Green Hotelier Talking Point: Diversity and Responsible Businesses.
Continuing our Talking Point theme for March asking how can the tourism industry be more responsible and encourage greater diversity, our next guest post comes from Business in the Community's Elsie Bryant. Responsible Business Week starts at the end of March and aims to help all businesses adopt more responsible best practice.
You’ve made great strides in cutting carbon, saving water and reducing waste, but how much does this matter if your guests aren’t engaged?
A common misconception is that it’s impossible to offer high-quality, luxury hotels that have a low environmental impact – not only is there a growing trend for the newest luxurious hotels to be the ‘greenest’ , but customers are demanding more of the tourism industry when it comes to sustainability and those hotels who fail to adapt will be left behind.
Our world is changing rapidly. Natural resources are limited, our population is aging and developing economies have a growing middle class demanding more goods and services. Businesses that are aware of how these global mega-trends will affect their business and take steps to address these in their strategy and business model will be fit for the future. However engaging various stakeholders in this process is key to successful implementation. Much can be done within hotels to reduce their environmental footprint, however as the customer is often where the biggest impacts lie, customer engagement on sustainability (while often overlooked) is crucial. Yet how do you engage customers and ultimately change their behaviour?
In 2010 TUI Travel commissioned an extensive piece of consumer research  that found positive signs that sustainable holidays were both desirable and aspirational:
- 50 per cent of respondents would be willing to book a more sustainable holiday if available
- Two –thirds would change their behaviour on holiday to help the environment
- Two in three want their holiday company to be clear about what they do to make their holidays more sustainable.
At the moment the majority of customers are unwilling to pay more or be inconvenienced when it comes to “doing the right thing”, but they do expect sustainability issues to be addressed by the holiday companies they are purchasing from. As consumer expectations for sustainability harden across all sectors, it’s up to the tourism industry to play a leading role in making sustainable travel options desirable, convenient and reasonable and by actively marketing the importance and benefits of sustainable hotels.
On Wednesday 2nd April, as part of Responsible Business Week, Business in the Community is running a session in partnership with the Marketing Society focussing on Engaging Customers on Sustainability  at the Barbican in Central London.
Particularly useful for marketing directors, the two-hour session will look at how creative marketing can be used to inform and educate customers and to influence more sustainable behaviour and includes presentations from:
- Soitaire Townsend, co-founder, Futerra
- Sarah Greenaway, Senior Marketer, B&Q
- Alison Orsi, Marketing Director, IBM
- Edwin Broni-Mensah, CEO, Give me Tap
- Jeremy Hicks, Managing Director, Jaguar Land Rover UK
As customer engagement has picked up in recent years many brands are clear on the need to speak with their customers on sustainability, but unsure where to start. This session will explore customer engagement from businesses at every stage of the journey – from big to small businesses, those starting out in this area and others that are well-established. We will also explore the difference between engaging consumers (B2C) and customers (B2B).