The importance of sustainability in travel brand development
November 4th, 2022, Eva Stewart

The importance of sustainability in travel brand development

Travel and tourism brands have an important role to play in shaping the evolution of sustainable travel.

YouGov data shows that almost half of all consumers across 43 countries (46%) like it when brands get involved in social issues, while more than two in five consumers worldwide (44%) say they try to buy only from socially and environmentally responsible companies.

An effective sustainability program signals that an organization or destination aspires to more than providing a service or attracting visitors, but that it wishes to actively make a difference and inspire travellers to enjoy travel more responsibly.

Sustainability campaigns and efforts, therefore, need to be consistent and ongoing. But volume and consistency in sustainability messaging is not enough. It is also necessary to measure the effectiveness of sustainability-related brand messaging to ensure that brand values align with fundamental audience values, and that organizational efforts are landing with customers and considerers.

With all that in mind, we’ve used our experience working with travel brands to distil a handful of key takeaways.

Be authentic:
Your brand story begins internally. Your people and processes define how sustainable your organization really is. Identify areas where you can be more sustainable, and develop a network of sustainability champions to support, promote and develop sustainability in an authentic way. Make sure that your strategy is representative of the people who work for the organization and are passionate about sustainability.

For destinations – involving community leaders, industry stakeholders, sustainability champions and content creators who could help define and promote your destination. Engaging wider groups could help discover the uniqueness associated to your brand and together you could weave the new sustainable brand story.

Be different: A sustainability strategy offers an opportunity to recreate what your brand stands for. Through that you can also redefine traveller experiences, create more meaningful connections with customers or visitors who care about the environment, who wish to engage with local communities in a more meaningful way, and those seeking to immerse in culture to satisfy curiosity and wanderlust.

Sustainability efforts and active brand positioning from a sustainability angle can help set brands and destinations apart from competition, attract tourists or customers who have previously not considered the brand and are typically willing to spend more when traveling.

Consider geographical nuances: If consumers have a positive sustainability experience in a domestic market, they are likely to have the same expectations when they reengage with your brand abroad. Consistent efforts to be more sustainable and to communicate that actively across all geographies will help align.

Understand relevance: Capturing attention and winning conversion requires an interplay between life and brand values. Consumers often state they want to be more eco-friendly, but most will not make trade-offs if it is difficult, inconvenient, or costly.

For instance, when selecting flights, around one in three (35%) say they would be willing to pay more for an environmentally friendly flight, but 6% more people (41%) say that other factors would still be more important than sustainability. Therefore, understanding consumer life values and their connection to the travel category is a vital part of winning market share. Make it a focus area of your sustainability research efforts.

Who are the UK’s top travel brands among sustainable and wellness-minded travellers?

Using data from YouGov BrandIndex—a daily brand tracker—we looked at how brands in the travel and tourism industry rank among Responsible Travellers in the UK (those who self-identify as wellness-focused, culturally-minded, and environmentally-conscious travellers) to evaluate their positions in the context of sustainable travel. It’s important to note that this travel brands ranking does not include airlines or transportation sub-sectors.

Premier Inn leads the list of YouGov’s top travel brands among this core audience. More than a third (35.3%) of Responsible Travellers in the UK say they would consider staying with the hotel brand the next time they’re in market for travel. The other top accommodations brands to earn a spot in the top 10 list include Airbnb (26.4%), Travelodge (23.1%), Holiday Inn (17.2%), Hilton (15%), and Best Western (13.8%).

Several online travel agencies also perform exceptionally well over the course of the last year among Responsible Travellers. These OTAs include runner-up (29.9%), Expedia (17.3%), Jet2holidays (15.7%) and (13.5%)

There’s so much more to discover about this engaged and eco-conscious group of travelers, especially when you factor in the geographical nuances in each market.

Read the full report to find out more about:

  • How to develop an effective sustainability program that makes a difference in inspiring travelers to travel more responsibly.
  • The top travel companies amongst Responsible Travelers in Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, the UAE, UK and US.
  • The most considered destinations amongst Responsible Travelers in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, the UAE, UK and US.

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