Last week saw the launch of a new green initiative for sustainable tourism from leading travel website, TripAdvisor. Programme leader, Jenny Rushmore spoke to Blue & Green Tomorrow about how TripAdvisor GreenLeaders, now the largest green hotel programme in the world, is hoping to change the way travellers and the industry view sustainable tourism.
TripAdvisor GreenLeaders launched in Europe last Tuesday with the aim of helping travellers make eco-friendly choices when using B&Bs and hotels around the world. With 6,000 properties already featured in the new programme, while results from a survey show more than a quarter of EU respondents are making active eco-friendly travel choices, it’s set to be very popular.
Jenny Rushmore is the director of responsible travel at TripAdvisor and is leading the new green programme. She thinks interest in sustainable holidays is a growing trend that’s set to continue.
“We’ve found that green leader properties on average have 20% higher TripAdvisor rating that others, so overall we’ve found it to be really popular – both with the hotels who want to participate and also with our users,” she said.
Through polling, TripAdvisor found there was a real demand for green travel choices, but travellers didn’t feel enough advice was available. Nearly half of respondents said they don’t feel hotels currently provide enough information about their approach to sustainability.
“So there was this clear gap between what people were interested in and what was available. We realised that TripAdvisor, because it’s the first place where people go to book their trip, was really in this perfect position to close that gap and actually make it incredibly easy to book a green trip”, said Rushmore.
The new green scheme will mean that when users search for hotels, they don’t have to click through to a different section, but details on the green credentials will already be on the front page.
Rushmore added, “What we are hoping to do is to help millions of people make greener choices just by taking away all the effort and making it super easy.”
Travellers can also contribute to this change by writing reviews of the sustainability measures employed by hotels they have stayed in. The site has already accumulated 30,000 green reviews.
Rushmore says the more travellers chip in, the more businesses will respond.
“We’ve had properties and hotel chains actually change their policies so that their hotels can qualify for GreenLeaders and that’s the kind of change we would really like to see.
“It’s also a bit of a chicken and egg thing, as more hotels provide more green practices, so at the same time more consumers expect it. And we think in the future it will become as standard as expecting wi-fi in a hotel.”
Rushmore said she believes customers are already becoming more considerate of the environment when travelling, but the reality of our busy lives sometimes makes it difficult to make considered sustainable choices.
“I think that many people are very interested in it, but the challenge we all have in our daily lives is we are very busy and there is only so much time we can spend in researching whether what you do on everything is environmentally friendly.”
But by speeding up this process and empowering environmentally conscious travellers, TripAdvisor GreenLeaders will force hotels to take note of this new trend.
“Ultimately you vote with your feet so if you think environmental practice at a hotel is important then choose to go and stay somewhere like that, then also come back and write a review and tell the hotel that’s why you choose them.
“So the more travellers that tell hotels ‘this is why we were doing it and this is what we were interested in’, we think the more the industry will change.”
Next month Blue & Green Tomorrow will be hosting a range of talks on sustainability as part of Sustainable September. The Sustainable Tourism debate will see speakers debate for and against the motion, “Growth in tourism is undesirable: it is rarely economically, socially or environmentally ‘good’”.
Rushmore said if she was to answer the question, she thinks tourism growth doesn’t have to be unsustainable, but it’s challenging to prevent it being so.
She admits that sometimes tourism contributes to the degradation of the environment, but insists there are plenty of companies on the right track.
“There are lots of great examples both of accommodation, places which are actually giving back to the community and having a positive impact on the area that they’re in, there are also tour groups who do that.
“So I think that it certainly isn’t impossible, but it’s definitely a big challenge and that’s why it’s important that everyone takes it really seriously.”
The Sustainable Tourism debate will take place at the Museum of London on September 3 from 6-9pm. Tickets are available here.
Photo: Nicolas Raymond via Flickr
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