Consumer behaviour drives Travel & Tourism products and services around the world. While the sustainable and responsible travel niche has grown over the past several years — both in terms of awareness and products marketed to the niche — travellers are still buying based on price and location rather than an eye towards sustainable trips and tour providers.Interestingly, an ever increasing number of consumers demand sustainability in other purchases, such as food and automobiles, but market research shows those same habits do not always carry over to T&T despite a need for sustainable practices. Only through consumer demand for sustainable and environmental policies will the industry continue to make the needed shift towards long-term sustainability.
According to the United Nations, the industry will need to “sustainably manage an expected 1.8 billion international tourists in 2030.” Even more, 57% of those international tourists in 2030 will arrive in emerging economies, where innovation and a commitment to sustainability can make T&T a vehicle to alleviate poverty and protect biodiversity in some of the world’s most delicate habitats.
Research shows that travellers believe in sustainability and that awareness is only rising. The UN marked 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and evidence suggests that the shift in mindset and consumer focus on sustainability lies within the millennial generation.
A global study from The Nielsen Company in 2015 surveyed 30,000 online consumers in 60 countries. Data suggested that “despite high unemployment rates and low wages, millennials are willing to spend more for products that are environmentally friendly.” In fact, 66% of global respondents — up 11% from the previous year — noted they would “pay more for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.”
But which sectors are seeing the results of this rising awareness, and how does it play out?
Within the automobile industry, millennials in the U.S. are looking for inherently sustainable options over other measurements, according to a series of U.S.-based focus groups held by Business Insider. The results show that 47% of millennials ranked “product is inherently sustainable” as the most important measurement, ranking it higher than even corporate responsibility, which came in at 21%. In practice, when looking at automobile purchasing habits, millennials tend to most value inherently sustainable aspects of the car, like if it “uses little to no fuel and is good for the environment.”
But carrying that trend and awareness into Travel & Tourism has challenges. The long purchase cycle in T&T, and the varied types of travel experience, makes measuring consumer behaviours more difficult. Deloitte published a Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook for 2017 and noted:
“Perhaps most importantly, consumers are different travellers on different trips. Travel behaviour and preferences change dramatically depending on the context of a specific trip, such as traveling alone for business or taking a family vacation. It is extremely difficult for travel companies to predict intent before travel planners land on their website.”
While personalised data sharing from social networks may help some travel planning websites tailor information to travellers, the shifting priorities and long cycles between trips makes it “incredibly difficult for travel companies to capture enough behavioural data to determine actionable preferences.”
Which is where consumer demand comes into play. Consumers must use purchasing power to demand that T&T integrate sustainability into every aspect of the industry. It shouldn’t be called ‘sustainable tourism’ as a niche, but rather just ‘tourism’. That level of change comes from motivated consumers.
Positive change in industry goes beyond intention and lies within the follow through. Travellers committed to sustainable vacations have options. Using accredited companies on your trip is first and foremost among the ways to emphasise your commitment to sustainability. Companies need to know you are motivated to purchase based on corporate environmental policies. In 2010, a Rainforest Alliance report emphasised the “need to demonstrate the positive impacts of certifications to businesses as certifications are currently not seen as a good investment of time and money.”
When selecting tour companies and hotels, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) emphasises four pillars for sustainability in tourism:
Companies aligning with these pillars may have implemented a variety of programmes and services. Here are a few examples of the vast differences in company policies that are all contributing to a sustainable shift in tourism models:
What do these programmes have in common? A commitment underpinning a company’s actions to using tourism to support destinations, communities, and the environment. The UN World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as:
“Tourism that meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future. Rather than being a type of product, it is an ethos that underpins all tourism activities. As such, it is integral to all aspects of tourism development and management rather than being an add-on component. The objective of sustainable tourism is to retain the economic and social advantages of tourism development while reducing or mitigating any undesirable impacts on the natural, historic, cultural or social environment. This is achieved by balancing the needs of tourists with those of the destination.”
