By Sue Hurdle, chief executive, The Travel Foundation
What are the big challenges regarding sustainability which the industry faces?
- Thinking consumers don’t care about this and therefore not doing anything.
Although they may not be overtly asking for more sustainable holidays, consumers do care about these issues and increasingly expect companies to have taken care of the environment and the people in the destination on their behalf.
- Thinking it costs more and therefore not doing anything.
The initial steps, such as conserving energy and water, can actually save substantial amounts of money.
And there is increasing evidence that consumers have a better experience and generate fewer complaints staying in properties that have embarked on a sustainability drive.
In the longer term, adopting more sustainable practices will help companies attract and retain staff, which again can be an important saving.
- Trying to go it alone.
There are many things companies and countries can do to put their own houses in order, but ultimately all tourism stakeholders must act together to protect the destination.
That could mean:
- operators and agents agreeing to communicate consistent messages to consumers;
- pooling resources to support research and development on issues of shared interest;
- coming together with competitors to support a common scheme to raise standards such as we’ve seen with Travelife; or
- working with destination authorities on initiatives that also involve other tourist-generating countries.
What will be the Travel Foundation’s focus in its 10th year and beyond?
In our 10th anniversary year, we will focus on:
- Finding new ways to communicate the business case for more sustainable forms of tourism to staff, customers and suppliers to engage those that have yet to begin their journey.
- Forging new partnerships to help businesses make their next step towards more sustainable holidays and encourage cooperation across the industry.
- Using our decade of experience to showcase initiatives in destinations that provide lessons and models for other organisations and destinations to use.
- Facilitating and participating in collaborative exercises to help the travel and tourism industry towards a more sustainable future.
How can companies which may not have not engaged in sustainability before, get involved?
First of all, take a look at our website thetravelfoundation.org.uk. It contains free tools and information for companies operating in different parts of the business.
Join our Forum – you will receive regular newsletters on the latest topics for the industry to consider and you can share your case studies and best practice examples.
Help to communicate the issues to your staff and customers. We have a whole range of resources online to help you do this, including our 30 minute quiz which has already introduced the issues and opportunities to over 15,000 staff. And Make Holidays Greener month (July) is a great opportunity to get involved.
And finally, work with us. As a charity set up by the travel industry, we are unique: we are here to help everyone in the tourism industry and have a long track record of innovative and rewarding partnerships.
In order to do this, we rely on the financial support, cooperation and collaboration of forward-thinking companies. We can help you learn how to improve your sustainability and in turn help safeguard the future of your business.
What does the future hold for you personally?
On a personal level, I have some serious learning to do myself this year, as I will be on maternity leave from next month.
But while I’m away, I leave the Travel Foundation in the capable hands of my team – in particular Salli Felton, head of programmes, who will be taking the reins while I’m off and standing in as acting chief executive.
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