Authenticity is the key to success in sustainable travel 

Let me say this right off the bat – travel and tourism is going through a sustainability revolution. It’s not about if or even when. It’s already happening and corona has just accelerated the transition. This post will go over what should be a basic truth but everything bears repeating. And you will not profit from the transition to sustainability unless you get this one piece of fundamental strategy right. What is it? Authenticity. 

Let’s say it together. Authenticity. 

The path to bigger profits will go through sustainability for the hospitality sector. And that’s authenticity with no dose of bullshit. 

A growing market

Today’s traveler and consumer with an eye on sustainability and ethical consumption (incidentally the biggest spenders) will see through shameless greenwashing. We have seen this backfire in other industries like food and finance. And we will see it in the travel sector. With more and more travelers expressing an interest in sustainable travel the temptation to claim “green” will be too strong for some. Faking passion equals low authenticity and rarely works in any context, and in the long run it will come back to bite you. We say lose the mask. 

What does authenticity mean for a hospitality or travel company? 

1. Know what you are talking about

– make sure you have somebody in your team that understands the issue and is updated on the latest news. For example; claiming to be carbon neutral while using 100 % fossil fuels and only doing offsetting. This is tone-deaf and is proof that you are not following the debate or even trying. Offsetting has a part to play but let’s not kid ourselves, show some real action in your operations. Where’s the solar panels, people? 

2. Be open and be proud 

– you will not be doing yourself any favours by listing some boring isolated facts on some hidden away part of your website. If you have done something or plan to do something awesome – don’t be scared to showcase it where everybody can see. Celebrate your achievements – why else would anyone care or take it seriously?

3. Keep it simple

– let’s be honest, sustainability is not as sexy as images of white sand beaches or sangria parties by the pool. As a result you need to put your efforts into a context that is easy to understand and tells an attractive story that people can get behind. You reduced your emissions by 10 % last year? Good job! You don’t have to go into specifics, that’s for third party verifiers. For travelers and guests however, explain how they can help you do even better and why that will make their experience better. And most of all explain who else benefits from this change. Cleaner air for the locals year round? That sounds like a win for everyone involved. 

4. Where’s the proof 

– most travelers and guests will give you the benefit of the doubt, not questioning your claims. But to settle any lingering doubts be pre-emptive. Make sure your efforts have been validated by a reputable third party. Or by other guests who left glowing reviews. 

5. Don’t fall asleep at the wheel

authenticity means having consistency, clarity and passion. Navigating the many aspects of sustainability is not easy and mistakes will happen. And the sands are shifting fast, what was considered ok yesterday is not necessarily true today. But it’s your job to be up to date. 

Let me end with positivity – we come across so many companies that are doing fantastic work and that gets us excited about the future. We only wish more people were aware of it. Stop the green muting. 

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