Going the Distance: Embracing Sustainable Tourism's Long Run

Ready to sprint towards a more sustainable future for your business? Sustainable tourism can set the pace for attracting eco-conscious travelers and boosting guest satisfaction. Get easy, actionable tips and future trends.

May 22, 2024

Sustainable Tourism: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

Far from being a mere trend, sustainable tourism is set to become the cornerstone of tomorrow's travel industry. For small hoteliers and vacation rental owners, going green can attract eco-friendly guests, boost guest satisfaction, and positively impact the environment and your local community. Like any marathon, this journey requires consistent effort and long-term commitment.

Here's how you can get started and what trends to watch for.

Sustainable Tourism Is Not a Fad

Sustainable travel is on the rise. The market, valued at $172.4 billion in 2022, is expected to grow to $374.2 billion by 2028. This growth is driven mainly by younger travelers, like Gen Z and millennials, who care about sustainability. They are willing to spend more for eco-friendly options, with 43% ready to pay extra for sustainable choices. Plus, 69% want their spending to benefit local communities, reflecting a strong desire for their travel expenditures to have a positive impact.

Travelers today expect accommodations to have green practices. This means using energy-efficient appliances, offering recycling programs, and providing sustainable transportation options like bicycles. Guests also appreciate information about local ecosystems, heritage, and culture, which enhances their travel experience and aligns with their values.

Quick Tips for Getting Started

Offering Unique, Sustainable Experiences

Wellness Packages: Develop wellness and sustainability packages that include eco-friendly activities, local organic meals, and spa treatments using natural products. Think of this as adding endurance to your hospitality marathon.

Slow Travel: Encourage guests to stay longer and explore your destination at a leisurely pace, reducing environmental impact and enhancing their experience. This is like pacing yourself to enjoy the marathon without burning out early.

Engaging with Guests on Sustainability

Clear Communication: Clearly communicate your sustainability efforts on your website and through marketing materials. Just as a runner shares their training progress, keep your guests informed about your green initiatives.

Regular Updates: Keep guests updated on your progress and encourage them to join your green initiatives. Regular updates are like mile markers in a marathon, showing progress and maintaining motivation.

Guest Feedback: Use guest feedback to continuously improve your sustainability practices. Surveys and reviews can provide valuable insights into what guests value most and help you tailor your offerings accordingly. Think of feedback as your race splits, helping you adjust your strategy.

Promoting Local and Sustainable Choices

Local Suppliers: Partner with local suppliers for food, toiletries, and other items to support the local economy and reduce your carbon footprint. This partnership is like having local supporters along your marathon route, providing essential support.

Local Guides: Create guides highlighting local attractions, cultural sites, and eco-friendly businesses. Collaborating with local tour operators is like forming a relay team, sharing the effort to reach a common goal.

Improving Energy Efficiency

Smart Thermostats: Install smart thermostats to cut down on energy waste.

Energy-Efficient Appliances: Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances to lower consumption and attract eco-conscious guests.

Keycard-Controlled Systems: Use keycard-controlled air conditioning and heating systems to avoid unnecessary usage.

Effective Waste Management

Recycling Bins: Make recycling easy with clearly labeled bins.

Reusable Alternatives: Eliminate single-use plastics by offering cloth bags and refillable water bottles.

Biodegradable Toiletries: Provide biodegradable toiletries and encourage guests to use reusable items.

Highlight Economic Benefits

In the long run, you will save money while positively affecting your local environment. For example, hotels adopting energy-saving measures such as LED lighting, HVAC smart sensors, and water-saving devices have substantially reduced utility costs.

Photo credit: Hotel Casa de Palmela in Arrábida Natural Park, Portugal

One case study highlighted the benefits seen by the Hotel Casa de Palmela in Arrábida Natural Park, Portugal. The hotel reduced operational costs, improved market positioning, and attracted more eco-conscious guests by implementing sustainability measures such as energy-efficient systems, water conservation efforts, and waste reduction programs. This approach significantly increases your guest satisfaction and loyalty, ultimately boosting the hotel's profitability.

Setting the Pace for Sustainable Tourism

Looking ahead, several trends are shaping the future of sustainable tourism. Eco-friendly accommodations are becoming more common, with properties adopting green initiatives like energy-efficient systems, water conservation measures, and waste reduction programs. Sustainable transport options, such as electric vehicle rentals, bike-sharing programs, and carbon-neutral travel packages, are also on the rise.

