A better, more sustainable travel industry is likely to emerge once Covid-19 disruption recedes. It should be an industry continuously improving through competition. But it should be one that listens more to employees, staff and partners and emphasises local knowledge. This will dovetail with tourist expectations, which seem to have shifted due to Covid.
Bidroom CEO Michael Ros told viewers of the I Meet Hotel “Sustainability, People, Prosperity and the Environment” webinar 3 June that he feels travel behaviour will change after Covid. “Tourists may travel less, but travel better,” he said.
Claudia Lisboa, a technical coordinator at the UNWTO said sustainability was best driven by competition in a hospitality sector which should now seize the moment. “We have the opportunity to rebuild and come back better,” she said.
However, genuine sustainability has to be part of that build back. It is best advanced by competitiveness in the marketplace and taking a holistic approach, said Christof Burgbacher, Managing Director of Consulting-Elemterre.
Indeed, society, economy and environment should be centre stage. Operators should work with local stakeholders, favour local employment and avoid conflict with the local community. Post-Covid tourism should avoid creating a negative impact, as has been seen in over-touristed places such as Barcelona, Venice and Edinburgh.
Proper sustainability needs hospitality worker engagement. When frontline staff are empowered and engaged they become ambassadors for sustainability. They interact more positively with guests.
“Nobody knows a place better than local employees,” said Burgbacher. This also improves guest satisfaction, as guests like to feel they have a voice and are being heard.
Employees should also be at the centre of a sustainable development mission statement. Empowering employees attracts more talent and builds a hotel’s brand, argued Burgbacher.
Hotels with values attract guests. A survey by Openkey showed that people in the 26-40 age group (millennials) are particularly attracted to hotel brands that are committed to a good cause - people and planet, not just profit.
However, some recent developments reflect badly on the industry. Big brands such as Booking.com, Expedia and AirBnB have laid off up to 25% of staff due to Covid. Bidroom, in contrast has taken a more sustainable long-term view, said Ros. It has retained staff during Covid. Bidroom was committed to being a sustainable community in the travel industry, working for travellers, hoteliers and staff simultaneously, he said.
Beyond people, the UNWTO told the I Meet Hotel webinar attendees that it wants to drive more environmental sustainability through competitiveness. For hotels, reduced energy costs, greater independence from energy suppliers, and access to discerning ‘green’ tourists who care about the environment have become the founding principles of a new generation of “nearly zero energy hotels” promoted by UNWTO.
In the initiative, the UN body and Europe’s leading tourism and energy agencies have created an easy-to-use and free online toolkit applicable for all kinds of hotels and resorts. Implementation can save energy costs of around 15%. The programme is underway in seven EU countries.
Simon LehmannHowever, webinar host Simon Lehmann (right), CEO of AJL Consulting, reminded speakers that profitability - not just “growth” - was vital to sustainability. He said now was a good time for tourism to rebuild and come back better than before.
The next I Meet Hotel webinar will take place 17 June and address “Loyalty and Subscription in Travel and Hospitality.”