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The current Earth Day (22nd April) and World Environment Day (5 June) introduced with them inevitable tales about shameful greenwashing – from oil giants to world banks to automotive companies. As an business that contributes 8-11% of worldwide greenhouse fuel emissions (WTTC, 2022), travel companies have a profound function to play in adopting greener practices, but can simply face reputational risks in doing so: accusations of greenwashing or backlashes from these opposed to environmental insurance policies can understandably depart many companies considering they’re higher off not bothering.
Alternatively for these genuinely dedicated to change, this leaves many companies in the travel business afraid to launch inexperienced campaigns publicly, as a substitute leading to the very reverse: ‘green-hushing’, i.e. not speaking what they’re doing. This not solely means the companies lose out on the justified rewards of appearing virtuously, but in addition that such actions don’t have the full influence they deserve as engagement ranges are decrease due to lack of knowledge.
So what ought to travel companies be doing at a communications degree when attempting to act sustainably? And the place ought to they focus their efforts? We requested a number of travel expertise business specialists.
Christian Sabbagh, Founder & CEO from travel SaaS supplier Travelsoft – house owners of platforms resembling Orchestra, Traffics and Travel Compositor – feedback: “In an increasingly environmentally conscious world and a very strong media focus on the travel industry about this subject, travel companies are under mounting pressure to not only reduce their carbon footprint but to communicate and report their efforts in a transparent and meaningful way. I believe that we, as an industry, should see this topic as a positive challenge to embrace, take action and communicate about our achievements. By reacting positively to this pressure we can progress faster and always keep a step ahead.”
Looking at how inns current themselves of their gross sales and advertising channels, Janet Jaiswal, VP of Marketing from Cloudbeds – who offers expertise to impartial inns – believes that “it’s not enough to just make changes behind the scenes; companies also need to communicate these efforts to their customers in order to truly make a difference. But in a world where travellers are increasingly prioritising eco-friendliness, if you fail to follow through on sustainability initiatives once the guest is on the property then that can lead to lower guest satisfaction, cancellations and less bookings in the longer term. Companies must take a holistic approach to sustainability in order to benefit the environment and maintain their bottom line.”
Alex Gisbert CEO of FastPayhotels – a B2B platform for travel sellers and inns globally – factors out that while a lot of the focus is on those that have a heavy carbon footprint, for instance the airways or the inns, all companies throughout the travel distribution ecosystem should settle for that the days of claiming ‘that’s not me’ are gone. “The carbon footprint of the tech sector focused around travel – bedbanks, GDS providers, channel managers, payments services, property management systems, PSS platforms, and so on – might well have a very small direct carbon impact compared to the suppliers, but it is there nonetheless. Besides, true sustainability is not just about carbon footprint, it is so much more. There are steps in the right direction for sure, but they’re not as well communicated or coordinated as in the B2C space and they need to find their voice, neither over-emphasing their role and impact nor downplaying it. Start small would be my advice.”
Considering the challenges that tourism boards face, Carlos Cendra from travel intelligence supplier Mabrian provides: “The DMOs have a unique opportunity to make meaningful contributions to sustainability, while also avoiding the risks of greenwashing or indeed backlash from those opposed to environmental policies. It is not just about the carbon footprint though, tourism sustainability goes beyond that and must be approached from different dimensions: environmental, social, economic and structural. The DMOs managers have the responsibility to implement a sustainable culture for both the tourism sector and the residents. That takes time and efforts to establish, but it is the only way to make a real and lasting change. By contrast, the ‘patchwork’ strategy of doing uncoordinated sustainability actions is almost useless and can give an impression of greenwashing”.
Meanwhile Alex Barros from lodge income administration platform BEONx sees selling the sustainability of your property not simply as approach to make sure you don’t fall behind, however as “an actual direct source of revenue generation, quite literally selling them a sustainable experience or services. While a sustainable business model may require initial investment, it offers long-term benefits in terms of cost savings and enhancing the hotel’s reputation. At the same time, hotels that choose to ignore sustainability do so at their own peril, risking reputational damage and financial losses in the face of increasing demand for socially responsible businesses. In short, being sustainable is no longer a choice, but a necessity for hotels that wish to remain relevant and profitable.”
Consumers and even to some extent B2B consumers take a look at the aviation area and understandably deal with the gas consumption side, however let’s not overlook that there’s the entire B2B aspect of the business offering all the expertise and operations that make all the pieces work. Martin Eade from travel reserving expertise supplier Vibe factors out that such companies have “generally promoted sustainability in terms of what their business is doing, rather than how the services they provide can actually lead to a more sustainable world. Consider for example NDC solutions that enable passengers to easily access only the elements they require – think about the carbon footprint of unconsumed meals or unwanted extra legroom, for instance – or more efficient rebooking tools that help reduce the number of empty seats on a plane. As long as you can back up your claim to show a demonstrable impact, do so not just because your company benefits but because it inspires others to thing the same way.”
Finally, trying this matter from the investor perspective, Morgann Lesné from boutique travel funding financial institution Cambon Partners feedback: “There is a growing desire among investors to align themselves with green-related businesses. However, it’s crucial to remember that authenticity is key in this arena. Attempting to greenwash investors by overselling your environmental actions or making false claims is not only unethical, but it could also land you in legal trouble. As part of an industry at the forefront of environmental issues, it’s imperative for travel companies to be transparent and honest about their environmental practices whatever they may be, whilst at the same time always striving for continuous improvement. Contrary to what some think, investors value honesty and trust, integrity, thinking long-term and doing the right thing.”
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