Meeting the demand for sustainable tourism

The Seaview Hotel – a case study by Tracy Mikich of the Seaview Hotel

In 2018 The Seaview Hotel offered guests an electric bike sightseeing package as part of an initiative to promote non-car tourism to the Isle of Wight. The results were electrifying!

Sustainable tourism is fast becoming a movement with more and more holiday-makers considering environmental factors when making a purchase. The Global Sustainable Travel Report by Booking.com in 2018 found:

  • 87% of global travellers stated they wanted to travel sustainably
  • 39% of those confirmed that they often found ways to travel sustainably – representing a strong will to act on what you believe is important.
  • However, 48% of people found that they rarely managed to travel sustainably because not enough is being done by the tourism industry to make green changes.

What does sustainable travel mean?

It has different meanings, for example, your choice of car or selecting a carbon-neutral holiday but specifically for travellers and tourism it generally means staying in ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘green’ accommodation – places that actively reduce their environmental impact and give an authentic local experience – this, in turn, makes guests feel good about their accommodation choice.

Why are attitudes and behaviour changing?

Undoubtedly media coverage, action groups and campaigns that illustrate in sad detail the devastating toll of human activity on our planet are beginning to drive us to make more conscious decisions about what we produce, consume and how we travel. As astonishing 17 million viewers tuned into Blue Planet 2 and the nation was moved to tears by the footage of a mother whale carrying her dead newborn.  Sir David Attenborough’s narration then explained how we “dump eight million tonnes of plastic into the sea every year”, contaminating the food chain with toxic plastic and putting a “vast number of creatures” in danger. It was heart-breaking to think that this calf was poisoned by toxins in its mother’s milk – plastics we had thrown away. However whilst we now want to make more enlightened choices, 87% want to travel sustainably, the research shows 50% found it difficult to do so because the industry is slow to satisfy these wants – simply put, we are not satisfying our customers’ demands for more eco-friendly holidays.

On the Isle of Wight, Tourism is one of our biggest industries – according to the Isle of Wight Council’s Tourism Development plan, Tourism supports 20% of island jobs, is worth over half a billion pounds to the economy of the Island, generating £360 million of direct tourist expenditure, £25 million from visiting yachts and a further £150 million through the multiplier effect. 

But how do we know that there’s an appetite for change among our visitors?

Change requires investment, it can be costly and difficult to implement. Sure, some of these tourists may want to travel sustainably but how do we actually know that, and, if we can’t be sure then wouldn’t it be far easier, and less costly, to carry on doing what we do? Last year, with the help of a sustainable travel grant, we leased 6 electric bikes and put together an electric bike holiday package – ‘Wight Coasting’ was a two-night stay including Wightlink FastCat travel to the Island and use of electric bikes. The deal was marketed as a  package with the tag line: Enjoy a wonderful world of cycling on the Isle of Wight….and you don’t even need to take you bike! Adverts were placed in cycling magazines, a leaflet was produced and distributed on and off the island. In order to make sure that guests had the best possible experience, we worked with Cycle Wight (a group aimed at promoting cycling on the Island) to produce a set of itineraries from the hotel, some an easy round-robin to more adventurous treks and then we waited. By the end of 2018 we had sold 70 e-bike holidays and secured 50 e-bike rental hires when the bikes were not being used. Interestingly the 70 bookings represented not only new visitors to the hotel but many had never visited the Island! The success of the campaign illustrated a demand for non-car and greener tourism to the Island. Financially, factoring out the grant, we turned a profit, plus the package was featured in The Times round-up of best things to do in autumn! Our guest feedback was also overwhelmingly positive. The e-bike package built upon our caring core values and positioned the Seaview Hotel as a greener choice for a holiday. In short, we reached out and connected to a new market, increasing the bottom line in the process – a green business win!

In addition to the electric bike holiday we have made several improvements to our green offering – ditching plastic straws, installing electric car charging points, removing a lot of single-use plastics in favour of refillables in the housekeeping department, encouraging guests to use public transport in collaboration with Southern Vectis and Visit Isle of Wight and working with local businesses to deliver events out of season – supporting each other business in a spirit of collaboration not competition. Our menu features a multitude of local suppliers and the bars support local producers. Goals for this year include more recycling, looking for a solution to replace crisp packets, reducing paperwork and working with partners to raise awareness about local conservation.

If environmental considerations are now triggering purchase you need to communicate what you are doing, as it’s not just doing the right thing that’s important, the guest or potential customer needs to see and hear it. This works in two ways, for the guest who has already booked a stay, seeing messages about supporting the local economy and treading lightly impart a feel-good factor about their choice but for the potential guest, it can motivate purchase. The Travel Trends 2019 report by UK travel trade association ABTA states 45% of people say the sustainability credentials of their travel provider are important when booking a holiday, compared to only 24% in 2014! So, it’s not just doing the right thing, you need to be seen doing it.

Tourism is incredibly important to the Isle of Wight but now, more than ever, it’s interconnected with long-term environmental goals including stemming climate change, reducing pollution, valuing your community, preserving heritage, appreciating culture and natural assets. There is a global movement toward sustainable travel and we need to meet the customer demand for greener, sustainable tourism – not only is it good business sense but in doing so we can work together towards an eco-friendly future.

The Seaview Hotel, Restaurant and Bar is located in Seaview on the north-east Isle of Wight. The Restaurant holds 2 AA Rosettes and a Michelin Bib Gourmand for creative affordable food. The hotel employs around 40 people and last year won the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce Tourism Business of the Year.

www.seaviewhotel.co.uk 

Sources:

Isle of Wight Council Tourism Trade Development Plan https://www.iow.gov.uk/council/committees/cabinet/28-9-05/finaltourismdevelopmentplan.pdf

Booking.com report Travel Trends 2018 https://globalnews.booking.com/where-sustainable-travel-is-headed-in-2018/

ABTA Tourism Trends 2019 https://www.abta.com/industry-zone/reports-and-publications/abta-travel-trends-reports/travel-trends-2019  https://www.traveldailymedia.com/abta-travel-trends-report-2019/