This report was written jointly by Forum for the Future and the Travel Foundation. It is designed to support the UK outbound tourism industry as it works towards a sustainable future. The outbound tourism industry comprises tour operators, travel agents, ground handlers, airlines and cruise
Many of the examples used come from larger businesses, which have already started integrating
sustainability into their operations. However, every business, large and small, has its part to play.
About the Travel Foundation Founded in 2003, the Travel Foundation is the travel industry’s own charity, set up to respond to concerns over the sustainability of travel and tourism. An independent UK charity which helps the travel industry understand, manage and take effective action on sustainable tourism, the Travel Foundation exists to protect and enhance the environment and improve the well-being of destination communities, as well as the holiday experience for visitors.
The profitable tourism of the future uses resources efficiently, protects destinations and is rewarded by its customers. Yet, recent years have been a time of crisis for the industry. The economic downturn has spelled disaster for some travel companies in the UK and put margins under more and more pressure. And things don’t look set to get any better in the near future – economic volatility, rising costs of air travel and global instability are threatening people’s ability and desire to travel. Add resource constraints, natural and economic threats to destinations and rising operational costs into the mix and it is clear that ‘business as usual’ is going to be increasingly difficult. The tourism industry is under pressure.
But there is some good news. Evidence shows that taking a sustainable approach can provide the opportunity and dynamism that the industry needs right now. And, the even better news is that sustainability doesn’t need to be costly or complicated. What better time to revisit six good business reasons to take a more sustainable approach?
1. Reducing costs and improving efficiency: Utility costs are rising and predicted to grow further.
Sustainable practices result in cost savings. All businesses can save by reducing consumption of water and energy and production of waste. This is a simple way to get started and generates rapid savings for all – from the office to the guest house to the large hotel. In addition to financial savings, efficiencies in dealing with waste, for example, can free up staff time to concentrate on other activities.
2. Managing risks and meeting legislative requirements: Government regulators are implementing ever stricter controls on the travel and tourism industry – a trend which is likely to continue given the urgent need to tackle climate change impacts and resource scarcity issues. Regulation will impact everything from how expensive it is to fly, to how destinations are managed. All this will translate into legislation (and incentives) for business to help contribute towards meeting these targets. Companies that do not shy away from potential risks and lobby for progressive public policy are grabbing hold of the opportunities to get ahead.
3. Engaging staff: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a key driver in staff satisfaction – on average 50% higher in companies with a strong CSR culture1. Employees enjoy working for companies that care. Improved employee engagement and satisfaction leads to increased productivity and creativity, and improves recruitment and retention.
4. Gaining competitive advantage: Sustainable tourism is being increasingly linked to product differentiation and a better holiday experience for customers and can lead to earlier booking curves, higher customer satisfaction and retention and superior margins. They are also difficult for competitors to replicate.2 In addition, the things customers look for in terms of quality reflect the values of a sustainable tourism business model. For example, many holidaymakers value unique, authentic experiences in the local community and responding to this not only improves customer experience, but can boost incomes of the local population
5. Meeting emerging consumer trends: Today’s consumers expect travel companies to build sustainability into their product offer. A majority (70%) believe companies should be committed to preserving the natural environment and 55% want fair working conditions, while three quarters want a more responsible holiday and 66% would like to be able to easily identify a greener holiday.
6. Protecting the tourism product: If any industry is dependent on a resilient and functioning environment it’s tourism. Protecting investments by saving water, planning for climate change impacts and ensuring a warm welcome from destination populations are all key parts of the business case. While the actions of individual businesses certainly count, the only way to protect such resources in the long term is to collaborate – industry, governments, NGOs and community organisations must work together to develop practical mechanisms and supporting policies that can be implemented to safeguard the resources at the heart of the travel and tourism business. In this document there is further evidence of the business benefits of taking a sustainable approach, as well as advice and guidance on applying to your business. The Travel Foundation is set up to help you on this journey and
capture the business benefits. Get in touch if you want to know more.
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About Forum for the Future
Forum for the Future is a non-profit organisation working globally with business and government to create a sustainable future. We have 15 years’ experience inspiring new thinking, building creative partnerships and developing practical innovations to change our world. We aim to transform the critical systems that we all depend on, such as food, energy and finance, to make them fit for the challenges of the 21st century.
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