Right now, travellers demanding sustainability in travel should look for accredited and certificated companies. The GSTC offers a large database of tour operators, hotels, and destinations that have met stringent criteria demonstrating an identifiable commitment to sustainability. And National Geographic collected formal geotourism programmes around the world that enhance the geographical character of a location. But that’s not all, the Rainforest Forest Alliance Certified seal guarantees the destinations and tour operators have implemented programmes to benefit local communities, ecosystems, and wildlife too.
There are countless other companies and destinations around the world aligning with sustainability standards. At the WTTC, the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards surface companies that are displaying the best practicing in sustainable tourism. This movement towards sustainable Travel & Tourism relies on support not just from the industry, but the travel consumers as well.
To learn more about what you can do to make your travels more sustainable, visit toomuchtoask.org
The quest for the authenticity in travel has shaped the international Travel & Tourism industry. With the world increasingly accessible and travel-able, and global populations steadily rising, statistics show that tourism will only continue to see strong growth in the coming decade. These travellers have a range of interests, which has created a number of subsets within the tourism industry: adventure, luxury, wellness, gastro-tourism, cultural travel, and more. And underpinning each T&T sector is a push to create for the traveller an authentic travel experience. But what is authenticity, and even more, what are those travellers really looking for from their trips? Let’s take a closer look at the role of authenticity in tourism, and the steps travellers can take to respectfully engage with cultures and communities across the world.
Although authenticity is a common term used to sell travel, modern trends are shifting to authenticity connoting a specific type of experience. The ABTA Travel Trends Report notes that “‘living like a local’ has become an essential part of getting under the skin of a destination for many travellers. They are looking for more authentic holiday experiences and many holiday companies are now offering people the chance to enjoy hidden gems alongside traditional tourist attractions.”
Travellers asked the industry for a chance to connect more deeply on the road, and the industry responded. The UN World Tourism Organizationfound that “tourism products related to cultural routes, cultural cities and cultural must-do’s — those which are connected to popular culture, arts, the search for authenticity of destinations and local cultures, are probably the core elements forming the basis of the new scenario of worldwide cultural tourism.”
In an increasingly globalised society connected through technology, the drive for authenticity comes from a desire to form personal connections to the people and places travellers encounter on the road. More than seeing the sites, travellers are looking for creative ways to immerse in the culture. Olivia Ruggles-Brise, the Director of Policy & Research for the WTTC, wrote that the core of authenticity is “connecting in a personal way with the people or place you are visiting. A moment of shared experience. And it doesn’t matter if you’re also being a tourist on that same trip, staying at a luxury hotel or Airbnb, or sightseeing along with your ‘authentic’ activities. If a traveller feels an authentic connection then surely that is as genuine as needed.”
It’s interesting to consider that authenticity cannot be manufactured in the travel experience. It’s about more than booking a homestay or scheduling a private cooking class, and instead it relies on the traveller finding a window into the local culture through personal connections. It’s about the shared connections and conversations at every stage of a trip.
In the on-going quest for authentic travel experiences, it’s those travellers prepared to meet locals on their terms who are best positioned to find the connections they seek. Justin Francis runs a responsible tour company and writes: “there is a very strong relationship between acting in a caring and responsible way and being given the opportunity for authentic experiences. … At a simple level it makes sense that if you treat local people right they will be more likely to share their world with you. The sense of wonder about different places and ways of life seems to me to be the essential emotion of travel.”
If respect is an underlying requisite for authentic travel experiences — and it is — what the actions you can take, right now, to become a traveller led by respect and curiosity?
It comes down combining knowledge with actions. Pre-trip research is an integral part of traveling respectfully. Understand the local customs and culture by reading books about the country. Consider how history has shaped modern attitudes, religion, and traditions. Research ethical tourism options for popular activities before you arrive so you are clear on which activities are harmonious with your intentions for sustainable, responsible tourism. Below are four ways to show respect for local cultures when you travel.
Consider the local religion, culture, and climate when packing for a trip. Dress codes vary even within a country, and especially at important religious and cultural sites, where conservative clothing is nearly always the most respectful option. Take your cues from the locals. Although you certainly don’t need to wear traditional attire, pack culturally appropriate clothes that fit with the tone of a place.
