The travel industry breathed a collective sigh of relief when global travel volumes began to recover this year.
However, the upheaval of the pandemic has shone a spotlight on critical issues in the industry over the past three years – issues that will continue to be prevalent in the years ahead.
Hotels and destination management organizations (DMOs) need to keep up to date on the impact of these changes in areas such as sustainability when planning for the future. They should engage with the ways in which consumer demand has changed and is continuing to change.
The travel industry has recognized that sustainability will play an ever greater role in consumer decision-making. The Global Travel Agent Report 2022 conducted by MarketCast and Amadeus suggests that this change has already begun.
The report collated the findings of more than 1,000 travel agents from more than 60 countries on their GDS usage and the preferences of their consumers, so they could be more effectively targeted by hotels and DMOs on the channel.
Shifting consumer priorities
The Amadeus research found that environmental sustainability is a higher priority for travelers now than it was in 2019 and that only 7% of travel agents now say that clients are unconcerned with travel companies’ sustainability efforts.
Additionally, the Amadeus & Worldwide Business Research (WBR) study, Sustainable Business Travel in 2022 & Beyond, found that of surveyed businesses, 66% felt that sustainable business travel would be a moderate priority in the next 12 months, and 19% felt it would be a high priority.
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This matches a general trend of businesses becoming increasingly aware of their environmental impact, which will help to make sustainable travel increasingly important.
Many will have noted that despite the increasing prominence of sustainability, it is still a low priority in comparison to other factors for travelers today.
The survey finds that price, health and safety, value and cleanliness are all more important to travelers than the environment Although price remains king, particularly as cost of living increases, businesses must still be proactive regarding sustainability for three reasons:
- Waiting until sustainability climbs higher up the list of priorities would be waiting until it is too late
- For some consumers sustainability may already be the most important factor in their travel choices
- Some consumers are willing to spend more for sustainability and small margins can make a big difference in a highly competitive industry.
Data from McKinsey found that 46% of passengers were willing to spend a extra 2% or more for carbon neutral flights - which is a significant amount of money that consumers are willing to spend for more sustainable travel.
Responding to changing times with data
More than ever, hoteliers and DMOs need to stay informed, and the best way to do this is to utilize data.
Consumer preferences on sustainability may vary based on destination location, the type of traveler or specific aspects of sustainability, and the only way to truly understand the significance of these preferences is to access data. It enables travel providers to see the trends in consumers’ travel expectations and behaviors so that they can respond accordingly and adjust marketing campaigns to accurately reflect these changes.
Different consumer groups will also differ in their sustainability demands.
Younger travelers want to be more environmentally conscious in their travel experiences than older consumers, according to an IHG survey. Furthermore, an Expedia study recently found that Asian travelers have a higher preference for sustainable travel than European or American travelers. These lifestyle, demographic and geographical differences are critical information for DMOs and travel sellers.
Targeted messaging that emphasizes what your consumers care about is the best way forward to capture travelers’ attention. Be proactive, not reactive
Making travelers aware of sustainability efforts ahead of booking can help to unlock demand. The agents' report highlights that travel agents overwhelmingly rely on the hotel description (HOD) details in their GDS
Therefore, adding up-to-date sustainability information is vital in connecting with these consumers DMOs advertising in the GDS should not only educate travel agents an hoteliers on world-class sights and activities, but also inform travelers how they can have a more sustainable holiday at the destination.
Sustainability is a factor which will only become more important to travelers - not less. Now is the time for DMOs and hoteliers to capture this demand and adjust their strategies to meet these shifting perceptions around sustainable travel.
About the author...
Scott Falconer is executive vice president of media solutions for hospitality at Amadeus