Responsible Tourism makes business sense

Responsible Tourism has become mainstream. Big operators like Thomas Cook TUI, and hundreds of smaller business have taken responsibility for making tourism more sustainable. This has long ceased to be a niche market. ABTA, the UK’s largest travel trade association which includes all of the larger operators and thousands of travel agents, has adopted sustainable tourism as a major part of its core work on behalf of its members and has a team working on sustainability. Sustainable production and consumption is becoming part of mainstream consumerism – you can’t afford to ignore the trend. Marks and Spencer’s Plan A campaign is a leader – but many others are now following and some were doing it earlier.

There is a compelling business case for Responsible Tourism, for taking responsibility for making tourism more sustainable. Mainstream consumers are increasingly aware of the issue and they expect the accommodation providers, operators and destinations to ensure that the holidays they buy, the experiences they have in destinations are sustainable. They want great services and experiences at a competitive price – and they want those services to be provided responsibly.

I am old enough to remember, just, when friends and relatives returning from holiday would, with relief, report that the hotel was built and finished, that it was as close as it said it was to the beach and the room and bedlinen were clean. Expectations for mainstream holidaymakers have risen and trade associations now ensure that their members take responsibility. That members do not mislead consumers, that contracts are fulfilled, that stranded holidaymakers are repatriated, that health and safety is addressed and most recently that sustainability is tackled – consumers expect it. As Jane Ashton, then with First Choice, said in a newspaper interview back in 2006 “‘The product we sell is the people and environment – so we have an obvious interest in protecting them.” She went on “‘We’re not experiencing a huge demand from the average consumer, but we do believe that awareness is increasing, and in a few years’ time we will have needed to have integrated these principles into our supply chain.”

More and more hotels are taking action to reduce their environmental impacts, to reduce costs and because business purchasers and holidaymakers are are expecting it. In May Side Star Park Hotel in Side, Antalya, Turkey became Travelife for Hotels and Accommodation’s 1,000th hotelier member. Travelife now has members in 45 countries all of whom are already using the Travelife sustainability system to improve the way they manage their environmental and social impacts. The Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) was developed jointly by the International Tourism Partnership (ITP), an association of the world’s leading hotel groups, and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) which brought together over 20 hotel companies to agree a common methodology for measuring carbon emissions so that comparable information was avaialble to companies looking for sustainable MICE venues. 

Responsible Tourism programme at WTM this year includes a panel on communicating Responsible Tourism Jo Baddeley from Thomas Cook will be talking about what operators and guides can do in destinations to use RT to enhance the guest experience. Gail Ward will talk about selling responsible photography holidays. Xavier Font will be talking about how to use RT messages for commercial advantage – it is all about communicating the consumer that it will be a better experience because it has been responsibly created for their enjoyment. Sarah Holloway used to work for TUI but has more recently been working with companies like Unilever and Tesco – she will be talking about how far behind the curve travel and tourism still is in communicating its  sustainability practise and explaining why it makes commercial sense.

The session on Communicating Responsible Tourism: Securing Market Advantage takes place on Tuesday November 5th at 15:00

Garry Wilson, Managing Director – Purchasing at TUI Travel PLC will be speaking on The Business Case for Responsible Tourism and why TUI places such importance on sustainability in Barcelona at RTD7 in October. Garry heads the overseas buying activity in all mainstream source markets for TUI Travel plc.  Responsible Tourism is now mainstream, you can’t afford to ignore the consumer expectation, it is a major part of what consumers now expect.

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