Regenerative Tourism

While sustainability aims to minimize tourism's negative impacts, regenerative tourism takes it a step further. It actively improves and restores the environments, communities, and cultures affected by tourism. This concept is about creating a net positive impact where tourism activities contribute to the health and resilience of the destinations visited.

What is Regenerative Tourism?

Regenerative tourism focuses on:

-- Restoration and Improvement: Initiatives aim to restore natural habitats, support wildlife recovery, and enhance environmental quality. Examples include reforestation projects, coral reef restoration, and pollution cleanup efforts.

-- Community Engagement and Benefit: This approach emphasizes deep engagement with local communities, ensuring that tourism activities support local economies, culture, and social structures. This involves working with local artisans, farmers, and business owners to create tourism experiences that benefit everyone involved.

-- Holistic and Long-Term Vision: This approach considers the long-term impacts of tourism and integrates practices that contribute to destinations' ongoing health and vitality. It includes economic, social, and environmental dimensions.

-- Education and Awareness: This program educates tourists about their impact and involves them in regenerative activities, such as volunteering for local conservation projects or learning about local cultures and traditions.

Examples of Regenerative Tourism

Rainforest Costa Rica

Costa Rica: Known for its extensive conservation and sustainable tourism efforts, with initiatives like reforestation projects and community-based tourism supporting indigenous communities and their cultural heritage.

New Zealand: The Tiaki Promise encourages visitors to care for people, place, and culture, and to leave the environment better than they found it.

Benefits of Regenerative Tourism

Environmental Recovery: Helps restore ecosystems and biodiversity.

Community Prosperity: Ensures that local communities benefit economically and socially from tourism.

Enhanced Visitor Experience: Provides meaningful and enriching experiences for tourists participating in regenerative activities.

By focusing on these principles, regenerative tourism aims to create a travel industry that sustains and actively improves the places it touches. This approach can help your property attract eco-conscious travelers and contribute to a more sustainable and responsible tourism industry.

For more information on regenerative tourism, check out these resources:

- Travel + Leisure: What is Regenerative Tourism?

- The Tiaki Promise - New Zealand's Commitment to Regenerative Tourism

- Costa Rica's Sustainable and Regenerative Tourism Practices

Technology's Role in Sustainability

Tech is playing a vital role in driving sustainability. Innovations like carbon footprint calculators and sustainable travel apps are becoming more prevalent. Community-based tourism involves local communities in tourism, ensuring that economic benefits are shared and cultural heritage is preserved. Mindful travel encourages travelers to prioritize sustainable products and support local businesses.

Helpful Resources

Sustainability Certifications

- Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)

- Green Key International

Government Grants

- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Grants

- European Union Funding for Tourism

Organizations and Tools

- Sustainable Travel International

- The Future of Tourism Coalition

Expert Chime In

Jonathon Day, Associate Professor at Purdue University, emphasizes the importance of balancing the number of visitors with the capacity of destinations to ensure long-term sustainability and preserve local cultures and environments. Intrepid Travel advocates for people-positive travel that focuses on the environmental and social impact while forging deeper human connections. Inclusivity and supporting local communities are key to their approach. Dwayne Krisko, Culinary Director at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, highlights the relationship between the earth's bounty and culinary artistry, honoring local agriculture and traditions while celebrating the simplicity of ingredients transformed into culinary wonders.

By taking these steps and keeping an eye on these trends, you can make your property more appealing to eco-conscious travelers while contributing to a more sustainable and responsible tourism industry. Embrace these changes, and you'll find that sustainability is not just good for the planet but also great for your business.

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1. CENDYN Guide to Marketing Hotel Sustainability
2. TravelPerk Sustainable Travel Statistics & Trends
3. Acorn Tourism Key Trends in Tourism for 2024
4. Future Market Insights Sustainable Tourism Market Opportunities & Forecast
5. Good Tourism Institute Trends in Sustainable Travel 2024
6. World Economic Forum The Future of Tourism is Sustainable and Regenerative
7. The Happy Prize Company Trends in Sustainable Travel 2024
8. Avantio Sustainable Tourism Statistics 2023
9. World Nomads 11 Sustainable Travel Trends to Look Forward to in 2024
10. Country and Town House Ecotourism 2024: How To Travel Sustainably In The New Year
11. Sustainability Practices in Hospitality: Case Study of a Luxury Hotel in Arrábida Natural Park
12. Business Case for Sustainable Hotels – World Sustainable Hospitality Alliance
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