Sustainable tourism a big drawcard for luxury travellers

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Tourism suppliers urged to ramp up sustainability focus to better tap on new breed of eco-conscious luxury travellers.

Tourism players are being urged not to forget sustainability amid the pandemic as research reveals it remains a top priority for luxury travellers.

Speaking at the virtual ILTM World Tour Asia Pacific, Meryam Schneider, vice president of marketing and partnerships at luxury and wealth researcher ALTIANT, said the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of tackling climate change, propelling the issue to the forefront of affluent travellers’ minds.

Said Schneider: “While Covid-19 has impacted most of our lives, improved air quality and thriving wildlife have been two of the few upsides. This has raised concern for some luxury consumers, and as such, there are more demands being made for brands to acknowledge and act to alleviate climate concerns.”

Research carried out in 3Q2020 by ALTIANT reveals on a scale of one to five, 56 per cent of overall respondents, comprising high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs), rate sustainability as four or five in importance. Across Asia and Europe, this figure rose to 63 per cent.

Schneider added: “This indicates many consumers do recognise the ongoing need for environmental focus and that it remains important, despite other priorities and concerns. Specifically, for travel, there are opportunities to tap into this green mindset.”

Despite the economic instability arising from Covid-19, the survey reveals many high-spenders are prepared to pay more for sustainable luxury. Overall, 49 per cent said they are willing to spend up to 10 per cent more for sustainable and ethical luxury. In Asia, this sits at 38 per cent and 29 per cent in Europe.

Sustainability has been ranked a top priority for Myanmar once travel resumes. Home to the abundant open spaces and untapped nature travellers are predicted to desire, the destination’s stakeholders are working together to push sustainability.

A white paper titled Tourism and Covid-19 in Myanmar: Priorities for Restarting Tourism outlines a series of measures to stimulate the industry once borders reopen, with the country positioning itself as a leading sustainable destination. The paper also recommends Myanmar targets valuable visitors, including high-end travellers.

May Myat Mon Win, Myanmar Tourism Marketing advisor, said: “The focus on reopening tourism is very much centred on opening in a steady and sustainable way. The Covid-19 period meant national parks were closed and nature had time to rebound. We even made worldwide news with the discovery of a new monkey species in Popa National Park – the Popa langur.”

The country’s Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has also been working with several organisations to equip the industry with the skills needed to service affluent clients. Said Win: “I’m sure the level of service clients will experience when visiting Myanmar will be unparalleled to any other luxury destination.”

Willem Niemeijer, CEO and founder of Khiri Travel and Yanna Ventures, said the tourism industry has been a huge game-changer with regard to tackling environmental issues and it is essential the importance of sustainability is not forgotten in the wake of Covid-19.

Said Niemeijer: “The tourism industry has been a massive influencer to make changes in issues such as tackling single-use plastic and food waste. It now needs to step up to proactively contribute to reforestation, carbon reduction in operations, and so on.”

Luxury travellers are willing to splash their cash on elements such as “organic, healthy food and remote locations that allow them to unplug and declutter”, he added.

However, Niemeijer advised tourism suppliers to ensure that weaving sustainability into their product line does not dilute the quality and experience. “As with plastics and hygiene measures, travellers will expect organisations to do all these things, and (still) deliver on a high-quality product. No corner-cutting,” he said.

Echoing this sentiment, Schneider stressed: “It’s important that (sustainability) is done with credibility as these customers are often aware of green-washing and are looking for authenticity and real social and ethical responsibility.”

She added that if done properly, investing in sustainability will be offset as luxury travellers are willing to pay more to reach their desired standards. Noted Schneider: “The importance of sustainability is ramping up and professionals in the luxury travel industry, booking agents as well as hotel and resorts, will be well rewarded by finding ways to integrate it into their strategy.”

Arnfinn Oines, social and environmental conscience for Soneva Group, said costs spent on being more sustainable come with financial rewards. For example, in 2019, three of the sustainable luxury resort operator’s properties generated more than US$500,000 through innovative waste management strategies. This includes leftover food being transformed into compost and turning Styrofoam packing into lightweight construction blocks.

Read the full article at TTG Asia:

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