Responsible tourism needs human touch
Mainstream and niche travel businesses should consider the personal impact of responsible tourism in their marketing approach, speakers told delegates at World Travel Market, the premier global event for the travel industry.
Opening the Business Case for Responsible Tourism programme, Professor Harold Goodwin of Leeds Metropolitan University said “responsible tourism is one of the ways for a business to get noticed, and that human interest stories are a key part of this”.
Marketing strategies, he suggested, could be used to attract a targeted demographic, but could also be used as a demand reduction tool, if destinations were looking to restrict the amount of visitors in order to preserve its appeal.
Tim Williamson, customer director for TUI UK & Ireland, disagreed and said that its marketing was intended to drive not only demand but also awareness of its sustainable initiatives. He showed how TUI puts sustainability in front of the customer at every stage in the customer journey, from signage in the shops to in-flight videos.
“We’re not making TV adverts about our sustainability, but customers are never in any doubt that it’s a very big part of how we run our business,” he said.
One long-term benefit of TUI’s approach is in its recruitment process. “We’re attracting high quality talent into our business because increasingly people want to work for a business which has sustainability on its radar.
Emma Stratton, co-owner of two hotels in Cornwall, offered an insight into a small niche hotel operator approached sustainability in its marketing. Its first property, the Bedruthan, has had a solar-heated swimming pool since the 1960s but doesn’t talk up its green credentials while the Scarlet, which opened ten weeks ago, does.
“It’s a reason why guests come back to the Bedruthan rather than why they book,” she said. “For the Scarlet, we are offering luxury without consumption. Telling stories about what we do for the local community fits with this.”
She echoed Williamson's comments by saying that using its sustainable message as part of its recruitment marketing attracts staff who will buy in to its ethos.
The other panellist, Andrew Cooper, director of government and external affairs at Thomas Cook, suggested that the current legislative requirements around sustainability were a major issue in terms of its marketing.
Looking forward, he suggested that while carbon reporting is the flavour of the month within five years other environmental issues might come to the fore. “I wouldn’t be surprised if in five years time there wasn’t some requirement on travel companies to disclose their water footprint.”
He added: “Currently there isn’t any genuine quantitative measurements for the social and economic benefits of travel, so that might come too.”
About World Travel Market
World Travel Market, the premier global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend four-day business-to-business exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry.
Almost 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press, embark on ExCeL - London every November to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinion and trends at WTM.
WTM, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2009, is the event where the travel industry conducts and concludes its deals.
WTM is owned by the world’s leading events organiser Reed Exhibitions (RE), which organises a portfolio of other travel industry events including Arabian Travel Market and International Luxury Travel Market.
RE holds more than 500 events in 38 countries throughout Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific covering 47 industry sectors including aerospace & aviation, healthcare, manufacturing and sport & recreation.
In 2008 RE, part of the Reed Elsevier group, brought together more than six million industry professionals from around the world generating billions of dollars in business.