Analysis: Is sustainability viable?
In a demanding, price-driven market, is sustainable travel ever a consideration? And if it is, who is responsible for championing
Responsible travel is “not part of the conversation” between agents and clients, according to Travel Bureau’s Jeanne Lally, unless they specifically come in looking to travel green.
“This doesn’t mean agents or clients don’t care,” she said. “Everyone we have spoken to wants to have guilt-free travel as they acknowledge that whatever they or their clients do has an impact.”
Pure Luxury’s Nigel Ham believes that a tough market has led agents to be wary of mentioning anything that might put a client off making a booking, and sustainable travel falls into this category.
Association of Cruise Experts’ Andy Harmer said it could be a question of information overload, adding: “Agents get so much thrown at them about excursions, hotels, destinations, offers – there’s so much noise.
“It’s clear there is a lot of good work going on overseas but communication needs to improve and more news has to come from resorts and destinations about what they are doing.
“We need to do much more as an industry to educate the trade.”
Advantage’s Colin O’Neill said responsible travel does not feature in the communications that Advantage sends out.
“It’s not on our radar. Our relationships are straightforward commercial ones; and at conferences, questions about it do not come up and it’s not yet been on the agenda,” he said.
Agents who gain first-hand experience of good work in sustainable tourism become passionate ambassadors for the cause, according to Lally.
“We had an agent who went to the Galapagos Islands, and as a result when they are selling a holiday to the islands, they tell such a compelling story,” she said.
“They feel engaged in the process, and although of course we are all in it to make money, they do also want to feel good about what they are selling. And when the agents come back, they write eloquent reports for other members of the team to benefit from. The cost of sending people overseas is huge but it’s worth it.”
Harmer voiced concerns that agents believe responsible travel is about ticking a box to offset emissions. “But it’s not, and as an industry, it’s our job to explain that it is far more than that,” he added.
If the trade does receive the right level of support and education, agents should make sustainable travel part of their conversation with clients, according to Lux Island Resorts’ Jane O’Shea.
“But it is not solely the agent’s job,” she said. “Every element of tourism has to take responsibility for communicating to potential customers the commitment they make towards being greener.
“Lux, for example, offsets 100% of carbon emissions in all our resorts.”
Kuoni’s Amanda Darrington feels operators have an increasingly important role in ensuring the product agents have available to sell is sustainable.“It is our responsibility to ensure the hotels we marry ourselves with have sustainability at the core,” she said.
“Our message should be, if you buy off us, you are buying sustainable hoteliers and that is a big deal. We don’t make enough of what we and our partners do, but we should because they could be big selling points.”
Making responsible travel more exciting and authentic is key to it moving towards the front of clients’ minds. Ham believes the conversation needs to find its way to the dinner table.
“If being green is about ticking a box to offset carbon, nobody is going to become passionate,” he said. “But great experiences that reveal sustainability in action will be talked about and will make it sexier.”
Darrington said the work being done with local people by hotels could and should be developed into excursions to allow guests to feel more involved in the place they are visiting.
And Lally was keen to ensure customers know that when they spend money on excursions into the local community, they are not lining the pockets of the wrong people.
“These things must be community-led and authentic, and the money must make its way back to the locals,” she added.
Cooks Islands Tourism’s Judy McCluskey said one of the main draws for tourists visiting the islands is the sustainable nature of travel around the area. “The islands haven’t been damaged at all and the message is always to go and engage with the community,” she said.
“This is why the environment is pristine and those that go can enjoy the country with the local people. This is important to clients who want an authentic experience.”
O’Shea agreed that this type of authenticity is the luxury that some clients want. “People are moving away from glamour and white gloves in favour of something real,” she added.
But it’s not just tourists and the industry that needs educating to make sustainability successful, according to Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Paul Beale.
“When I worked as a dive master in Burma, the locals perceived there to be more value to them through shark finning than shark preservation,” he said. “The tourism those sharks create is worth far more but because the money doesn’t get into their pockets, it’s difficult for them to understand that.”
Harmer said destinations are starting to see the benefit of inviting cruise passengers into their environment. “Cruise lines have done a lot of work to ensure the local community benefits from the influx of people.
“One cruise line offers passengers the chance to enjoy a volunteer project for the day, which has proved to be very popular.”
Amanda Darrington: Kuoni
Andy Harmer: Association of
Colin O’Neill: Advantage
Jane O’Shea: Lux Island Resorts
Jeanne Lally: Travel Bureau
Judy McCluskey: Cook Islands Tourism
Nigel Ham: Pure Luxury
Paul Beale: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Pitch perfect: Emirates stadium tours
The Aspire editorial advisory board met in a stunning venue: the incredible Diamond Lounge at London’s Emirates Stadium.
Comprising an open-plan restaurant, private dining booths, an armchair lounge and bar, it is designed to fit all styles of event from dinners and parties to meetings.
The club is overseen by Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc, who is personally available for events on request. The club is one of the spots your clients would see on the new interactive Arsenal stadium tour.
Arsenal stars share their match-day experiences, the boss talks to clients in the changing room and they witness the contrast between the home and away teams’ experience and learn how the stadium has been designed to affect their games. Other highlights include the media centre, the Arsenal museum and areas in which the players relax after a game.?
The tours are self-guided but they also offer Legends Tours with old Arsenal greats leading the tour.
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