Comment: Customers are helping create positive change

It’s an exciting time to be involved in responsible tourism, say Tui UK sustainability manager Ian Corbett

Travel broadens the mind and gives us all the opportunity to escape the everyday and discover new cultures and experiences. But whatever motivation sits at the heart of the decision to take a holiday, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: our customers are not taking a break from the need to lead more sustainable lifestyles.

Whichever metric I look at, the message is clear. Travelling responsibly has gone from niche to ‘nice to have’ to the new norm. The demand for holiday companies to manage their sustainability impacts and provide more sustainable products is nothing new. What is new is the way customers are now prepared to act to be part of the solution.

Good causes

Almost 50% of UK holidaymakers said ‘giving back’ to a destination is important to them, in research we commissioned last year. One of the easiest ways to do this is by supporting good causes in destinations.

The Tui Care Foundation is an independent charitable foundation which initiates projects that are improving the lives of young people, caring for the natural world and helping local communities. Over two million UK customers donated to the foundation last year – a record number that highlights the increasing desire to make a difference.

Unsurprisingly, reducing plastic waste has widespread appeal among customers. As part of the global ‡fight, Tui has pledged to remove 250 million pieces by 2020, but our customers want to see the plastic habit kicked as quickly as possible. Customers are now used to taking reusable cups and bottles with them and expect to be able to use them throughout their holiday. We’re seeing more and more hotels installing water fountains and moving to reusable polycarbonate glasses – a change that has been accelerated thanks to pressure from customers as well as ourselves.

Engagement with local culture and people is also growing in importance and our new Tui Tours programme is designed with this in mind. All tours meet strict sustainability standards, our guides receive detailed training and each tour includes sustainability highlights which give an authentic insight into the local way of living. Where possible, we include visits to Tui Care Foundation projects such as lunch in a social-enterprise restaurant in Hue.

Consumer concerns

What next for customers? We’re seeing growing demand for plant-based meals, rising concern about food waste and what we’re doing to tackle it, and more interest in sustainability related to fl­ying. Our most recent research shows that when it comes to fl­ying, recyclable packaging, less single-use plastic and fuel-efficient aircraftƒare the topics holidaymakers are most interested in. Despite a recent spike in media coverage around carbon off…setting, we’re not yet seeing this ‡filter into mainstream consumer thinking.

Whatever comes next, one thing is clear. To maintain the trust and confidence of customers, travel brands of all sizes will need to be able to show they are meeting wider social needs as well as those of the individual customer. ‰That makes this an exciting time to be involved in responsible tourism.

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