Global awareness of the climate crisis is rapidly accelerating and in tandem the OTAs (booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb etc.) are striving to ensure that tourists are presented with more sustainable choices. This is not a simple uni-directional exercise, but rather bi-directional with a further push from the local community to leave the tourist sandwiched nicely in between (benefiting positively from both “shocks”)!
For a tourist, travelling sustainably not only signifies protecting the environment and reconsidering different modes of transport (public transport, bikes, walking…), but also choosing sustainable accommodation properties for vacations/business (those with the Travel Sustainable badge of Booking.com with its third-party certifications or the Unesco/Expedia pledge, for example) and connecting with the local culture for authentic experiences.
For the local community, many important cultural barriers exist that impede progress towards improving its offer, operations and services. The local community needs to be educated on the importance of the green transition – the European Green Deal and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainable partnerships with other local businesses must flourish to deliver meaningful eco-friendly products, services and experiences to tourists. Technology adoption is recognised as being slow with an ingrained resistance to the use of e-commerce tools (selling online with payment online activated). This was also interestingly remarked upon in the recently published report of Divinea on enotourism (Report Enoturismo e Vendite Direct-to-Consumer 2022) where the preferred method of payment was in situ at 87.7%, with credit card payments/PayPal at 58.3% and bank transfers at 33% for those without any e-commerce facilities. It is evident that digital upskilling and/or re-skilling relating to the greening of the economy are essential to become more competitive in a digital, inclusive and green world.
"L’Italia è uno dei più grandi produttori di vino al mondo, ma le aziende vitivinicole italiane sono purtroppo ancora principianti nelle relazione e nella vendita di vino con il consumatore finale." (Report Enoturismo e Vendite Direct-to-Consumer 2022, Divinea) TRANSLATION "Italy is one of the largest wine producers in the world, but Italian wineries are unfortunately still behind in their dealings with the final consumer."
Let’s re-echo the importance of being green, inclusive and digital in the name of sustainability in order to drive transformation.
Let’s acknowledge the OTAs that are helping to mainstream green behaviours. The latest figures from booking.com show that there are more than 95,000 properties around the world that possess the Travel Sustainable Badge. In Italy according to ISTAT 2020, there are more than 32,000 hotels and in excess of 194,500 vacation rentals so there is plenty of space for pushing the sustainable agenda.
"We want to use our voice to speak to a broader audience and ultimately accelerate impact across the whole industry." (Sustainable Travel Report 2022, booking.com)
Let’s appreciate that the local communities are slowly shifting mentality. Green transition opportunities combined with socio-economic realities are forcing a rethink. Joined efforts at many levels of the community will scale up sustainable consumption and production, encourage green entrepreneurship and systemic progress.
Finally, this transformation at all levels (OTAs and the local communities) will percolate down creating a conducive environment for the tourist to book a sustainable holiday and thrive! Already according to Booking.com’s 2022 Sustainable Travel report, 71% have expressed a desire to travel more sustainably over the next 12 months with 66% seeking experiences that are representative of the local culture.