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  • Writer's pictureJoAnna Haugen

Three Reasons to Create Sustainable Products Travellers Want

by JoAnna Haugen

When it comes to sustainable travel, the writing seems to be on the wall: Four out of five global travellers say sustainable travel is important. Ninety-six percent of travellers say it’s important that the money they spend makes a positive impact in the places they visit. And 40% want to make more sustainable choices compared to a year ago.

Image credit: Undiscovered Balkans

Many travel companies are eager to meet these consumer demands. Water-to-Go, for example, has sold water bottles with filtration technology that makes it safe to drink any water anywhere in the world since 2010. Despite the ground-breaking technology, however, “the criticism has been levelled at us that these are plastic bottles,” said Dave Shanks, founder of the company. “We use the best possible material, but there has always been a drive for us to offer bottles made of different materials.” As such, Water-to-Go’s products have evolved based on use, price point, and material: Its newest product is a plant-based “plastic” bottle made out of sugarcane’s fibrous residue.

Image credit: Adventure Travel Networking (ATN)

The push toward sustainability isn’t only a matter of demand. Recognising there is a gap between what travellers say they want and how they’ll actually act, travel companies must also be proactive in creating appealing sustainable products. “The itineraries we’ve developed deliberately aim to shape the way people seek to travel and experience countries which are less wealthy and especially vulnerable to negative impacts from tourism, such as overtourism, lack of infrastructure, and threats to both nature and their cultural heritage,” said Emma Heywood, owner of Undiscovered Balkans.

Image credit: Undiscovered Balkans

Despite the fact consumers and companies both appear increasingly interested in more ethically sourced, responsible products, one of the overriding challenges is how to push them into the mainstream. How can more sustainable products and services become the norm, so that travellers have no choice but to engage in more sustainable travel experiences? Shanks and Heywood offer three suggestions.

Make the Business Case

Though it may take time, effort, and financial resources upfront, sustainable solutions are a good holistic investment. Shanks points out that it costs less for most tour operators to give a Water-to-Go bottle to every guest rather than passing out single-use plastic bottles every day.

Additionally, using reusable bottles is significantly better for the environment and reduces waste in the places people travel, which creates the conditions for healthier and safer communities — all of which align with better ESG practices.

Image Credit: Water-To-Go

Develop the Right Partnerships

Undiscovered Balkans is Responsible Travel’s founding member in Montenegro. This allows both parties to amplify and support each other, thereby offering exposure to a wider selection of potential travellers. “I have noticed a growing awareness of sustainability issues among the guests I host personally, and it’s highly possible our clients are a self-selecting bunch who have already vetted us via our website and reviews and seen our track record,” Heywood said. “Many book via our partner, Responsible Travel.”

Image credit: Undiscovered Balkans

Start Somewhere, and Start Today

There is no “perfect” time to launch a new product or make an existing one more sustainable. And, with a barrage of global challenges facing not just the tourism industry but humanity at large, there’s no time to waste when it comes to delivering more sustainable travel products and services.

The World Economic Forum’s white paper “How to Create the Sustainable Travel Products Customers Want” offers guidance and resources, as do communities such as B Corp and Future of Tourism Coalition. “Sustainability is our top priority,” Shanks said. “We listen to our customers because, if we can address the right appetite by selling the right products, we’re able to reach that critical mass quicker.”


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About the Author

JoAnna Haugen is an award winning writer, speaker, and solutions advocate who has worked in the travel and tourism industry for almost 15 years.

She is also founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact, and storytelling.

A returned U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, international election observer, and intrepid traveler, JoAnna is always on the hunt for her next great adventure.

Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


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