The Case for Sustainability: Surveys and Statistics show…
A 2012 report by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) states that consumers are increasingly taking into account a destination’s reputation for social and environment responsibility when they make their travel choices. “The buildup of consumers’ socio-environmental awareness of tourism development,” states the UNWTO, “is leading to increased scrutiny on the part of the public in destination decision-making and a growing requirement for new tourism developments to be sustainable.
A 2012 report by The Travel Foundation and Forum for the Future states, “Today’s consumers expect travel companies to build sustainability into their product offer. A majority (70%) believe companies should be committed to preserving the natural environment and 55% want fair working conditions, while three quarters want a more responsible holiday and 66% would like to be able to easily identify a greener holiday.” In addition, “84% of those working in marketing & PR management see green credentials becoming increasingly important as environmental issues move to the forefront of customers’ minds.
According to a 2012 Nielsen Wire survey, two thirds (66%) of consumers around the world say they prefer to buy products and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society. 46% are willing to pay extra for products and services from socially responsible companies, and a majority (51%) of those under 40 are willing to do so.
A 2012 Four Seasons survey of luxury travel trends observed: “Conscientious spending replaces conspicuous consumption. The affluent put much more thought into their purchasing decisions to determine whether a product or service will intrinsically improve their lives.” “Money can buy time and experiences. The strongest contributor to happiness for the time-strapped wealthy is moments spent with loved ones.”
A 2012 study done by TUI Travel, a mass tour operator, found that 54% of US and European customers are highly familiar with sustainability (up 10% from the 2010 study); 43% said that if a company offered a sustainable holiday option, they would be interested; 41% said they have a better image of a company that actively invest in environmental/social initiatives; 53% wanted to be given the facts about what a holiday company has achieved in reducing its environmental impact, and 45% expect the holiday company they are traveling with to compensate the impact of their holiday.
According to a 2012 TripAdvisor survey, the ‘green’ travel trend is gaining momentum among TripAdvisor members, as 71% said they plan to make more eco-friendly choices in the next 12 months compared to 65% that did so in the past 12 months.
A ground-breaking long-term study done by Harvard Business School and the London Business School in 2011 – The Impact of a Corporate Culture of Sustainability on Corporate Behavior and Performance – concludes that companies who invest in sustainability do better financially. In traditional firms, the study says, managers making decisions that deliver short-term performance are doing so at the expense of future profitability and viability.
93% of Conde Nast Traveler readers surveyed in 2011 said that travel companies should be responsible for protecting the environment, and 58% said their hotel choice is influenced by the support the hotel gives to the local community.
Surveys and studies “consistently find that between 10% and 15% of discretionary travelers want the unusual,” states a 2011 study by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). These are the “alternative” or “new tourists” and “growth from these groups is out-speeding that of mainstream segments.” These tourists are “typically highly educated, mature, affluent, well traveled, environmentally aware and sensitive to the social and cultural traditions, systems and mores of the destinations they visit.”
“Eco-conscious” consumers travel more frequently than the average consumer. During 2009, 75.6% took at least two vacations away from home and 22% took five to eight vacations during that time. “That’s far more than the national average,” says The CMIGreen Traveler Study Report 2010.
One sector that is growing particularly rapidly is volunteer or service vacations, dubbed “voluntourism.” According to a 2009 Conde Nast Traveler “Readers’ Poll, ”47% of those who responded said they are interested in volunteer vacations and 98% of those who had volunteered said they were satisfied with their experience”.
In 2008, the World Travel Market’s Global Trends Report urged businesses to pay attention to “consumer trends that resonate across all regions—the desire for social and environmental responsibility, social interaction, authentic travel experiences and fair trade practices. During the downturn, travel and tourism companies that adapt and integrate such business practices into their product and service offer will be best placed for survival. They will gain a valuable point of differentiation in the face of declining consumer purchasing power. Consumers are willing to trade up for sustainability, thus operators should let ‘conscientious consumption’ now drive the travel and tourism industry through these uncertain times.”
A new 2013 report by non-profit CDP.net provides some of the first evidence of a link between business leadership on climate change and a company’s profitability. The study finds that S&P 500 companies that build sustainability into their core strategies are outperforming those that fail to show leadership. Specifically, corporations that are actively managing and planning for climate change secure an 18% higher return on investment (ROI) than companies that aren’t – and 67% higher than companies who refuse to disclose their emissions.