Category: Blog

What is greenwashing?

What does greenwashing mean? 

Consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental and social impacts of the businesses they support. This trend is on the rise across industries, and travel is no exception. According to American Express’ 2023 Global Travel Trends Report, 76% of respondents are interested in minimizing the environmental impact of their trips, and 69% would spend more during a vacation if they knew it supported the local community. While this is a positive and promising trend, it can also incentivize businesses to design their marketing in a way that appeals to this key demographic without necessarily aligning their operations. 

Greenwashing definition: At its core, greenwashing is all about misdirection. It occurs when businesses apply a “green sheen” to their services with language they know will satisfy search engines and appeal to conscientious consumers without actually doing the work to drive positive environmental or social outcomes. 

Greenwashing example: A DMO uses vague or ambiguous language like “eco-friendly” or “sustainable” without clarifying what those terms actually mean in the context of the services it provides and the destination it serves.

Greenwashing can also show up in the imagery a business uses in its marketing materials. Photos and graphics play an important role in sustainability messaging and can misleading consumers if they don’t align closely with the claims being made. 

Greenwashing example: A hotel relies on non-renewable energy sources for heating and cooling but includes a photo of solar panels on its website to convey a more sustainable approach to energy fulfillment. 

How to identify genuine sustainable tourism practices 

It’s one thing to understand how to avoid greenwashing in travel, and another to understand how you can break through the noise to identify meaningful sustainable tourism practices to celebrate the companies, brands, and destinations that are deploying them. Asking the following three questions can help gauge whether an organization is culpable of greenwashing or implementing tourism practices that genuinely preserve natural and cultural resources. 

1. Are sustainability goals material to the organization’s operations and supported by a clear roadmap? 

When seeking out genuine sustainable tourism practices, you can start by looking for an environmental policy and a commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion (bonus points if the organization has set measurable goals for carbon reduction, biodiversity, or conservation). It’s worth noting that while these policies are crucial, the process of implementing them can be time and resource-intensive, particularly for small businesses. 

Additional signs that an organization is on the right track in its sustainability journey include commitments toward: 

  • Localizing its supply chain (i.e., sourcing local food and beverages) 
  • Eliminating single-use plastics (think key cards and toiletries)
  • Using renewable energy sources
  • Managing waste and water efficiently
  • Employing locals and outlining a progressive path for career development 
  • Advocating for animal and child welfare
Supporting sustainable agriculture and local farmers in Vietnam
Learning about and choosing locally-sourced foods can be a fun and effective way to reinforce sustainable tourism practices and support local farmers (Photo Credit: Laura Rankin)

Learning about and choosing locally sourced foods can be a fun and effective way to reinforce sustainable tourism practices and support local farmers.

If these types of commitments aren’t readily available via a company’s public-facing channels, don’t be afraid to respectfully ask about sustainability standards and the steps being taken to drive positive social and environmental action before, during, and after your trip. 

Some examples of the types of questions you can ask to better understand a company’s commitment to sustainability include: 

  • Are you taking steps to measure and reduce your carbon footprint? 
  • How do you manage food waste? 
  • Do you monitor and control energy use, especially heat and air conditioning? 
  • Do you reinvest profits back to serve the local community?
  • What are your key sustainability metrics? 
  • What are your sustainability goals for the future?  

Becoming carbon neutral by 2030 is an admirable goal, but it doesn’t really mean anything without a clear roadmap that details the strategies and metrics involved in achieving it. Genuine sustainability commitments require a detailed action plan as well as public-facing information on any progress made to date. 

Key takeaway:

Companies with genuine sustainable tourism practices go beyond talking the talk to walk the walk. Their marketing is in lockstep with their operations, and this is evident in the clear roadmaps they’ve laid out to achieve their sustainability goals. 

2. Are sustainability claims transparent and backed by data? 

Sustainability claims should be backed by concrete data whenever possible, and this quantitative information should be presented in a way that’s transparent and publicly available. Combining specific figures and evidence with written communications and marketing materials such as links, infographics, and statistics adds depth and credibility to messaging. 

Example: Rather than claiming to be “carbon friendly” and calling it a day, a tour operator ought to support the claim with data on emissions reduction over time in a way that is digestible and helps consumers understand the true impact behind the efforts being taken. 

Further, engaging expert auditors to validate sustainability data and reports can fortify credibility and demonstrate a commitment to integrity and transparency. Given the rise of greenwashing in an already saturated tourism market, it’s more important than ever to establish accountability and trust between companies and consumers. 

Key takeaway:

A vital step to avoid greenwashing is to ensure sustainability claims are backed by trustworthy and transparent data. This data must go beyond the individual organization to consider the entire value chain. 

