand there is a growing energy for sustainability in hotels and leisure.
The benefits of revenue from the green-oriented tourist present a case for hotels to take action. Also, green programmes create operational efficiencies, generate cost savings, attract, retain, and inspire employees, and create marketing and PR opportunities.
Companies such as JW Marriott Denver, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants and Destination Earth Hotels & Resorts have seen individual and corporate customer revenue benefit from environmental programmes.
One problem is that many of the large hotel groups haven’t communicated what they’re doing. Only three of the world’s 10 largest hotel groups publish an annual sustainability report. The recent Tomorrow’s Value rating of the hotels sector showed how much opportunity there is for a large hotel group to take a leadership position on sustainability in the sector.
As the WTM shows, conservation, community and corporate responsibility are vibrant across the world, from the first Green Capital – Stockholm – to the Ningaloo Reef, YHA Wellington, Kenya’s Sarara camp and Seat 61 in the UK.
One question remains: How can the big hotel groups take the bull by the horns and do more on a range of important non-financial risks and opportunities? As we work with more hotel companies and consider the sector’s Tomorrow’s Value Rating in 2010, we will be able to help answer this question.