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Travel companies ‘coy’ about marketing responsible tourism

Tourism companies are slow to market their efforts to operate responsibly and coy about the competitive advantage it confers, says a leading tourism expect.

Dr Xavier Font of Leeds Metropolitan University will tell visitors to WTM on Tuesday: “You can make money from responsible behaviour, but the trend is for companies not to talk about it.

Font is studies director at the International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds. He told Travel Weekly: “Companies are happy to talk about saving energy, but almost apologetic about making money.

“Tour operators that sell themselves as responsible do not want to say whether it is good for business. But the business case behind responsible tourism is important.”

Font’s department asked more than 50 travel firms whether being responsible helped their brand. “Most say it has not helped, but you can see their product is higher quality and their prices higher,” he said.

He added: “Many in the business do not understand responsible tourism. Others do not understand marketing.”

Font believes the industry has made progress on responsible tourism, but has no room for complacency. “The industry wants to improve in areas that are easy,” he said. “That is OK if this is the beginning of the process.

“Excursions can be a key area. The quality of excursions is generally very poor and they could be made meaningful so tourists appreciate the place they visit.”

Font is due to speak on Corporate Social Responsibility for Competitive Advantage tomorrow at 15.30 pm (North Gallery Rooms 4-5).

* More WTM 2008 coverage at travelweekly.co.uk/wtm2008

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