Travel brands are becoming increasingly vocal about their sustainability credentials following growing demand from consumers for more sustainable travel and tourism, but as foreign travel opportunities begin to open up again, is it possible to encourage mass audiences back to air travel while also providing a more sustainable experience for customers?
Travelers care about sustainability – until it’s inconvenient
Consumers have become far more conscious of the impact of the way they choose to travel. Awareness around the environmental impact of travel and tourism has increased, and sensitivities to sustainable messaging and travel products are resonating with consumers wanting to travel with purpose. According to Amex’s global travel trends report, 68% of consumers are trying to be more aware of sustainable brands to support, and ‘sustainable intelligence’ (level of commitment, attitude, knowledge and/or behavior with regard to sustainability) is becoming a key factor for a consumer’s willingness to invest more for sustainable travel solutions.
Cost, however, remains a key factor in an individual’s willingness to engage in sustainable travel. A recent report revealed that 68% of respondents would not be willing to pay more for sustainable travel solutions. However, brands that are able to effectively communicate beyond the cost impact and focus on the value-add of sustainable travel are poised to capitalize on the growing trend of sustainability-conscious travelers.
From eco resorts built in conservation areas, to access to cultural heritage sites and initiatives that support local communities, unique authentic experiences will be key to rising above the cost conversations. Travel companies such as Beyond Green luxury property, Regenerative Travel and Intrepid Travel are all examples of brands looking to balance the environmental impact and local economic development while offering unique sustainable experiences to customers.
How marketing and technology can help
While the cost of sustainable travel remains a barrier for the majority, the travel industry is adapting to consumer demands with net zero pledges, carbon offsetting options, adoption of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and new touchless technologies in a bid to build consumer confidence, provide cost efficiencies and develop scalable sustainable options that are convenient for the consumer. Oneworld Alliance recently outlined its path to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 across its 14 member airlines – with the adoption of SAF, carbon-offsetting initiatives and fleet modernization at the heart of their pledge.
Increased investment in digitization across the travel journey, partly driven by consumers’ heightened hygiene concerns during the pandemic, are resulting in the travel experience going touchless, which provides greater energy efficiency. These touchless technologies are allowing brands to develop digital-first solutions that blur offline and online media communications for a richer, more personalized and more sustainable travel experience.
As ‘sustainable intelligence’ and touchless technologies increase, so does the opportunity for brands to promote their values, sustainability credentials and services in a more connected way.
Edward Heaney, strategic development director, PSI at global OOH division of Dentsu International.