Costs and Impact of Sustainable Travel Choices Today
It all goes back to a very simple question: Where to start when it comes to Sustainable Travel Choices?
On a recent episode of Truth Behind Travel Podcast with Iulia Niculica European Travel Commission’s Head of Administration, we mentioned that a staggering 7 out of 10 travellers feels overwhelmed when considering the costs and impact of their travel choices today.
- How can a ‘sustainable traveller’ carry a refillable water bottle around and successfully do so – therefore not buying bottled water – if the destination – whether rural or urban – doesn’t provide drinkable water fountain for the purpose?
- How can a ‘sustainable traveller’ reduce it’s carbon footprint on the planet if the options of the means of transport available at his destination of choice aren’t even remotely related to anything eco or green or renewable?
- How can a ‘sustainable traveller’ support [ local ] with shopping money that circulates within the community at his destination of choice if local crafts are very often not locally produced and perhaps even imported by SE countries?
A conversation that takes me to point of reflection on this never ending game of blame. Who’s responsibility is to implement those practices and support sustainable travel choices. It’s all about training and education- which is not something people pick up from a brochure or a leaflet, but quickly learn by doing – when it’s take it or leave it.
Let’s look into transportation – and specifically – the one everybody is pointing fingers at: The aviation industry.
Easyjet – The airline company recently went out with a big loud press release headline saying that it was stopping offsetting carbon emissions. And everybody went whaaat? It then went explaining that they were simply implementing a strategy that would enable them to reach net zero by 2050 by investing in cleaner aircraft, optimising flight descents to save fuel and introducing hydrogen-powered planes.
But EasyJet is not the only one going out with the headlines to FLY NET ZERO by 2050. In the last AGM of the IATA members in Boston one of the parameters for airlines to comply was to use SAF (sustainable aviation fuel) which costs 2 to 4 times as much as the normal jet fuel.
Air India, Airasia India, and Vistara sign MOU for using SAF as well as Ryanair signs MOU for eight years of SAF supply starting in 2023 and the Lufthansa Group as well.
Lufthansa, has implemented the so-called ‘green fares’ on the flights from Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Denmark and Norway) on all group airlines.
It is true that the very encouraging results that came out of the first range of data, highly depended on the fact that Scandinavian travellers are more keen to take specific actions when it comes to partaking green initiatives. But nonetheless, we can expect to see more of these ‘green fares’ materialising on other flights either of Lufthansa or other airlines.
Now, what’s a green fare? A Green Fare is as an additional fare option in the online booking screen directly after the flight selection that uses a split of 80% into carbon offset projects and 20% in SAF.
Remember early on when I said It’s about giving a choice to be a sustainable traveller? Sustainable Travel Choices when booking these flights, the option of adding the green fare is right in the middle of the screen, is not in some sidelines or at the end of the ticket purchase process. This is what I am talking about. Once the customer goes through with the booking process, a range of options appears – as such the traditional choices of economy, economy classic and now Economy Green.
One word, transparency. The explanation is there, the choice is given. But the question is: Is it taken? Now, the results? the airline had seen a preliminary conversion rate of nearly 7%, above its initial target of 5%. That’s impressive, when you consider that voluntary carbon offsetting rates can be as low as 1-3%.
If you were given a choice to partake a green initiative on the basis of whether you are spending more because of it, would you take it? How much is too much?
Why does a sustainable choice given to the travellers have to be money-driven and not positive effects-driven?
A hotel company can add to its booking process a window in which a fee of xyz number of dollars per night as a ‘voluntary contribution’ by the customer to support green or social initiative. The customer considers the final amount that this ‘voluntary contribution’ would add to the holiday budget and takes his decision. That’s a money-driven choice. Just money.
A hotel company can add to its booking process a window in which the effective results of their green and social initiatives are outlined and its impact explained. To this information, a contribution is encouraged to continue achieving these results. That’s an ethic-driven choice. Would you take it? Who wants to be the bad guy that doesn’t make sustainable travel choices?
A hotel company increases the rates by 20% because the ‘green fare’ was added as a must-have and therefore everything got more expensive. Here is the choice is taken away from the customer. It is in fact a decision taken for them by the company. Is this ethical?
The average consumer when prompted the question of whether he or she would voluntarily add a fee to its spending which is related to a ‘green initiative’ that might have been or will be taken by the company is likely to say no, because it affects its budget.
So how come in the latest reports from booking.com we read that more than 70% of the travellers says they are willing to spend more if an sustainability practices are implemented at their destination of choice?
Exactly what does it mean [spend more]? On what exactly.
Producing organically needs more time, different utilisation of resources and costly processes that have a direct impact on the final prices of the goods.
- Think of the food served in hotels and resorts today. Where the sourcing of local goods might not always be possible to offset the cost of shipping and to support directly the local economy in which the business is operated, Then the sourcing of bio products often translates into a more expensive food offerings, due to costs of the supply chain.
- Think of the in-room experience. Up to not long ago, entering a typical hotel room bathroom is like entering a single-use plastic kingdom. Today, all major global chains of hotels and resorts have or are in the process of replacing single use plastic items from their hotel rooms with more sustainable options. The questions is: is this so called sustainable option financially viable? What’s the impact of those changes on the hotel rates?
If travellers are more willing-to-stay in a hotel or establishment that engages In sustainability practices, are they also willing-to-pay more? The final price range of a holiday is a key driver for the final decision.
How do we communicate the added value instead of the added cost of choosing a sustainable option when it comes to tourism? The value of something might represent something different for each person. The perception of what value is changes based on who we are, what moment in life we are in, how we live, where we live.
Imagine a circular chain of cause and effects with your most desired client at the center of it. Who is that person, how does that person live, love, laugh, talk, believe, socialize, care?
In other words, what’s his personality?
A marketing strategy that is structures according to personality-based associations instead of social-status (like married, single, with kids, with no kids, retired, student and so on) revels today a much clearer and accurate ID of who is your desired customer.
It is through understanding how the personality is expressed that we can best tune in our marketing strategy to their frequencies and be there where it matters to them. Not with our product, but with our ethos. Enabling them to relate to us when they make their sustainable travel choices, to our core values and therefore to become their go-to brand of choice.