Month: September 2016

Sustainability helps meet customer demand for unique experiences

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Malcolm Dunn and Isis Iglesias

Malcolm Dunn, Customer Service Manager (TUI), and Isis Iglesias, Contracting Manager (TUI), were chosen as volunteers through TUI and the Travel Foundation’s skill-match volunteering programme, Project Discovery. They spent two weeks in Cyprus researching how to maximise the local economic benefit of TUI’s excursion programme.

Having spent two weeks talking to customers, excursion providers and seeing what the island has to offer, Malcolm and Isis landed back in the UK with fresh ideas about what a sustainable excursion looks like, and we asked them to share their thoughts.

For you, what is the most important element of a sustainable excursion?

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Malcolm – “For me, the most important element of a sustainable excursion is the positive legacy it leaves. Whether this is to the environment or the local people, there must be some element of positive benefit that leaves a lasting difference. If the future is kept in mind, the impact from sustainable excursions will be felt further, for longer and by more people.”

 

During your research, what did customers want from an excursion?

Isis – “Customers want to have enjoyable and unique experiences. Sustainable excursions usually have a more carefully designed itinerary which takes into account the impact of an excursion so that it treads lightly on  the environment and provides benefits to local people, and in some cases helps to preserve culture and heritage.  In this sense, creating more sustainable excursions can be seen as a recipe to creating more unique excursions, and customers will see the value in this.

During the customer interviews we conducted while in resort, we came across an important sector of the people who explicitly mentioned they would be more likely to book the excursion if they knew it was sustainable. There is an opportunity to communicate the ethical side of our excursions, and make a connection between our customers and our brand values.”

Malcolm added, “Overall, the customers we interviewed all want value for money with their excursions. If explained in the right way, sustainability can become a key selling point for excursions, ensuring that customers feel they are getting value themselves, as well as giving back.”

If you were to write a checklist for ensuring future excursions are sustainable, what would it include?

image-9Isis – “I would like to see suppliers setting targets for themselves to meet, within the environmental, economic and social spheres, because they need to be realistic targets for them to be able to start making changes. We could then help them make continuous improvements towards becoming sustainable. Step-by-step this would help to change the entire excursion programme.”

Malcolm – “To ensure an excursion is sustainable, we must take into account the people that are impacted – are they benefitting from the excursion on their doorstep? If not, how can we ensure they are?”


 

What happens next? The research will help feed into TUI’s excursion product development, shape customer and staff communications, and the learnings could also be spread to other destinations.

Giving the honey coop a buzz

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Yesterday, I had my first ever Skype call with the Much Kaab honey cooperative in Mexico. The group has only recently had the internet installed so I was bracing myself for some technical difficulties. To my pleasant surprise, the whole group appeared on screen with full video and audio. They looked happy, focused and prepared.

They described how they are taking ownership of their business. For example they are planning to travel from their small village to meet with a hotel manager to explain why their prices have gone up. I asked what they’d say, and without hesitation they replied:

“Because they are now made from all natural ingredients, which are better for the environment and for your customers. It also allows us to make a living from this business.”

As the call progressed I noticed something different about them, compared to last year.  They seemed more confident in themselves and in interacting with me. They seem to have taken control of the business and been empowered by becoming more independent, since our direct support ended last year.

Their hard work is starting to be rewarded financially too. They told me that their main hotel client, the Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe, following a consultation with guests, has doubled the number of rooms featuring Much Kaab products, therefore doubling their orders of shampoo and soap each month. 

As a result the group has been able to pay each of its eight members a regular salary for the past three months. Things are looking positive, as that same hotel chain has plans to embed this policy of local procurement into their business and also stock Much Kaab products in their hotel on the island of Cozumel.

It’s very motivating to see the results of this pilot project, yet at the same time I am aware that this is just one group in one community and that there is potential to connect lots of other small local businesses to the tourism supply chain.

The Travel Foundation’s new strategy, and the programme of work we’re developing in Mexico, is to work at a more strategic level, in order to have a wider impact in the region.

By Terry Brown, Destinations Programme Officer

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Building consensus in Croatia

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One of the characteristics of a holiday that can make the experience so rich and enjoyable is that it is made up of so many different factors – the accommodation we stay in, the food we eat, the places we go to, the attractions we see.

This can bring complicated challenges for those of us working towards more sustainable tourism, as these different aspects of the tourism product are often owned, provided by, or managed by different organisations across both the public and private sectors – such as hotels, tour operators, local councils, restaurants and bars.

As a result, many of our projects involve, and are reliant on, a diverse range of stakeholders and our new programme of work in Croatia is no different. Across two villages in Split-Dalmatia, we are supporting the different stakeholders involved in tourism to work together to improve the impacts of tourism on the local community and environment. In particular, we have been working to bring together organisations from the public and private sectors, including local tourism boards, hotels, small, local businesses and regional government bodies. 

Getting people in a room together to discuss an agreed set of topics may seem to be a quick and easy task, but it can often be one of the most time consuming and challenging parts of a project.

In Croatia, we have worked hard to resolve the barriers that were preventing these different organisations from working together and  we are happy to report that the ongoing workshops and meetings are enabling them to find a common vision for their destination. Ane Sindik, The Travel Foundation’s programme co-ordinator in Croatia said:

“We have come to the point where stakeholders have become more open and are able to solve problems together.  They understand that collaborative working can increase tourism income, improve customer satisfaction and ensure that tourism does not have a negative impact on the region.”

From now on, the stakeholders will be working jointly on a number of tourism development activities including cultural heritage valorisation, youth employment and sustainable excursion development projects.

By Thomas Armitt, Destination Programme OfficerTom Armitt