Future of Travel Retail: Lack of information is hampering sustainability

Future of Travel Retail: Lack of information is hampering sustainability

Panel of experts debate if customers will pay to go green at Travelport event

Travel firms need access to more information on sustainability to understand if the consumer is willing to pay more for greener options.

John Bevan, divisional senior vice president at dnata Travel Group, told the Travelport Future of Retailing Conference that sustainability remains low of consumer priorities.

He said feedback from group consumer brands like OTA Travel Republic and tailormade high street retailer Travelbag is consumers are looking for advice on how to travel.

“It’s very hard for us to monitor whether they [consumers] are willing to pay. The sense at the moment is not really, the willingness to pay for it is not quite there.

“I think it’s not because people do not want to, I think it’s because the information is not clear enough yet.

“We have to come together, and quicker, to provide information to the consumer and the we will know if they are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Bevan said while there was information related to aircraft and flights, there was no equivalent in the hospitality sector, like a green star rating.

He said issues of sustainability are being driven by corporate partners and DMCs, however tour operators appear unwilling to pay extra for more sustainable options.

Steve Barrass, chief executive of The Appointment Group (TAG) which manages the travel of many globally famous artists and bands, said influencers are driving public opinion.

One well-known band TAG works with now has a “sustainability rider” – a list of requirements about their travel designed to minimise its impact on the planet.

“They take it very, very seriously,” said Barrass who added that the move towards to a more sustainable future is down to everyone doing their bit.

“It starts in the room. We are all travellers,” he said. “We need as an industry to start somewhere. Do not say it’s about the government or big business, it’s up to you.

“Is it going to cost? Yes. Some firms will be pass that on to the customer some are reducing their margins because it’s the right thing to do.”

Nicole Sautter, manager global sustainability at Amex GBT, agreed that everyone has a role to play and government intervention could be counterproductive.

“Everyone can agree we want a viable long-term future for travel. While government support is essential I do not think one directional regulatory action is going to produce the sort of change we need to see to tackle issues like net zero.

“We absolutely want government support for top down to bottom up collaboration across the industry. But for the industry to leverage its strength and influence we want it to be as powerful as possible.

“If prices go up and that reduces travel volume then we might lose a degree of influence to promote change.”

Sautter said the reason sustainable fuels are not currently used is they are two to three times more expensive that conventional aviation fuel. “You cannot mandate for something that does not exist yet in that supply is not there for sustainable aviation fuels.

“We need to create a position to stimulate both demand and supply and this is where the business sector has a role to play. Sending a market signal to producers to say there is a market will have a stronger impact that any government intervention.”

Bevan said government intervention like higher taxes do not take into account the positive benefits of tourism in destinations reliant on the sector for income and there is no guarantee that the money raised will be used for the right reasons.

“As long as we can tackle the air piece and emissions come down and people have the option to offset we must not forget once people are in destination of they can be oriented towards sustainable hotels the income that comes back to that destination is critical.

“There are a lot of destinations around the world that have suffered massively and are still suffering because of COVID and those people need international visitors.”

Barrass said a company like Travelport could become the single source of comprehensive reliable information on sustainable travel that all players in the market are looking for.

“I think there’s a real opportunity for Travelport to really take a lead on this to say for anything carbon relevant we will provide that information to you. Travelport can be a differentiator on this. Give us the credible content on this and you have customers for life.”