During the pandemic, the residents of Venice found they were happier looking out on dolphins in the Lagoon than cruise ships when the sudden reduction in travel had an immediate impact on the environment around them.
Venice had been one of several global focal points for concerns about over-tourism, and this summer, the city submitted plans to control the number of visitors, in particular day trippers. The proposals were intended to encourage more permanent residents, limit the stock of private apartment rentals and bring in a reservation system with an access fee to manage day visitors. In July, it banned all cruise ships from sailing through the city centre. Good news for the dolphins.
Prior to the pandemic, proposals for charges to visit destinations such as Venice were met with objections over elitism – surely, it’s everyone’s right to visit St Mark’s Square? – but has the pandemic shifted that mindset?
We live in an age where there are more causes than room for badges on a jacket, but our research on brand purpose has found that messaging on environmental issues has broader support than other causes and much less distinction across demographic groups. Political issues may polarise us, but we’re united in our concerns for the environment.
That doesn’t mean that it is without its issues. Consumers have fears over greenwashing and whether brands are selling a message they’re not backing up with action.
And while concern for the environment is high, we have found that it is not the main motivator of leisure travel choices with the weather and price ranking at one and two, respectively. Sustainability trails far behind at 25.
While sustainable standards are not a key motivator of leisure choices, they are becoming a hygiene factor. If sustainable standards are clearly not being met at a leisure organisation, people may start to avoid it – now or in the future.
The good news is that people are happy to undertake a range of different sustainable practices, from recycling their rubbish to flying with lighter luggage. They also showed a willingness to make small sacrifices, such as limited access to conservation areas and a day without meat on the menu – small changes which have been shown to make a difference. Sacrifices should be re-framed as positive actions, empowering visitors to perceive they are helping, not losing out.
The urge to travel is strong and dreams of far-away places mean that long-haul flights will not fall foul of flight-shaming trends. But we have found that, when framed positively, behaviours can be changed to benefit all.
We are delighted that BVA BDRC is part of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, reinforcing our commitment to a low-impact future and using our skills to help the sector work on a cohesive response to the challenge posed by the climate crisis.
The sustainable movement will be the defining initiative of our times and it is vital that we all contribute towards its success.
As an independent research specialist, we can help shape the conversation, ensuring the sector remains connected to the views of travellers, guests and consumers and can retain control of the story.
Our membership of the Alliance will add to our B Corp initiative and commitment to the MRS Net Zero Pledge and MRS Inclusion Pledge, allowing us to use the tools of our trade to help make sense of the world and contribute to a more sustainable future.
Our research has found that consumers wanted to be more sustainable and are calling on companies to “help me help”, creating a so-far-untapped opportunity for hotel brands – in fact 76% of the UK public were ‘very concerned’ about sustainable issues, led by environmental over social.
Given the choice between similar hotels and similar choice with one offering better sustainability offerings, an overwhelming majority chose the sustainable hotel. This was the same when the price went up by 5%.
We believe that companies who help their customers make better sustainable choices can build loyalty and profitability.
The sector is concerned that sustainability is a burden; a tax on operations or an issue for the legal department. We feel that we can help all stakeholders recognise the business opportunity that becoming sustainable provides.
We joined the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance as it launched its revolutionary Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality, providing guidance to help every hotel work towards net positive environmental impact, whatever their starting point.
The Pathway to Net Positive provides a practical, four-stage guidance framework as a free resource that supports all parts of the hospitality value chain to progress in a cohesive, strategic manner. It includes detailed action guidance for hotel operators, brands and asset owners, applicable to both single or multi-unit organisations.
The Pathway recognises that sustainability is crucially important to the sector’s long-term success and that all businesses need to evolve and innovate as stakeholder needs and expectations change.
Sustainable Hospitality Alliance members make up 30% of the global hotel industry by rooms and include 16 world-leading hotel companies with a combined reach of over 35,000 properties and 5.5 million rooms.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the hotel sector accounts for around 1% of global carbon emissions and this is set to increase. Hospitality, like other industries, has a responsibility to manage its impact on our planet.
Research conducted by the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance found that the hotel industry needed to reduce its carbon emissions by 66% per room by 2030, and by 90% per room by 2050 to ensure that the growth forecast for the industry does not lead to a corresponding increase in carbon emissions. The industry will need to go even further to help limit warming to 1.5C and avoid the very worst impacts of climate change.
The hospitality sector has faced a series of disruptions in recent years, from the online travel agents, to peer-to-peer lodging and now the shifts in customer behaviour driven by the pandemic. It is only by acting in harmony that the sector has been able to navigate these issues.
Collaboration will be key to success in achieving sustainability and we hope to be able to act as a trusted third party to the Alliance and provide the opportunity for members to share data without fear of revealing information to their competitors, and with no commercial agenda.