The pandemic provided our industry with a unique opportunity to reevaluate and reimagine how we look at sustainability and, as destinations begin to rebuild, make meaningful changes to help preserve our planet for future generations to explore. Destinations are reactivating their marketing strategies, helping travelers discover or, in many cases rediscover, what it is that makes their location so distinct and memorable. Restarting tourism slowly and driving demand in a deliberate-yet-responsible way can help destinations thrive for travelers and local communities alike.
Rising interest in sustainable travel
Travelers are increasingly aware of sustainable travel choices and more often expecting both themselves and brands to be environmentally responsible. According to recent research from Expedia Group and Wakefield, nearly three in five travelers are willing to pay additional fees so that their trip can be more sustainable, indicating that they consider environmental consciousness to be worthwhile. For this reason it makes sense for travel brands to highlight environmentally friendly practices.
Importantly, this trend of placing greater emphasis on sustainability in travel and destinations is not equal across the generations. Younger generations are significantly more likely than older generations to prioritize the values of sustainability in tourism.
Below are insights and recommendations on how destination marketers can inspire and engage travelers during this critical period while also promoting sustainable tourism practices.
Encourage travelers to explore sustainably
It’s clear that travelers want to do better while traveling, and destinations can help influence them in making more sustainable travel choices, as well as provide them with clear guidance on where to start. Destinations should encourage sustainable travel practices with specific messaging and imagery in marketing materials, as well as promote local communities, activities and experiences that contribute to and respect local cultures.
Destinations can also raise awareness of lesser-known places and off-the-beaten path locations to encourage dispersal beyond primary cities and regions. For example, we’re working with Atout France on their “I Rediscovered France” campaign, which aims to promote tourism across the entire country in a sustainable way. Throughout the campaign, we’ve collaborated with both national and regional DMOs to drive seasonal exposure to various cities and destinations within France, adapting demand based on regional needs.
Data-driven sustainability marketing
Tapping into data and insights is critical for destination marketers when developing any strategy and campaign, and can certainly serve as a guide to understanding and encouraging traveler interest in sustainable tourism. By looking at key search and booking data, such as the top 10 booked destinations within their region, destination marketers can evaluate and determine which secondary markets to promote, and then shift the attention of those travelers searching for top destinations towards lesser-known areas and regions.
Partner with industry leaders to scale impact
Collaboration and partnerships will continue to play a critical role in the industry’s recovery. Partnering with other industry leaders and organizations on sustainability initiatives can add credibility and scale impact, increasing the relevance and reach of these efforts and emphasizing the commitment of those involved.
As an example, Expedia Group joined forces with UNESCO to support sustainable tourism initiatives, signing the global Sustainable Tourism Pledge in 2019 and launching a pilot program with the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The Pledge promotes responsible practices, community resilience and heritage conservation, with the goal of changing the nature and impact of global tourism. We also signed an agreement with UNWTO last year to share data on tourism trends and developments to help inform decision-making and produce data-based policies to drive recovery and make the sector more sustainable and resilient.
Expedia Group believes that travel is one of the most socially, economically and culturally responsible acts in which a citizen of our world can engage – one which connects us emotionally and physically. Earlier this year the Expedia Group Global Impact Report outlined how, as a company, we are working to offer education, resources and tools for sustainable, responsible action.
Continuing conversations on sustainability and travel
We appreciated the opportunity to participate in the Skift Destinations & Sustainability Summit this month, and share our insights on how destinations can best approach the return of tourism while promoting sustainability efforts, as well as hear from other industry leaders on this important topic. There’s more to come as we tap further into our Expedia Group data and research to better understand consumer interest in sustainable tourism. Alongside that, we’ll continue exploring how travel marketing can influence and drive demand, and how we can combine forces as an industry for a better tomorrow.
Learn more about how the latest global Expedia Group data and research is indicating the return of travel demand. Download our Q1 2021 Travel Recovery Trend Report to see how marketers can capture and drive demand on the road to recover and rebuild.