Travel agents and tour operators are not marketing sustainability well to their customers, a leading lecturer in the field has said.
Xavier Font, co-director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University, said websites were “missing a trick” at promoting sustainability past their water, paper or energy saving efforts.
“Sustainability has to sit alongside what the product is and part of the experience you offer,” he advised delegates at the AITO Agents conference. “There are missed opportunities to tell consumers about this and how it enhances them.”
Font told delegates not to “sell green as guilt” but think about the sustainable messages they wanted to promote to fit in with company ethos and the audience.
Consumers now expect companies to already be helping to save the environment but instead what to find out what is in it for them as well as the countries they are visiting, so Font advised agents to make customers feel good about sustainable holidays and that it can offer something extra.
“Sustainability pages on websites are like business speak; turn the language to your target market,” he said. “Sustainability also means empathy and wanting the holiday to work; show your understanding and that you are not a façade but there all the way. At the moment the sustainability messages on your websites just say you are being less guilty but it is not just about an environmental statement.”
He added customers are more likely to remain loyal if the company is upfront and delivers the quality of product it promotes.