The marketing advantage of the sustainable travel niche is the growing desire of consumers to “do well” while vacationing and traveling. That desire to “do well” has gone mainstream with the National Geographic estimating as many as 55-65 million U.S. tourists can be classified as geotourists, and geotourists spend 75% of the money spent on tourism. Understanding the basics of sustainable and socially-responsible travel can set you apart from other agencies and gain you more affluent clients.
The presentation addresses the ABCs of sustainable travel: 1)What defines a travel products as sustainable as well as socially-responsible, 2)how agents can confirm the sustainability of a travel product and 3) how to market consumers. Further, ASTA’s green program will be explained as well as the contents of the expanded ASTA Green Guide for Travel Agents.
Gain a Marketing Advantage Through
Promoting Sustainable Travel
ASTA Webinar - March 13, 2014
ASTA Director of Research
Why Sustainable? Why Now?
Its a good time to make changes that will help you succeed:
1. Assess your internal operations and make environmentally friendly
changes that can translate into operational savings.
2. Help your clients travel in a more sustainable manner and use less
resources, support local communities and strengthen destinations
for future travelers.
3. Sustainable travel has become less of a niche and more expected for
4. It’s a way to differentiate yourself from competitors.
What Are We Covering Today?
1) Definition of a sustainable travel product.
2) Confirming the sustainability of a travel product.
3) Marketing to consumers who want to travel sustainably.
4) Overview of ASTA’S Green Program and updated Green Guide
What is “Green Travel?”
Green travel refers to “….any travel activity or facility
operating in an environmentally friendly manner.”
What Is “Sustainable Tourism?”
“Sustainable tourism is a level of tourism activity that can be
maintained over the long-term because it results in a net
benefit for the socio-cultural, economic and natural
environments of the area in which it takes place.”
Sustainable Tourism Joins Together Green with Social
Why is sustainability in travel important?
Aside from the degradation of environment, tourism can also contribute to
the degradation of a local culture and the destination’s very “sense of
place.” Sense of place is the most valuable asset a destination has, and the
travel industry has a responsibility to the local people to help enhance, not
Sustainable Tourism is in the best interests of the industry as well; the
destination is the product, and without a competitive product, there is no
destination. This is true across all segments even cruise. Most Cruises
market by their port of calls not just the activities on the ship.
Travel agencies and suppliers have the opportunity to be part of the
solution to sustaining destinations for future travelers.
Challenges for Sustainable Travel
• The assortment of labels has made sustainability difficult to identify and
define. We often see it referred to as green tourism, ecotourism,
responsible tourism, and a variety of other titles.
• There is confusion in the marketplace and a lack of clarity as to what
sustainable tourism entails.
• Hundreds of organizations are doing the right thing, but in many
different ways. It is hard to compare apples-to-apples
This is why the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) has launched a
global initiative focused on a universal set of principles and a certification
program. ASTA has been working with GSTC since 2005 on setting criteria
for sustainable tourism.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria
• Created with the input of experts, groups and companies from around
• Define sustainable tourism in a way that is actionable, measurable and
• A minimum standard of sustainability for tourism businesses and
destinations across the globe.
Four Main Themes Organize the GSTC Criteria
• Effective sustainability planning
• Maximizing social and economic benefits for the local
• Enhancing cultural heritage
• Reducing negative impacts to the environment.
GSTC Certification Framework
GSTC sets standards
Certification Bodies become GSTC-Recognized
-- CB’s can be non-profit, gov’t agencies, for-profits --
Travel Companies get certified as “sustainable”
-- hotels, tour operators, cruise lines, destinations, sellers of travel --
First Database of Travel Products Certified within the
GSTC framework Is Live
The Rainforest Alliance has developed
the first database of products aligned
with GSTC criteria:
All hotels, tour operators, and other
businesses on the site are either verified
by the Rainforest Alliance, certified by
third-party programs recognized by the
Global Sustainable Tourism Council
(GSTC), or recommended by reputable
GSTC Destination Programs
Another good source for
sustainable travel experience is
GSTC’s destination program.
It has been operating for a year
and eleven destinations have
begun working towards
becoming certified as a
GSTC Accreditation Program
GSTC recognizes standards and
certification programs that are
credible, transparent, impartial, and
comply with the GSTC Criteria for
Many standards and certification
programs are working to become
Having standards and certification
programs become accredited is the
first step to understanding how the
programs relate for comparison and
will identify those programs with the
The ASTA Green Guide
checklist for all the major
travel segments allowing
you to benchmark products
against each other.
Checklists in Green Guide Also Provide Guidance
More of the world’s 7 billion people are traveling….
…and Consumer Demand Is Growing for Sustainability
92% [of consumers] would buy a product with a social and/or environmental benefit if given
the opportunity, and more than two-thirds (67%) have done so in the past 12 months. Nine-in-
10 global citizens say they would boycott if they learned of a company’s irresponsible business
practices, and more than half (55%) have done so in the past 12 months.
(2013 Cone Communications/EchoGlobal CSR Study 2013)
As many as 75 percent of travelers want a more responsible vacation, while 66 percent would
like to be able to more easily identify a greener vacation.
(Survival of the Fittest: Sustainable Tourism Means Business 2012)
The UNWTO reports that more than a third of travelers who favor environmentally responsible
travel are “willing to pay between 2 percent and 40 percent more for this experience.”
