Responsible travel: How do we make booking sustainable hotels easier?
— 22 experts shared their view
Evidence shows that spending time in nature helps reducing anxiety, improving mental health and well-being, let alone boosting physical health. Nature is good for us; can we be good to nature too? It's no wonder that one recent large-scale survey conducted by Booking.com (2020) identified 'Impact Awakening: The Rise of Responsible Travel' as one of the nine predictions on the future of travel. Half of the global travelers surveyed expressed the desire to travel more sustainably in the future with over two-thirds of respondents expecting more sustainable travel options from suppliers. Demand is (and expectations are) building up and post-pandemic will see a surge in travel with purpose. But do travelers easily have access to all information needed to make wise decisions on sustainable travel and hotels? Where are the gaps in the search and booking stages? And which company manages to fill those gaps well? What are some best practices in showcasing hotel sustainability online?
Booking.com (20 Oct 2020). Smarter, Kinder, Safer: Booking.com Reveals Nine Predictions For The Future of Travel. https://www.booking.com/articles/category/future-of-travel.html.
Program Director of Oceanic Global
Even in the face of a global recession and pandemic, consumer demand for businesses to demonstrate sustainable practices and planetary stewardship has only increased. People want to support businesses that embody their beliefs and are willing to pay more.
- 57% adults globally want businesses to focus on sustainability and the environment more in 2021 (Sourcing Journal).
- Companies abiding by social or environmental standards showed higher operational performance (Morgan Stanley).
- Millennials and Gen Z are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services (Nielson).
- 60% of youth under age 30 say the priority for the post-pandemic recovery should be restructuring society to deal with challenges including inequality and climate change (Sustainable Brands).
Additionally, we are seeing a rise in "digital nomads" accelerated by the impacts of remote working during the pandemic often in the millennial generation who care deeply about sustainability. This is particularly felt in coastal and tropical regions. In fact, Island Innovation is hosting a webinar tomorrow (9 February) on the subject of Adapting Tourist Destinations For Remote Workers & Digital Nomads In 2021. https://islandinnovation.co/remote-work/
As such, the need to communicate sustainability initiatives is critical and ever more relevant. Currently, it can be very difficult to identify what specific sustainability actions a hotel or restaurant is taking. Certification and verification schemes help add some transparency as a third-party can offer credibility to claims about regenerative best practices. Businesses themselves also play a role in communicating their efforts clearly and specifically for guests to understand including key on-site messaging at guest touchpoints. Furthermore, guest reviews and responses can be the most revealing or endorsing. There are many new platforms and sustainability labels entering the scene with different merits (I will outline some below), but ultimately to reach a critical mass of the general public, this information needs to be integrated and clearly available on mainstream platforms like Booking.com, Expedia, Yelp, and Google Reviews.
Certifications / Verifications
To begin with our own work, Oceanic Global has developed industry solutions to unify a global movement around responsible consumption and provide tangible sustainable solutions to set a new industry standard. Our industry solutions program is a set of research-backed guides and badge verification system that helps various industries minimize their environmental footprint and adopt sustainable operating practices. Industry-specific guides support shifts in operational infrastructure connects businesses with approved sustainable vendors and serves as a resource for political action and reform.
The map of businesses that have earned one of our badges is available on our website and this can be used as a resource particularly in areas we are more prevalent such as Tulum, Mexico; the Caribbean; and NYC. www.oceanic.global/oceanic-standard
EarthCheck, Green Globe, and Green Key are three of the most prevalent sustainable tourism certifications that require a holistic third-party audit and tangibly track goals year-over-year. Similar to Oceanic Global's program, this signals to guests that the business takes sustainability seriously and there are specific goals that are communicated by each tier of badge awarded.
You can see how some of our partner organizations communicate their commitments including Sandals Resorts, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Bulleit Distillery, and Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort. The more clear the messaging and specificity regarding what actions have been taken, the more trust is built with the community.
Platforms / Apps
- Wayaj (https://wayaj.com/) is a brilliant platform that collates existing leading sustainability indexes and provides a searchable map as well as booking and relevant travel info.
- PlasticScore (https://www.plasticscore.co/) is a great app that allows guests to review venues specifically based on their plastic consumption and waste management practices. This platform is growing quickly because anyone can post a review and the business will find themselves on the App.
- Remark (https://remark.eco/) is another app that allows anyone to send feedback directly to a wide range of businesses regarding their practices with a specific focus on waste and packaging, but also more encompassing.
Overall, these efforts are exciting and needed; however, as mentioned we need to find ways to introduce these systems to the general public. We are currently working with a coalition of nonprofits and businesses to integrate these systems into Yelp, and efforts to engage the other platforms are a natural next step so that everyone can easily and clearly find this information!