Tui has met its commitment to deliver 10 million “greener, fairer holidays” a year 12 months ahead of the target the company set in 2015.

Group sustainability director Jane Ashton revealed Tui had passed the milestone at the Global Sustainable Travel Council (GSTC) conference last week.

Tui defines a ‘greener, fairer holiday’ as one where the hotel has a sustainability certification recognised by the GSTC. The target was among the goals of Tui’s ‘Better Holidays, Better World’ strategy launched four years ago when the group pledged to provide 10 million greener, fairer holidays by the end of 2020.

Ashton said: “We take over 20 million people a year on holiday, so we want to minimise impacts both through our business and through our supply chain. We manage it through public targets – that is the key. We launched ‘Better Holidays, Better World’ aligned very closely with GSTC criteria, with targets to drive down carbon impacts across all areas.”

When Tui made the pledge it operated to 950 certified hotels, providing 5.6 million holidays a year. Numbers rose to 6.3 million in 2016, 8.3 million in 2017, 9.2 million last year and hit 10.2 million at the end of the summer 2019 season in October.

Ashton said: “In the early years, it involved cajoling hotels to get certification. [Then] we made it a condition of contracting that hotels agree to go through the process of certification. It still takes a huge amount of work to persuade them to go through with it because it involves a huge amount of work. There are no preferential rates of contracting, but a lot of support and a lot of contractual obligations.”

She added: “[Abta’s] Travelife has been our main accreditation partner.”

The programme was vital, Ashton said, explaining: “Customers say they want more sustainable choices, [but] we’re still waiting for customers to make choices [based on sustainability]. We haven’t got there yet.

“The [online] search buttons for certified hotels are underused even in the most-aware markets such as Scandinavia and the Nordics. Consumers really are not thinking about this at the point of booking. They are just thinking about choice, destination, quality and not sustainability.”

‘Everything goes on the bottom line’

Ashton told the GSTC conference the business case for sustainability certification “is clear”.

She said: “Certified hotels are of demonstrably higher quality and have higher customer satisfaction scores. The certification process drives quality and customer satisfaction.

“We have 360 hotels where there is some form of Tui ownership or management or a long-term contractual agreement and we’re able to compare certified hotels with those not.”

Aston argued: “Energy is the second-biggest cost after employees’ wages. Waste costs are also tremendous. Certification has saved Tui tens of millions across the supply chain. Everything you can do to drive down costs goes on the bottom line.”

She highlighted a comparative study of 230 certified hotels in 2015 and in 2019 and said: “The certification process drives ongoing performance.”

The study found a 14% reduction in CO2 emissions and a 16% reduction in waste across the hotels over the four years. There was also a 10% reduction in use of fresh water and 9% reduction in total water use.

Ashton said sustainability certification lay at the core of the recently launched Tui Blue hotel brand, saying: “Sustainability is not a niche issue. It is part of core brand quality.”