The industry must ensure that destinations stay special and the future of tourism businesses and associated jobs are secured, says Nikki White, head of destination sustainability at Abta
More and more we are seeing that customers want an experience that is not just fly and flop. Travelling to new destinations to visit interesting places and explore new cultures are common requests.
Today’s holidaymakers increasingly want a destination that offers them escape from their everyday life. This might be the location, culture, food, history, activities or the people they meet.
All of us in the industry need to help identify and preserve these elements to ensure that destinations stay special and the future of tourism businesses and associated jobs are secured. Savvy operators know that responsible tourism makes business sense.
Abta’s 2012 consumer survey showed one in three holidaymakers – an estimated 10 million people – believe holidays should have an environmental rating.
Abta’s 2013 Travel Trends survey also showed an increasing number of affluent consumers seeking “simpler, more ethical and authentic experiences that are far removed from their hectic lives”.
Some operators have always offered this without badging it as ‘sustainable or ‘responsible’, while others have developed new products that makes their offering more sustainable.
Thomas Cook’s Local Label excursions highlight trips that promote local traditions and cultures and meet the Travel Foundation’s Greener Excursions Checklist criteria. In 2013, profits for these excursions increased by 18%, compared with a 1.5% rise for non-labelled excursions.
Abta’s consumer research also suggests that companies investing in sustainability could gain a competitive edge, with 19% of consumers saying they would be prepared to pay more for a holiday with a company that has a better environmental and social record.
However, it is almost impossible for operators to directly manage the impact of the holidays they offer. Travelife, the international sustainability certification scheme, helps operators and agents manage the diverse range of issues they face.
The criteria can be challenging for hotels that have never done anything similar before or are in areas with limited infrastructure. How do you manage waste collection when there are no local recycling facilities? By identifying the issues a hotel faces, real change can be achieved.
The Travelife criteria provides a structured way for hoteliers, operators, destinations and associations to manage issues of sustainability in a proactive way.
By embedding sustainability into their day-to-day operations and achieving the Travelife Gold standard, hotels reap rewards, while benefiting the environment, local people and local businesses. It’s all about better holidays.
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