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Credit: Travindy

 

As part of our recent interview series with the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2017 winners and finalists, we asked them:

How do you communicate with guests about responsible practices?

This post gathers the key lessons learned from the winners: Cayuga Collection from Costa Rica, Slovenia Tourist Board, The North Island Seychelles, The City of Santa Fe and The Lodge at Chaa Creek.

 

Hans Pfister, Cayuga Collection: The most successful way is to invite them to our “back of the house” tour. We hide nothing. We show them everything. They go on a 2 hour tour of hotel and see the kitchen, laundry, staff areas, storage facilities, treatment plants, etc. We teach them what it means to be a sustainable hotel or lodge. They are usually blown away by this as they never have a chance to see the back of the house of a hotel, nor do they imagine the efforts that go into being sustainable. If they don’t have time for that, we also do evening presentations or they can read about our efforts in our guest book or online.

 

Lucy Flemming, Chaa Creek: More than just communicate to guests, we have always endeavoured to actively involve visitors in our approach to responsible tourism. For example, during tours of onsite attractions like our Belize Natural History Centre, Butterfly Farm, Maya Organic Farm, Medicinal Plant Trail, and guided nature walks, cultural tours, village visits and other nature-based activities, we both explain our efforts, and encourage feedback.

We have found that by involving guests, they are eager to provide their own ideas and experiences, and over the years they have contributed to our efforts in this area. Also, though initiatives such as “Pack-a-Pound”, where guests are encouraged to add a pound or more of school supplies for disadvantaged students to their luggage, or post when they return home, they create an interaction that enhances their travel experience and builds bridges between overseas visitors and local schools and communities.

In short, we strongly believe that, to be effective, sustainable tourism involves a partnership between guests, local communities, and ourselves.

Read more statements from the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2017 winners and finalists here.

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When you talk about sustainable tourism, focus on it makes your guests’ experiences better

Categories: Blog Posts, Marketing
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by Jeremy Smith, Editor & Co-Founder, Travindy

 

The easiest way to understand why most people struggle to communicate sustainable tourism well, and to understand how to get it right, is to stop thinking about sustainable tourism.

Instead, think about food. When you buy any food that comes in packaging, that packaging is covered with information. On the front, there’s the name of the product, maybe a photo or image of it looking at its finest, and a few short words or a phrase that describe how mouthwateringly, lipsmackingly delicious it is. All this information is communicating to the customer what their experience will be like. Because that is what motivates their purchase.

Meanwhile, somewhere else on the package, probably on the back, in a tiny font, is a long list of ingredients, some information on how to dispose of the packaging, guidelines about which sort of food intolerances it is a risk for, and so on. How many times do you ever look at that information before you buy a product – unless you specifically need to know if, say, it might contain peanuts? This is how the product was made. It’s complex, necessary, and in a few specific cases motivates a purchase. But not often.

When talking about tourism in general, people focus on the first approach – how relaxing, exciting, thrilling, inspiring your holiday will be. But when many people try to communicate sustainable tourism the focus shifts to an overemphasis on what is found on the back of the food packet – the stuff about how it is made.

It’s not surprising. People who put in all this extra effort are incredibly committed, passionate people. They care hugely about supporting their local communities, regenerating endangered habitats, or reducing their impact on climate change. And they want to share this passion with their guests.

Last year my colleague Professor Xavier Font analysed the sustainability messages used by businesses winning the World Responsible Tourism Awards held at WTM and WTTC’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards over the previous years. In other words, the leaders in the field. He found that even then: “most of these messages focus on passive facts where the beneficiary of the sustainability action is not clear.”

To use an example that combines food and hospitality, companies report reductions in food miles, but don’t contextualise this message so as to explain to their guests how their experience is improved as a result. Yes, reducing food miles means less carbon emissions while supporting a region’s farmers. Yet the key message to consumers should be that this offers unique opportunities for them to enjoy varieties and tastes they won’t get elsewhere, while ensuring that the food is as fresh and ripe as can be. In other words, our efforts to be more sustainable mean a better holiday for you.