3. Are sustainability claims reinforced by credible third-party certifications and standards? 

Established third-party certifications and standards that are backed by rigorous assessments and criteria can help to bolster the credibility of an organization’s sustainability claims. 

A few examples of credible sustainable tourism certifications and frameworks are: 

  • Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC): The world’s leading accreditation platform for sustainable travel companies
  • B Corp: Provides third-party validation of a company’s practices around social, ethical, and environmental impact and aggregates it into one overall score determined by the size and scale of its operations
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 17 interconnected goals established by the UN to transform the world by promoting prosperity while protecting the planet, reflecting the notion that ending global poverty requires a multifaceted approach
  • Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi): Drives ambitious climate action in the private sector by enabling organizations to set science-based emissions reduction targets and a clearly-defined path to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals

There are plenty of sustainability certifications and standards that exist on global, national, and regional levels. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know how to start navigating this space, you can begin by identifying what’s important to you. 

Example: If you’re passionate about ocean conservation, you can search for destinations and experiences that align with SDG 14: Life Below Water. 

View overlooking the Gulf of Thailand
Scuba diving is one example of a popular activity that provides travelers the opportunity to support businesses that are making strides to conserve and regenerate marine environments (Photo Credit: Laura Rankin)

Scuba diving is one example of a popular activity that provides travelers the opportunity to support businesses that are making strides to conserve and regenerate marine environments. 

It’s important to note that while certifications can help build trust between brands and consumers, they have their limitations and are certainly not an end-all. Certifications can be rigorous and expensive, and it’s important to consider whether an organization has the means to meet third-party standards. In some cases, a small business may be operating sustainably, but lack the capital required to secure certification. 

Key takeaway:

Certification can provide a framework for sustainable practices and a benchmarking tool for tourism businesses. However, it also requires significant investment, limits innovation, and is just one piece of the whole sustainability puzzle. 

Sustainable Tourism
Choosing organizations that are working to drive positive impact and being transparent about their journeys is voting for a regenerative tourism future (Photo Credit: Kyle Cleveland)

Support sustainable practices to influence the future of tourism 

Choosing brands, tour operators, and destinations that are working to drive positive impact for people and the planet and being transparent about their sustainability journeys is voting for a more regenerative tourism future.

When it comes to sustainable tourism, it’s important to stay curious, look at the whole picture, and understand that there’s no silver bullet solution. At the end of the day, it’s essential that brands, companies, and destinations are transparent about their hopes and plans – even if they’re just beginning their sustainability journeys. 

Traveling should be joyful, and it should also remind us that our planet is beautiful, delicate, and interconnected. Looking to credible sources, executing due diligence, and asking respectful questions can help you spot genuine sustainable tourism practices and contribute to the co-creation of a regenerative tourism future. 

Want to learn more about tourism for sustainable development? Get in touch, and be sure to follow along with us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Tourism is not static. It ebbs and flows, along with changing cultures, preferences and tastes. Destinations often struggle with adapting to the dynamic mindset of tourists, however. There are a number of techniques to mitigate seasonality in strategic destination planning, but what exactly are these?

A little story, when I was eight, I experienced the impact of tourism seasonality for the first time. I went to Sorrento, a picturesque beachside town on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula. During my summer visit, I observed numerous tourists enjoying the beaches. They patiently queued up outside restaurants and ice cream shops. Additionally, all the stores were open, catering to the needs of tourists who were purchasing souvenirs and various items.

This time, things were different. Many shops were closed, including the ice creamery. There were a few restaurants open, but only half full. The beach only had a few individuals walking along the sand, and the ambience was more relaxed and mellow.

Maya Bay, a popular area in Thailand that had to be closed off due to overtourism and seasonality.
Maya Bay, a popular area in Thailand that had to be closed off due to overtourism and seasonality (Photo Credit: MikeClegPhoto/Pixabay)

“Mum, where are all the tourists?” I said,

“Not many tourists come in Winter; it’s too cold for the beach; it’s the low season.” Mum exclaimed,

“But, Sorrento has many other great activities to do, so it should attract tourists throughout the year!”

The idea that came to me as an eight-year-old is something that tourism professionals have struggled with for many years.

How can we tell tourists that there is no such thing as the ‘best season’? How do we tell them that our product is engaging and enjoyable outside peak times so that they keep coming? In addition, in some cases, how do we deter individuals from coming during peak times to prevent overtourism? These are the considerations needed to curtail seasonality in strategic destination planning.

What is the meaning of seasonality?

