The Many Sides of Enviro-Conscious Travel Attracting eco-savvy guests can increase a hotel’s business.

The Many Sides of Enviro-Conscious Travel

Attracting eco-savvy guests can increase a hotel’s business.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Amy Carniol

Ecotourism. Nature Tourism. Green Travel. Sustainable Tourism. Responsible Travel. Today, these buzz-terms are on many guests’ lips, and often they are used interchangeably – and incorrectly. When hoteliers lump these movements together, they can miss out on opportunities to attract a more diverse and abundant customer base.

Many hoteliers have adopted some green practices, such as starting recycling programs or supplying fresh air to guests with open windows rather than using air conditioning. But moving to more involved steps and tying them together into a marketing program is a logical next step.

To help define these individual movements, Buyer Interactive spoke with Irene Lane, founder and president of Greenloons, which provides enviro-conscious consumers and vacation planners with information on earth-friendly travel. Here, Lane discusses eco-friendly travel, ways to attract eco-savvy guests, and how understanding the nuances of these customer segments can help hoteliers increase their business.

Why is eco-friendly travel important in the hotel industry?

Specific to hoteliers, eco-friendly travel demand is growing at a rapid pace and can no longer be ignored. Worldwide, the green travel segment is estimated to be growing 5 percent annually, representing 6 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and reflecting 11.4 percent of all consumer vacation spending. Moreover, more than two-thirds of U.S. and Australian travellers, and 90 percent of British tourists, consider active participation in the protection of the environment and support of local economies to be part of a hotel, lodge or tour operator’s responsibility. According to TripAdvisor’s 2011 Travel Trends survey, 47 percent of vacation planners take eco-friendly factors, such as their own carbon footprint or green hotel policies, into consideration when deciding on a vacation destination or activity, and 20 percent are expected to be more environmentally conscious in their travel choices overall. Travelzoo found also that more than 90 percent of travelers prefer to stay at an eco-certified hotel if price and amenities are comparable to a non-certified hotel. Even AAA has added an “eco” icon to its tour books.

Can you discuss the differences between Ecotourism, Sustainable Tourism, Responsible Tourism, Nature Tourism and Green Tourism?

Ecotourism is about supporting the conservation of natural areas and wildlife, minimizing air and water pollution as well as tourist waste, offering safe and enriching or educational visitor experiences, respecting the cultural tradition of the host destination, maintaining and enhancing the landscape so as to avoid physical or environmental degradation, maximizing opportunities for local prosperity for the host destination, and efficiently using scarce or non-renewable resources. Most of all, it’s about having fun and unique vacation experiences.

Sustainable Tourism does not deplete resources and allows for a smaller number of tourists to experience nature so as not to disturb the animal’s normal mating, feeding, or migratory patterns. It differs from ecotourism in that there may be no focus on the preservation of the natural habitat or economic benefit to the host destination.

Responsible Tourism attempts to minimize the environmental degradation of the host destination. An example is a wilderness camping trip using Leave No Trace ethics. Unlike ecotourism, responsible tourism might not take into account the economic benefit to the host destination.

Nature Tourism focuses on enjoying wildlife in its natural habitat. Examples include jungle lodgings in the Amazon or cruise ships that view penguins in Antarctica. The difference between ecotourism and nature tourism is that nature tourism trips may not have an educational component to them, may not be environmentally sustainable or responsible, and may not economically benefit the host destination.

Green Tourism applies to any activity or facility that operates in an environmentally friendly way. Examples include a rainforest lodge with composting toilets and solar powered lighting. These lodges may be centrally controlled by a large corporation and therefore not necessarily benefit the host destination nor focus on conservation education or the preservation of wildlife.

Why is it important for hoteliers to understand the distinctions between these terms?

So as not to add to the confusion consumers already have about the eco-travel industry. Hoteliers should understand the distinctions so that they can determine how they may want to market themselves and how to expand their service or concierge offerings to this growing market.

What are some more involved measures that hotels can take to appeal to this segment?

Although implementation of these measures require more planning, the following eco-friendly methods are quickly becoming stringent criteria for eco-hotel certification programs:

● stemming of common allergens
● using alternative or renewable energy sources (i.e. solar power for all hot water needs)
● conserving energy with light timers in all hallways
● managing composting programs
● using non-disposable and durable service items
● offering organic, locally harvested food in dining outlets
● educating guests about the hotel’s green practices (and green membership programs)
● using xeric gardening methods
● supporting a local conservation or educational effort in a meaningful way

What is the one key takeaway that you can give hoteliers who want to increase their appeal to eco-savvy travelers?

There is a business value in investing in defined resource conservation practices with respect to energy and water use, waste disposal, and environmental protection. The good news as well is that there are some reputable green hotel certification programs, including the Green Key Eco-Rating, Green Globe and LEED Building programs, which allow for an occasional inspection of a hotel’s sustainable operations in over 20 different areas.

Check out www.nebraskabb.com

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



«
» rss