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Opinion: The case for sustainability is stronger than ever

Nikki White, head of destinations and sustainability, AbtaWhen was the last time you went into a shop to buy clothes and asked where they were made, what the employment standards were like for the workers, or how much water and energy was used in the production?

Probably not that recently, if ever. But I’m sure you’ll remember the backlash against some major high street brands when they were perceived as getting it wrong.

Having just returned from the Travel Convention in Palma, it couldn’t be clearer what a challenging time this is for the industry. So when a panel was asked ‘why sustainability when customers aren’t asking for it?’, it was time to take stock and remind ourselves of the bigger picture.

Should we be concerned that consumers aren’t asking about the environmental and social impacts of their holidays?

It was highlighted by several speakers that while people are still taking holidays, incomes continue to be under great pressure. This means customers are looking to get the best value.

While many consumers may not specifically ask for sustainable holidays, they increasingly expect them to be ethically and sustainably managed.

Our recent consumer trends survey saw an increase in the number of people believing their holiday should help local people and the economy. Look more closely, and there are real differences; young people and cosmopolitans (consumers who take the most holidays a year and are early adopters of trends) would choose one company over another based on sustainability.

Make simple changes

And a growing number of people believe they should be able to make informed choices. We see agents having a clear role in creating consumer awareness and managing the impacts of their own premises.

Hotels are making bottom-line savings by doing this, so can retail premises. There are simple steps to get started: encourage Travelife-awarded hotel sales, gain feedback from customers and ask them to speak up if they see something they’re not happy about.

And if you’re asking yourselves which elements of a holiday face sustainability challenges, consider this; fuel, food and energy costs haven’t stopped rising.

If APD continues to rise, airlines could start to cut expensive routes and hurt local communities. Add to this that more chief executives have raised the issues of climate change, water security and biodiversity up their scale of concern, and you have most of the ingredients of a holiday.

Agents who are better informed now are better placed to sell when customers start asking more questions. And those agents who are prepared to think about the wider impact our industry has, can stand out and say they’re working for the success of this industry.

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