Always ask permission before photographing locals — even a smile and questioning eyebrow-raise is enough to communicate the question. Although it seems like a passing moment for you as the tourist, that photo often represents the daily life for any locals living in a touristy area. In 2016, Bangkok received 21.47 million overnight visitors and 85% of those travellers visited for leisure and tourism purposes. That’s a staggering number of tourists wandering the city snapping photos of the people, streets, and sights. In addition to asking permission, consider if photographs are even appropriate in a given situation. Some compare aspects of modern tourismto our dark history of human zoos. From tourism-specific hilltribe villages in Thailand to the rise of slum tourism, photographing some destinations requires a nuanced understanding of where pro-poor tourism (which the UN describes as tourism aimed at poverty alleviation) crosses the line.
Before you leave, take the time to learn a handful of words in the local language. Words like “hello,” “thank you,” and “please” grease the wheels of communication with locals. Even more than communication, however, learning how to greet and express thanks in the local language expresses a willingness to better understand the culture and people. A number of free apps, YouTube tutorials, and phrasebooks exist for nearly every language in the world — make the effort to learn a few language basics to better open yourself to spontaneous conversations and moments with locals.
Show respect for the local culture by researching appropriate gestures and traditions. Even the most commonplace action might be culturally inappropriate in another part of the world. Sometimes the gestures represent interesting cultural quirks and superstitions, and other times represent significant religious beliefs. And etiquette covers everything from if you tip in a destination to how you eat, show appreciation, and the codes of behaviour appropriate in public. While it’s impossible to list them all, a few examples include: the ‘thumbs up’ gesture is offensive in Greece, Italy, and Nigeria; eating with your left hand is taboo in India and Morocco; and large swaths of the world frown upon public displays of affection. eDiplomat offers an extensive list of cultural etiquette guides for countries around the world, and Wikipedia has a growing list of crowd-sourced etiquette suggestions for Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, North America.
When you travel with a sense of respect for the cultures and traditions you encounter, it shifts the entire travel experience. Respect is the first ingredient in making travel a force for good. Long-time world travellers Dan Noll and Audrey Scott call this the “the two-way transformational power of travel — where the traveller is transformed by the experience, as is the community he visited through the benefits of economic development and cultural exchange.” It’s clear that leading through respect is an ideal way to not only find that elusive “authenticity” many travellers crave, but it’s also the only way to ensure Travel & Tourism has a reciprocal positive effect on countries and cultures around the world.
This post is part of a series about the various pledges that are part of the Is It Too Much To Ask campaign. You can view the campaign microsite here.
For an overview: Do you want to be on the endangered species list?
The global water crisis affects upwards of 2.5 billion people around the world according to the World Health Organization. This number represents those without consistent access to clean water or sanitation, and it’s a figure expected to worsen over the coming decade if the current consumption rates continue. Water scarcity is a defining issue for the world, and Travel & Tourism in particular.
According to WaterHub, right now “a quarter of the world’s population live in ecosystems under threat from water scarcity.” And while this may seem like an issue unrelated to tourism, the facts attest to the strong link. A 2016 UN Environmental Programme report noted that the “demand for fresh water is likely to outstrip supply by 40% by 2030 and a third of the world’s population will be living in areas of severe water stress by this time. In most countries, water consumption per guest in hotels vastly exceeds that of the local population.”
Both travellers and the industry clearly have roles to play in making T&T a force for good in the world. Only by raising awareness of the very real and devastating impact of global water scarcity can we take part in an industry ready to meet the coming challenges. There is no single panacea. Innovative emerging technologies promise solutions for companies and travellers willing to partake — travellers need to expect more from hotels and hotels need to deliver comprehensive water saving solutions. And even more, it’s up to travellers to take personal responsibility for water consumption while on vacation.
Let’s look at where the industry stands today, the opportunities for the future, and how individual travellers can show good water stewardship on each and every trip, both at home and abroad.
