In the summer of 2017, Bouteco conducted a survey of people who are mostly already engaged in sustainability and responsible travel. From this Holly Tuppen has unpicked insights of a valuable and influential audience whose instincts will be relevant to tomorrow’s luxury travel choices. Discrepancies that we’ve uncovered in age and geography help to explain why the hospitality industry can feel lost when it comes to communicating sustainability.
The youngest and oldest among us care most about sustainability when choosing a hotel. While very few 30—44 year olds ‘didn’t care at all’, sustainability isn’t as definitive an issue for this group and there are other priorities at play; this age group is most likely to be time- and/or cash-poor.
Younger guests are willing to pay more to stay somewhere they know is sustainable — but they’re not necessarily willing to compromise on comfort. The 25—34-year-old generation of ethically minded, community-conscious consumers want to see their values reflected in all that they do and consume, including holidays. Travellers over 45 have a similar profile when it comes to paying more, but they’re not wanting to sacrifice comfort.
The oldest generation has the money to do good without having to scrimp on style or the luxury nature of their travel experience. Younger people are more idealistic about their actions, and so they are willing to get involved in community/ environmental work on holiday, though they might not have done this before. Those that have participated in a form of voluntourism in the past, would be willing to sacrifice comfort in favour of checking into a sustainable hotel.
Wealthier people are more concerned about environmental themes; those with less disposable income consider social initiatives a priority. Environmental factors are what respondents willing to pay more for a sustainable hotel care about most. Those that wouldn’t pay extra, have their interest piqued by community issues.
Provenance, nature and energy, waste and water management are of equal interest on the green agenda. Supporting local farmers and producers and community outreach are more interesting to those evaluating social and community themes, rather than supporting the arts, health, education and empowering disadvantaged groups of people.
There is neutral interest in certifications when it comes to measuring, or understanding the sustainability practices of a hotel. Europeans are more in favour of certifications (40% of respondents from Europe consider certifications to be very important). Under 24-year-olds have a strong bias towards certifications (65% consider certifications to be very important or important). Travellers who have experience of community work on holiday, are also very interested in certifications. Those that are most interested in certifications, are most likely to pay more for a sustainable hotel, too.
A hotel’s website is the go-to for understanding a property or brand’s community and eco initiatives. When considering the integrity of a hotel’s sustainability, most people favour a prominent section of dedicated online content. Unsurprisingly, sustainability stories discovered through social media are more important to younger people, whereas older clients are more likely to recognise formal accreditations.
Those in Africa, Europe and America are willing to pay more for a sustainable hotel, whereas people from Asia and the Middle East are more reluctant*. Travellers in Asia are willing to sacrifice comfort for the sake of sustainability, whereas people in the Middle East are not. People in the UK and America are most willing to compromise on comfort for the sake of sustainability (30—35%). People from the UK stand out as being significantly more interested in social and community issues than the rest of the survey respondents. Nearly 90% of respondents from Europe consider sustainability to be important when choosing a hotel. *Since we had a skewed UK audience, our geographical observations aren’t so reliable, but these were the indications.
Sustainability is increasingly front of mind for travellers of all ages and seeking brands with purpose is not the reserve of millennials. Under-30s are keen to align all that they consume with their ethical sensibilities, and their choice in hotels is another tribal badge alongside People Tree clothing, Dick Moby sunglasses, RMS Beauty cosmetics and Zojirushi coffee cups. Though their wallets don’t always match their eco-luxe aspirations, these are the luxury-hotel bookers of tomorrow and those engaging most meaningfully with digital content and sharing stories.
At the other end of the scale, older, wealthier hotel bookers are increasingly interested in responsible luxury. This group doesn't want to scrimp on comfort or style, and they’re more than happy to pay their way towards a more sustainable holiday. Nature, wildlife and eco credentials are top concerns, whereas younger people are more likely to engage with social and community issues. Whatever sparks an interest or motivates people to care about the brands that are kinder, most people turn to a hotel’s website to assess its sustainability integrity. This tells us that in order to communicate their philosophy and initiatives effectively, hotels that care need to have a dedicated page and compelling content detailing exactly what they’re doing and why.
Read more about our traveller profiles HERE