Sustainable Travel Special!
Updated: Jul 22, 2020
In session 27 of Survive and Revive, Richard invited sustainability experts Tess Wilcox and Lauren Anderson of World Resorts of Distinction (WRD), and Dayana Brooke of The Sustainable Traveller, to hold a panel on the important topic of sustainable travel. Much noise has been made within the industry over sustainable travel in recent years, but has the message reached the traveller? In particular, how will travellers and industry members consider the topic in a post-COVID world, and is there a need to rethink how the concept is sold?
Tess Wilcox is an environmentalist, and the leader of World Resorts of Distinction, a creative marketing studio that caters to the sustainable luxury resort leaders of the world, and champions the sustainable travel movement. Along with a team that includes Lauren Anderson, Tess and WRD have the goal to build a business that could influence the industry from the inside out, and influence other brands to become more sustainable.
Dayana Brooke is a sustainable travel expert and educator who has been in the industry for 20 years, with roles in from corporate, leisure and high-end luxury before starting The Sustainable Traveller. For Dayana, being a conservationist and environmentalist has been a core part of her every day life, and after realising that her personal sustainability values did not align with the company she was working with she decided to create her own, one which more closely followed her own convictions. With her passion for being sustainable in all facets of her life Dayana leads by example, and thereby spreads the message to other travel advisors that not only is sustainability in travel and tourism important, but that advisors have the power to influence consumer’s decisions for the better.
How Can One Define Sustainability?
From an outsider’s perspective, one might define sustainable tourism as doing things and going places that do the least amount of damage, simultaneously generating a feel-good factor within oneself through the knowledge that, in a basic way, you’ve done something good for the world. However, sustainability affects more than just the natural environment that most people would often assume. In truth, sustainability also extends to the social and economic wellbeing of local societies and economies, and true sustainability can only be achieved when all three pillars are upheld in unison.
In is in this broader sense of sustainability many businesses can fall into the trap of ‘green-washing’. Essentially, this is where businesses advertise themselves as environmentally friendly or sustainable, yet have actually taken very minimal steps to achieving true sustainability. With the clutter of communications floating around, this can make it very difficult for consumers to determine which brands are genuinely the most beneficial for the world. That being said, there is no immediate need for sustainability to be achieved to perfection, as this is unrealistic in the short term, and will only alienate brands and consumers from even considering going down a sustainable path. Instead, praise should be given to anyone who takes even the smallest step towards achieving sustainability, to encourage further growth. Furthermore, transparency within the industry will assist in cutting through the clutter to find those brands that are truly the most sustainable.
How Will COVID-19 Affect Perceptions Of Sustainable Travel?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to predicting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on perceptions of sustainable travel. On the negative side, there are a significant number of travellers who are keen for immediate travel once the pandemic is over, often without thought and to destinations that are not the most sustainable. At the present time, it can therefore be seen that sustainability is not a primary concern for these individuals. Additionally, there are many destinations, particularly in the developing world, which are heavily dependent on travel to support their economies. This often comes at the cost of the social and environmental pillars of sustainability, and this cannot be easily overcome. With the increased desperation of these economies, highly unsustainable practices will likely occur in the short term once international travel is re-opened.
However, on the opposite side of the argument, the pandemic has been a significant tool for educating travellers about the impacts of their actions. Thus, there will undoubtedly be a growing number of people who are more conscious about their decision-making and their sustainability implications. While this may be more on the long-term side of things, it is definitely a positive sign for the future.
Despite this, there may be a disconnect between the desire for sustainability and the requirement for health and safety procedures, as many brands have returned to single use products and packaging for hygiene reasons. This is only a short-sighted view, however, as there are definitely ways to uphold new safety and health requirements without compromising on sustainability, for example asking guests if they even desire the single use products they are given, such as shampoo.
How To Sell Sustainable Travel?
For customers who are new to sustainable travel, the key is to ease them into it. Start by changing small aspects of their journey, such as going digital with their paperwork, or by choosing an airline that offsets its carbon emissions, and gradually transition them into more conscious decisions with future travels. There is also a need for better storytelling regarding sustainability, around why travellers should choose to travel sustainably. The impacts of this decision have typically been poorly communicated. Thus, improving upon this will help to better communicate how client’s behavioural changes can impact not only upon the world, but also upon themselves emotionally.
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Lauren Anderson: Lauren@wrd.com.au