Salli Felton, acting chief executive, The Travel Foundation
No, the word in question is not sun, sand or sea – and it’s certainly not sex.
They’re all easy to communicate in comparison.
I’m talking about that clunky word sustainability. It’s a shame this term is so dry, and there’s no obviously better alternative.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking sustainability doesn’t make great content for customer communications.
Customers will be happy to hear how your business is making the most of its opportunities to be a force for good in holiday destinations.
They will see there’s a chance that they will experience something a little bit different and a little bit special when they arrive.
Of course, no one wants to be accused of ‘greenwash’.
The recent Greenwash report by sustainable tourism specialist TotemTourism reminds us that cynical greenwashed marketing spin is very much present in our industry.
However, if you are a business worth its salt, there will be a good story to tell without resorting to disingenuity – so don’t be frightened to tell it.
The Make Holidays Greener month is a time for action and words. Together we can raise awareness among our customers of the opportunities that tourism brings and the choices they can make.
Communicating together for one month makes our voices louder, for instance through Aito’s world map of green or local tips on the Make Holidays Greener website, and by using the hashtag #greenerhols on Twitter.
As you might expect, there are lots of tools on the Travel Foundation and Make Holidays Greener websites that will help you to get your communications to customers (and staff) right.
Dr Xavier Font has recently provided the Travel Foundation with guidance developed from his research that looked at hundreds of hotel websites.
Here are some of his more revealing findings:
• Customers thought a hotel using solar panels to heat hot water could only offer lukewarm showers and would avoid it.
• Saying “with the air-con at 24C you will sleep comfortably – at 20C you will catch a cold” is more likely to work than “turn down the air conditioning”. If you are not sure, use humour as opposed to formal messages.
• Most clients would pass if offered ‘sustainable food’. However, they like the idea of authentic, unadulterated, honest food – and put like that, who would want the opposite?
• Information has to be placed where it helps the customer. If you want to encourage guests’ use of public transport, why put it in the environmental policy and not in the ‘how to get here’ section? And then you should give them a long list of things to do there without a car.
So keep your customer’s perspective at the centre of your communications, be honest and transparent and have some fun – and you’ll probably find you’ve not even come close to using the S word.
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