By Pippa Jacks
TTG Media Ltd - 07 FEB 2022
Tour operators must make their trips more sustainable while maintaining – or better still, enhancing – the customer experience.
Above: Michael Edwards, Explore; Claire Copeman, Adventure Tours UK; Sunday Times’ chief travel writer Chris Haslam
That was the consensus among delegates at the Adventure Travel Networking conference last week.
Speaking on a panel about responsible tourism, Sunday Times’ chief travel writer Chris Haslam said: “Holidays should be fun. Compromising on comfort – that’s not as much fun. As soon as you start ramming facts down people’s throats they turn off.”
Explore managing director Michael Edwards advised businesses to achieve this "by example, not by coercion". “Make incremental changes that are subtle but that might help the customer to make a comparison with what they have experienced elsewhere," he said. "The customer will work it out for themselves.”
Clare Copeman, founder of UK specialist Adventure Tours UK, agreed sustainability was not yet at the forefront of customers’ minds. “Our clients are not going out and looking for responsible and sustainable experiences,” she said. “But when we explain why we’re working with local caterers and why we’re giving them reusable water bottles then they get it, and it adds to the experience.”
Macs Adventure described how it changed the itinerary on one particular tour to add a second night in an off-grid mountain lodge, instead of a hotel, specifically to improve the customer experience.
“Clients said they’d wished they’d spent more time there, so we changed the trip to spend two nights instead of one. This naturally reduced the trip’s carbon footprint, but it was all driven by customer feedback,” explained product team lead Fiona Marshall.
Haslam said typical Sunday Times readers were not yet engaged in the sustainable tourism message. “Readers need to be led by the nose," he said. "When I’ve written about transformational travel, leaving a place a little bit better than you found it, I’ve had comments such as ‘If I wanted to help poor people I’d work for an NGO’,” he also revealed.
He praised adventure travel specialists for leading the way on sustainable travel, but criticised more mainstream operators for inconsistency.
“At Tui, for example, the people at the very top really get [responsible travel], but look at their excursions – quad-bikes, visiting wild animals. There’s a disconnect between what’s wanted at the top and what happens further down the product line and in sales. It’s more ‘we’ve got to give people what they want’.”
Above: Charlie Cotton, founder of ecollective
After launching in 2021 as a virtual-only event, the first physical Adventure Travel Networking conference took place at South Africa House on February 4, with live-streaming for virtual delegates. The conference followed a full-day marketplace on February 3. A separate panel on carbon reduction heard that travel firms only needed to aim to reduce their carbon footprint by 6-7% each year to be "doing well". “It’s far less daunting than you might think,” said Charlie Cotton, founder of carbon consultancy ecollective.
The ATN22 Conference & Marketplace brought over 250 travel trade members together (in-person & virtually) to do business, network and kickoff 2022!
This event ran over one week with the Marketplace opening on Thursday 3rd Feb for supplier/buyer meetings & reopening the following week for 3 more days.
The ATN22 Conference took place on Friday 4th Feb.
During the course of the week 300+ meetings took place between overseas DMCs, Tourist Boards, Travel Providers and UK Adventure Tour operators.
Read the full TTG article and other related articles HERE