WINNING FROM RESPONSIBLE TOURISM

If 2020 has brought one issue to a head, it is the need to reduce operating costs. Whether you have 1 apartment or 400 houses, there are some simple but effective ways of doing this. Let’s start with the ‘global’ picture and then get down to how it can affect your business.

In response to the Paris Climate Agreement, the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) issued its Hotel Global Decarbonisation Report at the end of 2017, highlighting how and why the sector should align to the targets set out for 2030 and 2050.

More recent benchmarking shows that only 1 in 10 tourism operators have any targets in place to even roughly align with the targets set out by the ITP and most have no targets at all.

So what is causing the sector to turn a blind eye? Do we just not care? Is the commercial argument too weak? Or does it all frankly feel a little too overwhelming and someone else’s problem?

I imagine that it is a little of all these aspects. From an operator’s perspective, there are, and should be, two major drivers for change within your business. The first is the operational argument for cost-savings and future proofing of the business, and the second is the shifting consumer expectations that we are seeing in support of business responsibility.

 

The guest case…

Statistically speaking, the number of searches for specifically ‘eco’ accommodation remains low, but the appetite for places that have been awarded REST credentials is growing and many guests see it as a reason to book if they find a property that’s responsible and which meets their other search criteria.

In fact, 1 in 5 consumers already favour operators based on their overall REST credentials – so if location, price and convenience still come first, ethics, responsibility and sustainability become the defining factors between providers once a shortlist has been established.

They may not (currently) influence the search, but they influence the buying decision.

Simply put, if your business doesn’t embrace this, many of your potential customers will go elsewhere.

With the “Greta Thunberg” effect, and the term Flygskam been coined in Sweden (meaning literally ‘flight shame’) if I had to bet on it, even after the Covid-19 hangover period, I’d say that in the next five years we will see short-haul travel and staycations on the up and long-haul in decline; environmental sustainability, responsible and ethical practise have become one of the top three buying factors, and there will be a boom in the responsible travel movement.

 

The business case…

A decade ago, businesses and individuals had to seriously consider the cost-benefit of installing sustainable and environmentally beneficial systems, with adoption often being driven by personal preference rather than any strong commercial case.

Now however, the cost, variety and availability of systems have expanded, as have the robustness and longevity of the hardware, making the cost-benefit analysis a far more compelling case.

Savings can be made easily, without the requirement of structural changes and with little financial contribution to establish. A lot comes down to processes and attitudes, from switching one product with another, removing certain things from the supply chain, changing practices such as waste management and even swapping lightbulbs.

These might sound minor, but they will all deliver cost-savings, and even better, help you to take advantage of positive customer selection as I’ve highlighted above. For these, I think the most useful tools at your disposal are common sense and time. This is part of the jigsaw; tackling items one by one to add up to improvement overall.

The clever hospitality provider can have a programme that addresses concerns up front and will give them a huge credibility bonus with their guests which in turn leads to repeat visits and recommendations. Promote your recycling programme to guests – it’s no longer enough to have the bedroom notices about towel re-use.

You could sell your own branded reusable water bottles (or give them as a ‘thank you’ gift).

Encourage guests to use reusable bags (again another branded sales opportunity!) and provide links to digital maps and guides on your website. This also reduces paper waste – hand out as little as possible.

Encourage guests to support local businesses – work with them to promote local crafts, products and services. And if you offer a ‘round up’ option on your bills alternate local charities which will receive these funds.

If you do not already have – and display – a statement of your ethical credentials, then it’s time to look at having one. Create this with the involvement of your team – better still, ask them to draft it.

 

Measuring sustainability…

Perhaps one of the most important aspects is to monitor the impact of any changes you make so that they are quantifiable and demonstrable.

Starting with benchmarks of where you are now and monitoring these over time is an essential part of both establishing the effectiveness of your changes, and also communicating these changes to your teams and customers.

It’s also worth looking at independent certifications which hold your changes to account, such as the B-Corp Certification (which we are currently working towards) or our REST certification which we have developed to assess the Responsibility, Ethics and Sustainability of tourism and hospitality businesses.

We have built our award on three pillars against which operators are benchmarked by our team, including Environmental & Economic Management, Social Responsibility & Community, Inclusivity & Integrity.

For us, being a business with purpose goes beyond just the environment to include the business as a whole, but of course environment does play a crucial role in our assessments.

Honestly, these changes are worth it and I believe an essential part of future-proofing your business. You will attract more business and save money. What are you waiting for?

 

Article Author

Deborah Heather is a director at Quality in Tourism which is an independent accreditation service, offering grading, mystery shopping and specialist advice in the hospitality industry.

For more information visit qualityintourism.com