Late in 2013, a group of TMAC members got together to create a sustainability committee. The original aim was to discuss environmental and community sustainability issues as they relate to the travel industry, and to facilitate communication among members on these topics.
Our first task was to survey members on the topic of sustainability. We ran an online survey in summer 2014 to consult with both industry and media members. Thanks to Joanne Papineau of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts for offering a sampler of Fairmont rooftop honey as an incentive, and congratulations to Gillian Chester of Tourism Winnipeg for winning the random draw!
In total, we received 52 responses from industry and 56 from media. Naturally, since this is not a full sample of members, the data is not completely scientific, but we believe that it offers some key insights into trends.
What follows are some highlights from the survey. Feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to see the full results or have any other questions or feedback.
Our next goal as a committee is to create a series of articles on sustainability-related topics to share with all members. If you’d like to volunteer to share your expertise, or even just have ideas of topics we could cover, please get in touch.
The industry survey consisted of seven questions covering eco-friendly travel, media gifts, in-office sustainability issues and a potential TMAC sustainability awards program. A few of the results include:
• 40 per cent of respondents said that ecological and community sustainability rated as a 4 or 5 out of 5 in terms of importance when it came to their personal travel plans.
• When planning travel for visiting journalists, 13 per cent said sustainability was a factor despite cost, and an additional 69 per cent said it was important but only if costs were similar.
• A majority of respondents have made changes in their work practices for sustainability reasons in the past five years: 79 per cent have made steps toward waste reduction, 81 per cent per cent have shifted to offering media resources electronically rather than on paper, and 62 per cent have made purchasing decisions with sustainability in mind.
• 87 per cent are in support of the creation of a TMAC sustainability awards program to support positive steps taken by industry.
A few industry comments on the survey include:
• “There are other industry associations awarding sustainability initatives including world travel awards, SKAL and some other associations. Perhaps having TMAC support existing programs by recommending TMAC members to these awards programs could be helpful in creating a global program with increased PR value?”
• “I know that the hard-cover handbook is a coveted piece, but it would make sense if TMAC moved away from it at some point. It’s difficult to set an example for sustainability when we still, as an organization, offer this to members.”
• “I’d like to see the conference offer an option to return promo items and printed info that are not going to be taken home. SATW has offered this in the past. Promo items are expensive, and I’d rather someone gave something back to me than it get left in the hotel room.”
The media survey consisted of nine questions on similar topics. Some of the results include:
• When asked how important they think ecological and community sustainability are to the future of travel journalism, 79 per cent said either a 4 or 5 out of 5 (very important).
• 11 per cent of respondents always make sustainability a factor when pitching, writing and assigning stories (for example, by choosing one hotel to feature over another or selecting all or part of a story topic). An additional 45 per cent do this frequently or very frequently.
• 84 per cent are in support of a TMAC sustainability awards program.
• Only 11 per cent consider paper media kits essential to receive when they travel, and only 5 per cent consider branded merchandise essential.
Comments on this topic included:
• “I’d rather find the info online.”
• “I tend to travel long term, so I’d prefer not to have too much added weight in my luggage.”
• “I do like to receive paper maps to get a real perspective and easier to plan walking/transit routes.”
• “Not opposed to ‘merchandise’/gifts, but they need to be meaningful and inspiring, not branded junk.”
• 75 per cent would prefer not to receive paper media kits while travelling at all, 25 per cent would prefer not to receive USB keys, 52 per cent would prefer not to receive branded merchandise, and 43 per cent would prefer not to receive other gifts. Comments on this topic included:
• “I almost never bring the stuff we’re given home with me. No room in luggage, and just unneeded stuff. I feel bad, but I don’t want clutter.”
• “I only travel with carry-on, so weight is a factor.”
• “If a destination is going to provide backpacks, vests, water bottles, etc., I would greatly appreciate being told in advance so I do not take exactly the same things.”
• “CDs with images and press releases are the least useful.”
When asked what items they most enjoy receiving, the top items listed were:
• Free internet access/Wifi.
• Snacks and drinks in the room.
• Local products and consumable gifts (e.g., honey, food).
• Notebooks and pens.
• Useful items such as umbrellas, sunscreen and travel-size toiletries.
When asked about some of the biggest sustainability transgressions they had seen or experienced while on press trips, respondents said:
• Too much waste (e.g., disposable plates and cutlery) and no attempts to recycle.
• Excessive use of bottled water.
• Hotels having “green” room practices (e.g., reusing towels and soap) that are not followed by housekeeping staff (staff replace a towel even when it was hung to be reused).
• Too much poor-quality food (e.g., on airplanes) that is thrown away rather than eaten.
• Wasteful transportation on press trips: too-large vehicles (such as a small group in a large bus), vehicles idling, or simply not making use of public transit when it’s often a useful way to get around and also a good way to get a feel for local culture.
Some final media comments included:
• “This is not optional any longer. When traditional bad guys like McDonalds and Walmart get on the bandwagon, it’s time for us to recognize the importance of these concerns.”
• “Sadly, I think at many levels of travel, price is still the driver of travel decision-making. As journalists, if we can profile environmental heroes within all price points, those taking the effort will hopefully be rewarded if it comes down to two similarly priced choices. Also, when locals live in absolute penury, in unjust societies, top-down enviro-policing in tourist destinations seems like tone-deaf first world condescension — helping make sure our tourist dollars drive social benefits for all is only way to achieve local interest in environmental sustainability.”
• “Need to reinforce that ‘sustainability’ and environmental-ism/eco concerns’ are not the same thing. Sustainability has to consider local economy, putting back into the destination, who benefits etc. etc.”