Responsible travel no longer a ‘nice to do’

Travel brands will need to be more transparent with “robust” data on their sustainability measures key to consumer confidence in the post-coronavirus world.

Governments and trade bodies will have start measuring tourism in terms other than purely economic and consider environmental and social impacts.

The findings emerged from a responsible travel webinar organised by PR firm Finn Partners which attracted 150 participants.

Fiona Jeffery, the firm’s global responsibility tourism practice senior partner, said: “In recent years the travel industry has been impacted by environmental disasters including Day Zero in Cape Town and the bushfires in Australia, which has awakened our business and personal consciousness.

“The industry has arguably been running out of control and we are now at our own ground zero.

“This is a unique moment in time to take a pause, right the wrongs, and move away from viewing responsible travel as a ‘nice to do’.

“There should be no such thing as ‘sustainable tourism’, simply ‘tourism’ where acting ethically and responsibly sits in the DNA of every travel brand.”

Social impact managing partner Jane Madden added: “The traveller of the future will be much more mindful and for the tourism sector to recover and thrive post-lockdown, it’s important, now more than ever, that brands and destinations prioritise responsible travel as the cornerstone of all recovery plans.

“In the midst of Covid-19, we can’t lose sight of the Paris Agreement, out of this tragedy will come green shoots that the travel industry must act on.”

They discussed the need for destinations to move away from acting as marketing organisations and focus on being responsible management companies with an environmental and social emphasis to reap economic benefits.

Madden and Jeffery identified traveller trends including how people will take fewer but longer trips. They will have a desire for more experiential travel that is seen to benefit local communities directly.

They will also be looking for greater transparency from travel brands and as a result, robust data on their sustainable measures, as a key driver of consumer confidence.

Health and safety will also be embedded into travellers’ decisions and the panellists stressed the importance of destinations working closely with the health ministries, banks, investors, insurance companies and the private sector to achieve this moving forward in a well co-ordinated, informed and transparent way.

Carbon offsetting also needs to be looked at more closely by all travel brands to ensure schemes are ethically driven.

There was an optimistic outlook from both panellists who highlighted innovators who are devising and creating airline uniforms that also act as PPE, and utilising mobile technology to manage tourism flows.

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