Can tourism be sustainable? Part two: Who's responsible
Tourism is a fun industry, people are choosing to spend money on travelling with your company or to your destination. The idea that tourism can have negative impacts is not likely to be in the thought process of the traveller, so who should be ensuring their trip has a positive impact on the destination? Is it the responsibility of the tourism provider or traveller to accelerate sustainable practices? As an industry, we need to look after our assets which are the environments and communities tourism operates within and in my opinion that responsibility starts with the tourism provider and consumers playing a part.
Both the tourism provider and travellers must mitigate the negative impacts to ensure a sustainable future for the destination they are operating in or visiting. There is a lack of understanding among many travellers on what sustainable tourism is and tourists struggle to name the impacts of tourism beyond the carbon released from their flight or easy to rectify day-to-day activities such as switching the lights off or using a reusable bottle. More can be done by tourism providers to inform travellers how their visit can have a positive environmental, social or economic impact on the destination without taking the fun out of their trip!
Tourism is altruistic and hedonistic so any sustainable behaviours adopted at home are often suspended in a holiday environment. Consumers are becoming more aware of sustainability issues, yet there is a divide between intention and behaviour. Are some of the issues just too big to comprehend? Again, tourism providers need to be the ones making changes to products to bring the positive benefits of tourism to the destination without taking the fun out of the trip!
Market trends suggest that Millenial and Gen Y are accountable for 40% of tourism spending, this is the same segment that are wanting a better future for our planet, they want to travel sustainably and will seek out businesses that share their values. Consumers want to make sustainable choices and will make decisions on where to travel based on the positive and negative impacts. Brands that promote good environmental and social practices with itineraries and products based on these drivers will benefit from this shift.
Consumers are starting to make more choices based on the sustainability credentials of a company and with the climate emergency getting traction the demand side of tourism is becoming more demanding! According to booking.com, 61% of consumers have said the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably. Tourism providers and destinations must understand the levels of engagement from consumers. Sustainable thinking from both sides must grow.
Consumer behaviours move through a process from high anxiety on an issue with a low response to becoming more informed - this triggers activity and reduces anxiety to integrating the ideas into everyday life as a behavioural change. Consumers can be helped on this journey by being “nudged”.
Nudge theory is a complex idea where businesses can develop policies that steer consumers to make sustainable choices; this can be at a government level or the marketing or interpretation level by tourism providers. This could be simple actions such as suggesting a rail transfer rather than a private taxi, filtered water provided daily, suggesting hotels with robust renewable energy initiatives. If these things are well communicated and sold positively through storytelling, marketing and brand identity consumers will buy.
So in conclusion, tourism providers need to be driving the sustainable and regenerative tourism message by ensuring the products they offer to push the positive impacts of tourism and mitigate the negative impacts. Whilst the tourists may not have a full comprehension of issues future choices will be made based on what has been experienced before. As a tourism business, you must be ready for consumers seeking out businesses that are a force for good in tourism.
If you are a small tourism business and need guidance on starting your sustainable tourism journey, or need so help to hone in on what you want to achieve contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org