By Tom Mcloughlin, Founder, SEO Travel
Sustainability is making an impact across a range of different industries, affecting everything from the cosmetic products we buy to the suppliers we buy our household energy from. Travel is an industry where sustainability ties into plenty of different areas, meaning that a lot of different businesses are having to consider their environmental impact and how they can reduce this.
If you offer sustainable tourism services, or are trying to appeal to customers committed to sustainable travel, a tailored marketing strategy is the best way to ensure you’re sharing the right kind of message that your target audience will respond to. In this article, we share some of the key statistics about why sustainable tourism is so important at the moment, along with actionable advice on how to promote sustainable services with your marketing strategy.
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Sustainability in Tourism
Sustainability has been a significant focus in the travel industry for some time now. Over 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to tourism activity, with this figure predicted to rise to 25% by 2030, seriously impacting the global climate crisis. (Source)
As a result of this, sustainable tourism has emerged as a growing trend that many businesses in the travel industry are starting to get behind. It has been defined by the UN World Tourism Organization as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”. Instead of putting economic goals at the forefront of their service offering, sustainable tourism businesses instead consider how they can offer an outstanding travel experience to their customers whilst having as minimal impact on the environment as possible.
Related trends like ‘slow travel’, ‘ecotourism’ and even ‘staycations’ all have similar goals in their pursuit of a new approach to travel that is much more mindful of its potential consequences. There’s a rising demand for these kinds of services, with the market for sustainable travel and tourism expected to grow by $235.21 billion between 2021 and 2025. (Source)
Sustainable tourism services can be anything from eco-friendly tour packages to transport providers that use green energy to power their vehicles. It can also involve tourist attractions and activities that operate in harmony with the environment and local population, utilising the skills and resources of the nearby area to limit environmental and also economic damage.
As awareness of the impact of climate change grows, along with an understanding of how travel and tourism contribute to it, it’s important that more and more travel businesses consider adopting a sustainable angle or approach to their services. Not only will this benefit you in terms of meeting the demand of eco-conscious customers, but it’s a necessary step in playing our part in protecting the planet.
Why Do You Need a Tailored Marketing Approach?
There’s a definite demand for sustainable tourism services and offerings from travel companies, but you might be wondering why you can’t just use a classic marketing strategy to advertise what you offer. You can, of course, but there are considerable benefits to adopting a tailored approach to specifical market your sustainable tourism services.
Whether you’re a company that exclusively offers sustainable tourism services and experiences, or they’re just a part of your service offering, you’re going to be targeting a specific kind of customer. The most successful marketing campaigns are the ones that have a particular section of your audience in mind, so if you want to make an impact, it’s important to tap into exactly what this group of customers is looking for.
A 2020 survey found that 65% of Gen Z travellers and 51% of millennial travellers are most concerned about sustainable tourism, with Gen Z being the demographic that cares the most about the topic. If you’re marketing sustainable tourism services, you should be aware that customers in these demographics are going to be the most interested, and adapt your strategy accordingly to include approaches that work well for this audience. (Source)
The above point is particularly relevant if these aren’t demographics that you have solely advertised to before. You’ll need to consider the kinds of social media platforms they’re most active on, the kinds of imagery they’re likely to be engaged by, and also the pain points and motivators that are exclusive to these groups.
Customers seeking sustainable tourism options are also usually going to be looking for these services in particular, not just travel experiences that have sustainability as an added bonus. So instead of having other features or benefits at the forefront of your marketing messages, sustainable tourism marketing needs sustainability at its heart if you’re going to reach the kinds of people that are specifically seeking these services.
Another point to consider is that the target audience for these services is going to be concerned with travelling to their trip or activity destination as well as the sustainability of the experience itself. Consider how you can promote more eco-friendly methods of transport as part of your marketing strategy and even offer discounts for things like public transport users to encourage this.
Finally, remember that 52% of today’s consumers are interested in supporting brands with sustainable values, with 55% of consumers saying that they’d happily pay more money for a more sustainable product. Many sustainable travellers are seeking tourism services offered by brands that are sustainable in everything they do, not just the experiences they offer, so it’s important to consider how you’re going to convey this through your marketing as well. (Source)
6 Tips for Marketing Your Sustainable Tourism Services
Get Specific with Your Target Market
We’ve already mentioned that the most effective marketing campaigns are the ones that have a very specific target customer in mind. If you’re looking for the best ways to advertise your sustainable tourism services, first identify the kinds of travellers that are likely to want to pay for them.
