Sustainable stories and tourism marketing

I wrote before about the opportunity which World Responsible Tourism Day and the supporters’ logo offers business who are at WTM, or at home,  to make something of their Responsible Tourism activities. There can be no trick in this, you have to be doing what you say you are doing to take responsibility; you need to have some sustainable stories to tell about what you are doing to make tourism more responsible. If you have something to say you need to say it.

This year the UK newspaper the Guardian ran a story: Communicating sustainability: the rise of social media and storytelling. It is a story about how companies are increasingly using the web and intelligent journalism to highlight their sustainability approaches.

Matthew Yeomans, co-founder of Social Media Influence and director of Custom Communication, wrote in the Guardian about Levi Strauss who  “put stock in developing a strong editorial voice. We call it a “magazine mentality”, enabling an always on and always accessible channel of sustainability communication with investors, employees, media, NGOs and, yes, customers.” Sustainability is no longer “only of interest to niche stakeholders.”

When they first produced the SMI-Wizness Social Media Sustainability Index they found 60 companies with dedicated social media channels,by 2012 there were 176 major companies around the world that had allotted dedicated resources and social media channels to reporting their sustainable stories: the five leading companies in this year’s index, Levi Strauss, BBVA, eBay, Danone, and GE.  They found 60 blogs or social media magazines on sustainability – this suggests that storytelling around sustainability is of increasing importance.

The league table index  is interesting, take a look, McDonalds is at 60 down from 52 last year.

Matthew Yeomans explains why this form of communication matters; we “believe that the foundations of both social media and sustainability are authenticity, transparency, community, innovation and creativity.” Surely these are important brand values in travel and tourism?

So where is the travel industry in all this? The Virgin Group are in the index this year for the first time at 14, no other travel industry companies have made it into the index.

Our WTM Responsible Tourism site publishes Spotlight . TUI publish an annual sustainability report which is in part consumer facing  TUI and they have consumer facing website  Holidays Forever. Thomas Cook’s sustainability report is online at Thomas Cook. have a consumer facing site Planet 21.

There are lots of examples of published consumer facing Responsible Tourism and material on Responsible Travel.com . My colleague Dr Xavier Font has developed excellent material for smaller businesses : Visit England’s Keep It Real   and The Welsh Version 

You need to get your sustainable stories out there for market advantage and to build trust and brand loyalty. Consumers increasingly want to know that you care and what you are doing to make travel and tourism more environmentally friendly to benefit people and the planet.

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Harold Goodwin