There’s been a ‘seismic shift’ in attitudes from travel providers towards the importance of sustainability in recent years, the boss of EasyJet Holidays told World Travel Market.
Harold Goodwin, WTM’s Responsible Tourism Advisor, introduced the operator’s CEO Garry Wilson on stage as one of the early adopters of sustainability in the industry, who understood its importance more than 20 years ago.
In reply, Mr Wilson said: “Back in 2001 sustainability as a concept was seen to be quite novel, something that people knew was the right thing to do but difficult to articulate and very much the premise of niche tourism. The thing that I am hugely reassured by is just the seismic shift of understanding about sustainability and why it is important.”
He said the issue of sustainability in travel is now “on an industrial level”, with “aircraft being designed, hotels built and destinations being developed”.
“The entire industry is involved,” he said.
Mr Wilson joined EasyJet Holidays in 1999 from TUI Group, where he was Managing Director for Group Product and Purchasing, heading a global team across 20 countries.
Mr Goodwin told Mr Wilson he had been surprised when he moved to EasyJet, asking why he made the move and whether he had regretted it.
Mr Wilson replied: “In all the time I worked in tourism, EasyJet was always discussed in terms of rapid growth. The one thing they had never ventured into was tour operating.
“I could stay where I was at TUI – I owe my career to TUI and I loved what I was doing there.
“On the other hand, there was an opportunity for me to set something up from scratch in a way that I would like to set it up and build the culture and outlook in a way that I wanted.
“The opportunity to do that was too good to turn down. One of the real temptations for me, which has proved hugely rewarding, is that there was nothing there before. This will be our approach to how we develop destinations and how we work with hotels.”
EasyJet Holidays carried 300,000 passengers in 2019, 1.1m in 2022 “will grow significantly more in the next year”, Mr Wilson said.
EasyJet Holidays is committed to offsetting 100% of carbon emissions as well as forming close relationships with the people and communities in its destinations.
The company has said it wants to ‘raise the bar, positively shake things up and lead the industry’ in sustainability.
He said companies that embrace sustainability will have happy customers, a much higher repeat rate – which in turn leads to lower marketing costs.
He warned some emerging destinations often don’t think about the social or environmental impacts and said the local community needs to be involved in plans and implementation too.
Mr Wilson also called out people who are “snobby” about all inclusives, and who criticise them for taking income away from local businesses.
“I hate the snobbery that’s attached to the idea of all inclusives and I hate the attitude that for some reason having an all inclusive destination destroys local communities and business.
“There’s not a business case to show that. The hotel probably would employ a good few thousand people. That hotel would be sourcing tons and tons of food, creating wealth.
“As long as the wages and standard of living that they are providing is good, I support all inclusive.”
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