Customer demand for sustainable travel remains high despite the challenges posed by Covid, according to Exodus Travel’s head of sustainability and community.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Kasia Morgan said: “What we’re seeing as an operator, and what we’re hearing from agents, is that absolutely, safety is at the moment the number one factor for people looking into their holidays.
“But interestingly, sustainability doesn’t come too far behind that as a reinforcing factor. And really, it has not only maintained its precedence as a reinforcing factor, but actually various kind of evidence is starting to show that the consumer mindset has shifted such that it has become a more important factor through the various experiences we’ve had over the last few months.
“So agents should absolutely be talking to clients about safety, about flexible booking. But don’t forget that sustainability is still a really powerful kind of reinforcing factor, looking at how communities can become empowered and rebuilt through the kind of responsible travels that clients might want to take.”
But compromises will have to be made as the industry restarts, according to Megan Parkinson, partnerships and member services manager for the Latin America Travel Association (Lata).
She said how the industry acts to mitigate these effects will be key, adding: “There are compromises that are having to be made at the moment as we plan to restart tourism. One of one of the things that has been huge across society has been trying to limit single-use plastics. There are going to be compromises for things like that [due to Covid safety measures].
“But certainly at Lata, what we’re trying to do is to put in place guidelines for our members that make sure that there are stipulations in terms of the way those are disposed of etc and as we move forward, that we can act in a much more sustainable way.
“And in Latin America, sustainability is such a selling point for the region […] So I think initially there will be things that needs to be in place to safeguard the safety of travellers. But ultimately, sustainability is still going to be top of our agenda.”
Veronika Blach, head of environmental programmes for the Tui Care Foundation, highlighted the importance of using tourism as a force for good as the industry starts to rebuild in the coming months.
“Tourism is really a tool for development. We’ve seen that in the past before this pandemic… so I think that we need to remember how powerful tourism really can be,” she said.
“That’s where I see travel foundations really have a very important role to be able to lift people out of these situations.”
She said the Tui Care Foundation had launched a Corona Relief Program to support small social enterprises and charitable organisations on the ground.
Morgan said the Exodus Travels Foundation had meanwhile put in place support measures for communities struggling from lack of tourism, including re-training Kilimanjaro porters for farming and other areas.
The Lata Foundation has created an emergency appeal to support porters on the Inca trail, deliver food parcels to those who need them and supply PPE equipment for different projects.
“Now we’re seeing that [communities] are really struggling because not only do they not have the income from tourism, but also the charitable funding comes from the tourism industry,” said Parkinson.
“So they’re in real dire straits […] I think it’s really important that we all pull together as an industry,” she said. “It’s really important to get behind initiatives like these and support those who really need our help at this time.”