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USTOA Tour Operator members grow emphasis on sustainable and responsible travel  


More than half of members have a formal sustainability strategy in place as USTOA ramps up efforts for responsible travel in 2024, According to Recent Member Survey 

NEW YORK – A survey conducted by the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) reveals that more than half (55%) of its tour operator Active Members have a formal, documented sustainability strategy, an important component to remain competitive in the ever-evolving industry that is cultivating more sustainable practices. More than a third (39%) of USTOA tour operators have an informal (not yet documented) strategy.

“Sustainability and sustainable practices are key components to travel, and we – as tour operators – must make sure we are doing our part to respond to the world’s changing environment,” said Terry Dale, president & CEO of USTOA. “We’re proud of how our members have embraced change and will continue to support their efforts into the future as leaders in the travel and tourism industry.”

He continued, “What is remarkable to see is the progress our members have made over the last year, as we compare these results to our PwC study conducted in 2022. Most notably, we’ve seen substantial growth in the number of companies that have established a formal policy or have begun their sustainability journey in some way.” Dale noted that the number of Active Members with no formal policy reduced from 14% to 6% compared to 2022.

“Corporate values and culture” were named the most important reasons for adopting a sustainability strategy, followed by “responding positively to global issues,” and “public relations and brand”.

According to the survey results, announced at the 2023 USTOA Annual Conference and Marketplace, December 2-6 in Los Angeles, nine out of ten (92%) of USTOA Active Members take into account a potential vendor’s approach to sustainability and social impact when making a decision.

Further, one-third, or 33%, of USTOA tour operator members say sustainability is “important” or “very important” to their customers. Nearly half (49%) of USTOA members say sustainability is “somewhat important” to their customers.

Roughly half (45%) of USTOA tour operators currently use sustainability messaging in consumer-facing marketing/sales materials, while more than one third (37%) plan to incorporate it in 2024-2025, according to the survey.

USTOA has been focused on sustainability and made significant commitments to support and educate its members. In 2023 alone, the organization hired its first global social impact manager, established a USTOA sustainability community, and introduced a USTOA Sustainability Policy for all its Active and Associate Members, designed to enhance member efforts to begin or continue their sustainability journey.

Accompanying the USTOA Sustainability Policy is the USTOA Responsible Travel Promise, a document for signature by Active and Associate members that states the company’s support of USTOA’s efforts and is designed to motivate action within their respective businesses to build sustainability plans that share USTOA’s ambition.

“These steps are showing our commitment and efforts to responsible travel,” Dale added. “We look forward to working with members to increase awareness and activate sustainable practices for long-term responsible travel.”

USTOA will continue to expand and enhance its focus on sustainable and responsible travel. In that regard, the association will host its third Sustainability is Responsibility Summit, or SIR 3.0, in Singapore from May 18-21, 2024

“Our first SIR summit in 2022 focused on the ‘why’ part of creating a sustainability business case, while the 2023 SIR summit, in collaboration with Tourism Cares, focused on the ‘how.’ The 2024 SIR summit will be focused on our members, as it seeks to address sustainability goals in our industry and establish tangible best practices to help USTOA members move forward in their own individual sustainability journeys,” Dale said.

DEI Policies

USTOA also asked members about their organization’s policies and internal employee-led networks, a common practice in corporations to address diversity and inclusion. The survey found that roughly three-fourths of members have policies related to race and ethnicity (76%), LGBTQ+ (76%), and gender (71%). Compared to a PwC survey conducted last year, policies for LGBTQ+ saw the highest growth, from 69% to 76%. Additionally, two-thirds of members have policies relating to age (69%), faith (67%), and seen or unseen disabilities (61%).

Roughly one third (35%) of USTOA member organizations have networks and/groups dedicated to gender, race and ethnicity, and LGBTQ+. Additionally, a quarter of members have networks and/or groups dedicated to age (20%), faith (24%), and seen or unseen disabilities (20%). All six of these categories saw growth in establishing networks and groups when compared to last year, anywhere from 2% to 8%.

More than one-third (39%) of members are currently using DEI messaging in sales/marketing, while 18% plan to incorporate it in 2024-2025.

Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | Website | + Posts

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.

She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.