You need to dig into this more than just ‘environmentally conscious consumers’. What age are they? What kind of background do they come from? What are their personal values? What kinds of travel experiences are they seeking and what other travel services do they pay for?
As with most kinds of customer research, you should also take note of the platforms your target customers use, the kinds of content they engage with the most and any particular style or tone features that they respond best to.
Take this further by identifying what motivates your target market to travel sustainably and the kinds of experiences they want to get from this. Align these motivations with your unique selling points, and you’ll have the basis of a marketing approach that focuses on precisely what your ideal customer is looking for from a sustainable brand.
Lead with Your Impact
It’s a well-known piece of marketing advice that you should promote the experience or outcome that a product or service offers your customers instead of the specific features or benefits. When it comes to marketing sustainable tourism services, you should focus on the impact that your customers are going to make by travelling with your company.
For example, if you donate a portion of your profits to charity, let potential customers know exactly what this will achieve. ‘Every trip you book helps us release 5 more endangered birds back into the wild’ gives a much clearer idea of the impact your company has than making a general claim about supporting social causes.
Potential customers are going to be much more motivated to book with you if your marketing content tells them exactly how this will make a sustainable difference. Focus on the details and make your messaging as personal as possible so that your audience really feels like they’re having a positive impact.
Share Unique Advice
A key part of sustainable tourism is offering activities and experiences that have minimal impact on the environment and also supporting local people and businesses that help to keep a destination’s economy functioning. A great way to do this is to create content that offers unique, insider knowledge on things to do and places to go in the destination(s) you offer services, giving your customers tailored advice that helps them enjoy a more sustainable trip.
You can write guides and recommend places yourself, or you can take a more authentic angle and create content interviewing local people and asking for their advice as well. This works well in both a written and a visual format, especially if you create videos that allow for a much more personal and engaging approach.
Promote Relevant Sustainable Businesses
If your customers are seeking out sustainable tourism services then they’ll likely be looking for as many ways as possible to make their whole trip more environmentally friendly. You can appeal to this by partnering with other sustainable businesses that offer complimentary services and then promoting them through your marketing material and directly to customers about to travel.
Not only will this help to improve your customer’s experiences and demonstrate a proper commitment to sustainability, but partnerships are also a great marketing approach that can help to grow your audience. You can encourage the businesses you partner with to promote your services as well, helping you to reach new potential customers and potentially tap into new demographics you haven’t targeted before.
Pitch to Younger Travellers
A study on Millennial travellers found that 86% of customers aged between 18 and 29 consider sustainable travel options to be important when they’re booking a trip. This is the key demographic that you should be marketing your services towards, which means that you need to tap into what they’re looking for from marketing content. (Source)
First, think about the best formats to reach these potential customers. Video content, especially short-form video, is particularly popular amongst this demographic at the moment, along with marketing content that can be easily shared on social media platforms or interacted with.
If you’re using a social media marketing approach, remember that platforms like TikTok and Instagram are much more popular than sites like Facebook. These potential customers are also much more likely to engage with your brand on these platforms than through conventional customer support systems, so make sure that you’re monitoring activity and interacting with your followers.
It can be tempting to inflate or exaggerate your commitment to sustainability in your marketing material, especially if you’re trying to catch your customer’s attention with impressive claims. But it’s really important to remember that consumers of sustainable tourism experiences are going to be more committed to doing the research to find brands with values they want to support, meaning that false claims might quickly get found out.
As a brand, gaining and retaining your audience’s trust is incredibly important. You should shout about your sustainability efforts in your marketing content, but be sure to back this up with real evidence and avoid overstating or misrepresenting yourself.
Trust is incredibly important when you’re building a following and establishing a brand image, and our customers will appreciate honesty. If there are areas where you know your business could do better in its sustainability efforts, be open about this and the steps you’re trying to take to improve. This is likely to gain the attention and respect of customers that are also trying to make more sustainable choices, as well as deepen your audience’s trust in your brand.
Sustainable tourism is a topic that encompasses a variety of different brands and their service offerings. It’s an integral part of ensuring the future of the travel industry and setting a precedent that sustainability must be considered across every aspect of running a business, and knowing how to market your sustainable services is a great place to start with this.
If you’re looking for advice on developing a marketing strategy for your sustainable travel brand, get in touch with SEO Travel for a chat and to find out more about the range of marketing services that we offer. We’re a travel marketing agency that donates 100% of our profits to selected charities, so can also offer advice on using your brand as a vehicle for social change.