Desktop computer with photo editing software

Not long ago, the term “eco-tourist” may have conjured images of backpackers in Birkenstocks trekking to remote destinations in numbers too minuscule to be considered mainstream. Well, that was then — this is a whole new now.

Now, as in The International Year of Sustainable Tourism. Now, in the era where major recommendation resources like TripAdvisor single out Green Leaders for special attention. Now, when nearly two-thirds of travelers factor in environmental considerations when choosing hotels, transportation and meals.1

The missing green link is closer than you think

And yes — sustainable-from-the-start new resorts may grab headlines and populate Pinterest boards with their gorgeous photos. But the fact is that virtually any and every hotel, resort and accommodation can take meaningful steps toward satisfying the new travelers’ eco-demands.

And sometimes that happens quite simply, one supply chain step at a time. As a prominent certifying organization puts it “Sustainability ripples down the supply chain.” 2 So ask your suppliers, from food to cleaning supplies to paper products and beyond, to not only explain their sustainability policies, but to detail their sustainable processes.

Truly green suppliers should be willing and easily able to tell you:

  • Are they sustainable by content? For instance, if you’re ordering paper products, are they created from either sustainable fiber sources or recycled materials?
  • Are they sustainable by design? Is packaging kept to a minimum? Is product weight minimized to reduce the fuel consumption, and carbon footprint, during delivery? It may seem insignificant—but a good supplier should be able to quantify the impact of their design approaches.
  • Do they take the entire lifecycle into consideration? Is a supplier also mindful of how they approach product life stages, from their sourcing of raw materials, through to production, and even customer waste recycling?

Start Taking Steps Now, Before Millennials Start Moving On

Sustainability has been a buzzword for some time—but the real buzz is coming from Millennials, and the recent data on exactly how much they will impact both tourism and business lodging. As tourists, the younger generation is packing their bags and taking trips far more than their retirement-traveling boomers parents—32% more vacations in 2016.3 And this is the cohort that craves sustainable options more than any other group, and is also willing to pay more to be eco-friendly.

So now is the time­­, while Millennials are still forming their loyalties among lodging brands, to start leveraging the profitable pull of being sustainable. You can:

  1. Get certified 
    You can apply to many different certifying organizations, and also ensure that your suppliers are certified. These “seals of approval” help validate your sustainability claims and establish you as an active “member” of the sustainability movement
  2. If you can’t get certified fast enough, take a few positive steps right now.
    Certifications take time, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait until the official seal is in place. Select a few customer-facing products that have an easily understood impact, get them in front of customers, and start merchandising their sustainability through communications as simple as table tents.
  3. Tell your story– but don’t overstate it. Whether it’s table tent copy about a single product or an online video about your corporate sustainability efforts, look for opportunities to share your story. But tell it in a way that the facts speak for themselves, avoiding traditional sales copy. This will create a better connection with Millennials in particular, who demand transparency, honesty…and who are quick to complain on social media about companies whose actions don’t live up to their words.

 

1TripAdvisor.com (from page 13, Lodging playbook)

2 Rainforest Alliance

3 Boston Globe / American Society of Travel Agents “How America Travels” Study

4 Nielsen