(Tourism in the Green Economy – Background Report 2012)
There Is a Marketing Advantage
The marketing advantage of the sustainable travel niche is the growing
desire of consumers to “do well” while vacationing and traveling. That
desire to “do well” has gone mainstream with the National Geographic
estimating as many as 55-65 million U.S. tourists can be classified as
Geotourists spend 75% of the money spent on tourism. Understanding
the basics of sustainable and socially-responsible travel can set you apart
from other agencies and gain you more affluent clients.
LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability)
A subset of the geotourists are the LOHAS.
• LOHAS consumers focus on environmental friendly and healthy living as well as
personal development and social justice.
• Approximately 19% percent of the adults in the U.S., or 41 million people,
were considered LOHAS Consumers at the time of the 2010 survey. This is
based on surveys of the U.S. adult population estimated at 215 million.
• LOHAS consumers have a higher environmental IQ than normal consumers, so if
you target this group you must make sure your agency clearly understands the
terminology of sustainable travel and has done its research. If not, you can find
your agency labeled as a “greenwasher”, and the swiftness of word of mouth
publicity won’t soon let you forget it.
(LOHAS Online. LOHAS Background. Retrieved on October 10, 2013 from http://www.lohas.com/about.html.)
Marketing Green Travel
If you market yourself as an expert in Green Travel you must make sure
consumers will consider you legitimate.
• First, you must be educated in ways to travel sustainable and you must set your
own environmental and socially-conscious goals. The Green Guide can provide
you with a solid foundation.
• Second, publicize your sustainable successes and goals on your website and in
your office. Give consumers a chance to ask you questions.
• Third, educate clients on the value of a sustainable vacation by informing them
of the easy ways they can help protect the environment plus support local
cultures and economies.
Consider becoming an ASTA Green
Member to show your commitment.
Marketing Actions You Can Take
• Create a “sustainability” or “responsible travel” section on the agency’s website.
Provide information about sustainable travel philosophy and a glossary of terms that the
general public may not be familiar with on your website.
• Utilize social media to spread the word. Share your own stories related to sustainable
travel and link to those of others. The more often content is generated on your website or
blog regarding sustainable travel, the higher your website will rate on “sustainable travel”
searches. Sustainable Travel International provided “Social Media Tips for Small
Sustainable Travel Businesses” on their website.
• Complete HubSpot’s “Inbound Marketing Certification,” which helps marketers to more
effectively use Search Engine Optimization, blogs, social media, and other forms of content
marketing to reach desired target markets.
• Utilize ASTA’s consumer website, TravelSense.org, by editing your agency’s profile
to reflect a sustainable travel specialization. Provide detailed information regarding
your sustainable travel philosophy, as this information is required by sustainable
consumers. Simply adding that your agency is a Green Member is not enough – consumers
must know you are committed.
Tips for Marketing Materials
When developing marketing materials try to minimize written pieces and use electronic
means of marketing including email, social marketing like Facebook and Twitter, blogs, banner
• If you need printed materials, minimize the footprint by following these steps:
• Work with designers & printers early in the process to achieve the most environmentally friendly
• Marketing pieces that use less paper when printed or are laid out tightly on the paper stock can save
• Minimize ink coverage by eliminating full bleeds or large solid ink areas if possible. Using less ink often
means saving press time, paper and money.
• Insist on FSC certified paper that has at least 30 percent post-consumer content and is chlorine-free.
Office Depot provides a Guide to Buying Green to help in environmentally friendly purchasing
• Use a printer that has electronic processes for receiving artwork, sending proofs, etc.
• Make sure your printer uses waterless printing and soy or vegetable oil inks.
Number One Marketing Guideline
– FTC’s “Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims”
• These guidelines should be reviewed before launching a green travel marketing
campaign to ensure that the campaign is not deceptive to consumers.
• The guidelines provide examples of how language should be used in
environmental marketing claims. Ensure your campaign is not deceptive to
– Clear and prominent qualifications
– Be specific
– Provide clear comparative claims
– Don’t overstate product attributes
ASTA’s Own Efforts to Be Sustainable
ASTA is a charter member of GSTC and was a member of the
precursor taskforce at the UN Foundation. ASTA currently serves
on GSTC’s Market Access Committee.
We are supporters of key programs that are aligned with our goals:
ASTA’s Sustainability Goals
• Recognize fight against global warming is of critical importance to future
• Provide information on how to implement sustainable business
practices to our members
• Assist our members in providing sustainable tourism
options to consumers
• Conduct our own operations in a sustainable and socially-conscious
ASTA’s Green Program
• An education and self-assessment program for travel agents.
• The core of the program is the Green Guide, which provides
an overview of green travel as well as a large section on
– There are sections on each travel segment (air, hotel, cruise,
tour) with details what constitutes sustainable travel for that
• Members who complete the self-assessment sign-off on our
Green Code of Ethics, and complete the application become
ASTA’s Expanded Green Guide
The Green Guide had concentrated primarily on the
environmental impacts of travel. The new material
outlines expectations for sustainable management,
socioeconomic impacts, and cultural impacts in
This aligns the program with the GSTC criteria for
GSTC Criteria are divided into four categories:
Requirements for Green Members
• Requirements for Green Members
• Read the Guide
• Complete self assessment for internal operations
• Develop sustainability goals
• Sign-off on “Green Code of Ethics”
• Complete the application
• Domestic and international travel agencies
Requirements for Suppliers
– Read the guide
– Complete self assessment check list for internal operations
– Sign-off on “Green Code of Ethics”
– Submit CSR document
– Domestic and international suppliers
Additional Information on the Green Program
You can find more