How to Communicate With Travel Providers That You Want Sustainable Options

“I pledge to give feedback to travel providers, to establish demand for sustainable practices and responsible travel, and ask for more sustainable travel options in my recommendations. If a travel provider is not providing me with sustainable options, I will demand to know why and endeavour to make a change.”

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Responsible travellers are a key motivating force helping move the industry in the direction of sustainable Travel & Tourism. While international conversations take place about the best ways to implement changes, it’s the spending from individual travellers that collectively funds the most needed projects and changes throughout the industry. The collective buying power in Travel & Tourism generated USD $7.6 trillion in 2016. That’s a staggeringly huge figure, and one that is only continuing to grow in the coming decade.

It’s the preferences of those traveling the world that creates the shifts and changes in the global industry. Travellers prioritising opportunities to destress and exercise fueled the rise in wellness travel, while those valuing immersion fueled the worldwide rise of cultural tourism. But beyond preferences, how can travellers communicate their desire for an industry built around sustainability?

The rising generation of travellers are the eco-conscious millennials — although boomers are still spending throughout retirement, Travel & Tourism has begun to align with the priorities of the current demographic with strong spending power. And as a generation, millennials prioritise green and eco-conscious options. They consistently indicate in surveys that they are willing to pay more to support companies with strong social and environmental policies.

One interesting example has been the rise in locavore options in hotels and tourist hotspots. The trend toward hyperlocal food options has stayed on the rise for years now, with a piece from as far back as 2011 noting that consumer value and demand for locally-sourced ingredients was “fast becoming de rigueur in the hotel industry, particularly at high-end and boutique properties where chefs [were] growing their own herbs and even hosting their own beehives.”

The local food trend continued through 2014, where agritourism “saw a sharp increase in popularity across the U.S. as vacationers [were] eager to to learn about the origins of their food and drink.” And in Ireland, Good Food Ireland launched as an organisation “committed to sustainable food tourism, supporting Ireland’s’ farmers, food producers and fishermen, benefiting local communities and safeguarding the future livelihoods of local people.”

Gastro-tourism has become a lucrative sector of Travel & Tourism because of the rise in demand from tourists, and what’s more, the tourists have emphasised a clear preference for restaurants, hotels, and local tour companies that tap into sustainable local supply chains. As you build your next vacation itinerary, understand that where you spend your money sends a signal to the industry. It’s not enough to simply make sustainable tourism choices, but you have to take the extra step and let these companies know that you are using their products and services because of their commitment to a sustainable future for us all.

According to a UN report, an emerging type of tourist has “a higher level of environmental and cultural awareness, which means that … they are more demanding, more able to influence, and have their say on the products that they consume.” The next wave of travellers spending money around the world are willing to communicate with tourism companies — that needs to be you.

If you don’t demand sustainability, tourism won’t that you expect every aspect of the travel experience to meet minimum sustainability standards. Providing tour operators and destinations with feedback is the number one way travellers can ask for the change they would like to see.

Here are three ideas to start the conversation:

  • Social media. Many travel brands have established presences on all of the leading social media networks — leverage the public nature of the platforms to tell travel providers what you think of their services. Are they living up to your expectations for sustainable options and responsible business policies throughout their supply chain? If you’re not sure about the policies of your favourite Travel & Tourism brands, ask! Sometimes, companies are still learning how to effectively communicate sustainability, so it’s best to ask for a link to their guiding principles and the programs they have in place to create a sustainable future.
  • Reviews. Knowing which companies are taking the right actions is half of the battle. When you see travel providers doing something right, head to the major review platforms to share with others why choosing this airline, restaurant, or hotel is a positive choice for those valuing responsible travel.
  • Direct conversations. Once on the ground, verify everything. Ask about the programs the travel provider has in place and the role those programmes play in the local environment and community. If a travel provider is not providing you with sustainable options, demand to know why. And if they have no options, commit to changing your own consumer behaviour to instead support those brands able to stand behind a commitment to a sustainable Travel & Tourism industry.

The only true path forward includes a consumer demand for better environmental and social policies from tourism companies. Consumer demand has the power to shift policies, and T&T is primed for strong shift in sustainable offerings when companies hear from a motivated customer base willing to plan trips that prioritise sustainable destinations, hotels, and tour operators.

This post is part of a series about the various pledges that are part of the Is It Too Much To Ask campaign. You can view the campaign microsite here.

For an overview: Do you want to be on the endangered species list?

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