In the same way, if your lodge has solar panels – key messages might be how this enables it to be sited in such a remote and beautiful place, or how it means there are no ugly power cables spoiling the view, or how guests can sleep undisturbed by the hum of a generator. If your staff are all from nearby villages, this means they know the area best, have the most fascinating stories of its history, and make the best guides to it today.

If you clear the litter off of coral, it is the clean reef you show a picture of, not the pile of rubbish. If the air is pure where you operate, you don’t detail the chemical composition of the atmosphere, you paint a picture so people imagine closing their eyes and breathing deep. If you have protected thousands of acres of forests the story you share is not of the bureaucratic wrangling and years of campaigning, but of how far and free people can walk direct from your front door.

For every action you take, every procedure you implement, every device or tool you’ve added to make your operation run more sustainably, ask yourself – how does this improve my guests’ experience. And then tell them that. To use the food packaging analogy – put this on the front of the pack.

Of course it may well be that you can’t think of suitable stories to tell about some of the things you do. So, just as with all the less exciting sounding ingredients, you put these on the back. In an environmental policy document. Under a ‘sustainability practices’ tab on the website. You still mention them – because just as some people look for specific ingredients in food, so some people will check your sustainable tourism policy. And without it being there for those that look, how would they know?

There is much else to get right, once you have ensured your communications focus on the benefit for your guests. You need to avoid greenwash. Got the tone right so you aren’t preachy or angry. But everything starts here.

 

Looking for more help?

Over the years we’ve worked with hundreds of people and companies who are putting loads of effort into being more sustainable, and who are frustrated because they aren’t able to get their guests as excited about their efforts as they are. We’ve put together much of what we have learned, and the stories of many of the companies we have helped, into a free Essential Guide to Marketing and Communicating Sustainable Tourism. This 83-page ebook is filled with case studies of companies getting it right, and ideas and advice for people looking to do the same.

It can be downloaded from Travindy here. And if you want to talk to us about how we can help you get your sustainability stories heard, email anula@travindy.com, tweet @travindy or find us at facebook.com/travindy

 

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author(s) and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) or any employee thereof. We make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability or validity of any information presented by individual authors and/or commenters on our blogs and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.

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Video Source: neZEH Highlights

Launched by the UNWTO, the neZEH e-toolkit evaluates the energy performance of hotels through a questionnaire and identifies options for energy efficiency, including efficient use of non-renewable sources, while raising awareness on the topic through inspiring examples. By Travindy. Read more.

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TUI seeks to reduce emissions by further 10% and provide 10 million greener holidays

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Image Source: TUI Group

TUI Group has just published its Sustainability Report for the completed financial year. The report offers an overview of the activities and progress delivered in the first year of the Group-wide “Better Holidays, Better World 2015-2020” strategy.

In the framework of its sustainability strategy, TUI does not just assess the economic, social and ecological impact of its own business operations, the Group is also committed to pioneering more sustainable tourism. By Travindy. Read more.

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Terrorism and tourism: what cities should do to prepare for an attack

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Image Source: Travindy

Citizens of the U.S. and the world were deeply shocked and saddened when a gunman shot and killed about 50 patrons at an Orlando nightclub this past weekend.
While the shooter’s primary targets were the people enjoying an evening out, a secondary object of such incidents is typically tourism, with the aim of terrorizing a population so much that people don’t travel there, thereby harming the economy. By 

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Support Refugees

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Image Source: Travindy

Refugees have always been an emotional topic around the world and especially today as Europe is experiencing large movements of refugees throughout the continent. The issue, usually, is that the governments are overwhelmed with attempts to integrate those refugees properly, and sadly, many of them do not receive a warm welcome upon arrival.

Since the travel and tourism industry deals with both hospitality and the movement of people, our industry is very well suited to support refugees.

Travindy has collected “15 Ways Tourism Can Help Refugees,” which was developed by looking at good practices done by tourism enterprises, and which can be continuously developed.

View the downloadable PDF from Travindy.

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