Addressing Water Scarcity Through Technology
Many believe that big data is a game changer in hospitality. It’s a common refrain now for tourism companies to posit what they will do when psychometric guest profiles are commonplace and provide a perfectly customised guest experience. Big data within the water industry looks quite different than than that in the broader tourism industry. Within water, new technologies provide a chance to quickly identify water leakage — the World Bank estimates global water losses from leakage of 8.6 trillion gallons per year — or even use predictive algorithms to prevent water leaks.
And something interesting happens when data and technology merge within the water and tourism sectors: the gamified shower. Joining the Internet of Things is an intriguing solution for T&T. Based in Portugal, Optishoweroffers gamification strategies to hospitality and leisure aimed at increasing profit margins by reducing water and energy consumption. While the Optishower first and foremost encourages travellers to monitor personal water consumption, the smart technology also pairs with hotel rewards programmes, giving hotels an effective way to incentivise hotel guests to optimise water usage.
Tourism Companies Addressing Water Scarcity
The hotel industry takes a large onus of responsibility for positive water stewardship in T&T. Hotels around the world, particularly in vulnerable destinations, have a responsibility to find and use the best technology and solutions to help move the entire industry towards a more sustainable future. With the problem only continuing to worsen, hotels are implementing various water-saving strategies; some of the more standard steps include water-saving shower heads, faucet aerators, and ozone machines in the laundry facilities. That said, International Tourism Partnership notes that “it’s clear that towel and linen programmes are no longer enough when it comes to hotels playing their part in good water stewardship” — organizations need clear and effective water management plans.
One ecolodge has used the latest technology, along with traveller-focused awareness programmes, to change behaviors and water consumption habits. A 2014 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards finalist, Chepu Adventures Ecolodgecreated an innovative water management system to address the unique challenges of running a hotel in a remote region of Chile. Tourism primarily peaks during the region’s dry season, which is why the ecolodge collects rainwater throughout the year. Solely relying on that rainwater and filtration systems, Chepu installed panels in each room to show guests their personal water and energy consumption, providing guests with a recommended eco-limit for their stay. The lodge notes that guests embrace this level of care and environmental stewardship, and even “learn how to keep their savings at home and continue with their environmentally friendly practices, discuss and compare with friends and family, and spread awareness.”
Water Stewardship for World Travellers
While the hotels and technology provide innovative options for addressing water scarcity, travellers can also play a powerful role in water conservation and stewardship. At present, tourism accounts for an unsustainable percentage of local water supplies in many vulnerable locations around the world. Water disparity studies show that “tourists׳ water use in Fiji and Sri Lanka exceeds that of locals by a factor of 8.5 and 8.3.” And it’s not an isolated problem. From Thailand to Tanzania, tourists consumes inordinately more water than locals, raising very valid concerns about water inequities in developing nations (which is where the data indicates the highest water disparities exist between locals and tourists).
Here are ways to become a better steward of the world’s fresh water supply:
1.Take three-minute showers in water-scarce destinations. Research your destination beforehand and adjust your showering habits to fit the local situation. Some destinations have seasonal water shortages or short periods of drought, while other destinations require year-round care of the local supply. Taking a three-minute shower drastically lowers your daily consumption, and will have a real effect as travellers around the world adopt this habit.
2.Adjust your expectations. Although shorter showers are one part of the solution, some of the biggest uses of the freshwater supply in tourism come from water features on hotel properties, such as lush green lawns and large swimming pools. In water-scarce destinations, book accommodations that integrate innovative freshwater alternatives, like location-appropriate landscaping, filling fountains with cascades of succulents, or installing water-recycling programs where possible.
3.Support hotels and destinations investing in water conservation strategies. Hotels at every price-point have begun to take notice of this serious issue. From luxury resorts to budget lodges, use your tourism dollars to support industry practices centered on water conservation and preservation. By making conscious spending choices, your tourism dollars can motivate the industry to adopt strong sustainability standards.
There is no single solution to global water scarcity because change will only come through coordinated efforts and a true commitment from every facet of the industry — hotels, destinations, and tourists, too. Each facet has a role to play in mitigating the very real consequences coming from decades of over-consumption and unrestrained use of limited resources.
To learn more about what you can do to make your travels more sustainable, visit toomuchtoask.org