Seasonality‘s definition in tourism relates to the volatility of tourist numbers in a destination over time due to natural and institutional factors. Natural factors predominately include the weather and climate, which may affect elements of experience within a destination.

The cherry blossom season in Japan occurs in late March or early April. It is a well-known example of natural seasonality in tourism. Thousands of tourists come to see the cherry blossoms, causing airfares and hotel prices in Japan to increase significantly. 

Institutional factors are related to specific events which may occur at different times of the year. In my home city of Melbourne, Australia, a major example is the Australian Open. This is an annual major tennis tournament that attracts swarms of tourists both domestically and internationally.

Kinkakuji in Japan. Japan is a destination negatively affected by seasonality.

Kinkakuji in Kyoto, Japan, a destination that grapples with the effects of overtourism and seasonality. (Photo Credit: Kevin Li)

What is the effect of seasonality?

Seasonality’s effects on destinations can be far-reaching, affecting the environment, society, and the economy. High demand in peak times puts strain on locales and can cause long-term damage. In low seasons, tourism-dependent places may experience poverty, a decline in material living standards, and overall despondency.

Overtourism: Strain on local resources and services during peak season

During peak season, certain places get overwhelmed by too many tourists, which strains local services and infrastructure. This is what is called ‘overtourism’, which has been an issue affecting destinations for decades. This is a key development focus that Solimar International partners with destinations to prevent.

In particular, this has intensified in some destinations following the end of the end of COVID-19 lockdown. Overtourism heavily affects Venice in Italy and Barcelona in Spain, particularly during the summer months. These destinations have experienced environmental damage, alienation of local residents, and impacts on the capacity of local services. The impact of too many tourists can bother residents, making them dislike tourists more and worsening the tourist experience.

Overtourism can be so bad that it also threatens the local ecology, both fauna and flora. 

For example, tourism destroyed Thailand’s Maya Bay after the movie “The Beach” made it famous in 2000. This was particularly because the vast majority of tourists would visit the bay during Thailand’s ‘cool season’, meaning a concentration of tourists around this time period.

Tourists and boats damaged coral, causing marine animals like sharks to leave and the bay to lose its natural beauty. It took a major closure and regeneration project at Maya Bay to return it to its pristine glory.

However, even after these works, the area is still at risk. Some say that current efforts to curtail tourist numbers are not enough to protect it. There are calls to close Maya Bay off to tourists completely in peak season. The need for drastic measures to keep tourism sustainable and mitigate seasonality in strategic destination planning is increasingly apparent.

Economic hardship during the low season

When destinations enter their low season, demand for local goods and services often decreases substantially. This depends on the destination’s reliance on its tourism industry.

For destinations with high social and economic reliance on tourism, the results can be very alarming. When visitor numbers drop, people may lose their jobs and income, putting pressure on their household budgets.

Places with high seasonality have difficulty getting outside investment because people think they won’t make as much money overall. This is because spending and growth are not consistent, even if the place has a popular holiday season.

Seasonal employment

One pivotal challenge facing destination management organizations is the intricate puzzle of seasonal employment. Places with fluctuating demand use temporary contracts to hire more staff during busy times. However, the company releases these staff members when demand decreases.

Some people, such as adventurous working holidaymakers, find these contracts suitable. But in certain areas, they become the main source of income for residents throughout the entire year. The consequence? A pervasive shadow of seasonal unemployment looms over destinations, casting a gloomy veil of poverty. Notorious among these are ski destinations, where extended closures outside peak times exacerbate the issue.

In addition, many places struggle to staff their businesses adequately during peak periods. This happened most recently in 2021-2022 with the easing of COVID restrictions in the USA. However, this is not the first time it has happened, and it will likely be an issue for future ski seasons. Thus, developing a sustainable employment solution is vital when curtailing seasonality in strategic destination planning.

What are some strategies to mitigate seasonality in strategic destination planning?

Seasonality can really bring destinations to their breaking point. At Solimar International, we work with destinations to develop comprehensive strategies to prevent this. No single technique will eliminate seasonality; however, using a careful mix of different techniques can mitigate the issue. These techniques can include economic, marketing, and societal dimensions to tackle seasonality in strategic destination planning from all sides.

The Louvre. Whilst seasonality remains moderate in Paris, where the Louvre is, overtourism is high, and is a key concern for the protection of the Louvre's artwork.

The Louvre, a very prominent tourist destination in Paris, France, often overrun by tourists, especially in peak holiday seasons. This can affect the integrity of the artwork inside. (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

Strategic destination planning technique 1: Implementation of a seasonal pricing strategy

When the weather is not conducive for tourism, there must be another compelling reason to visit the destination. Altering prices is a great way to encourage people who want to travel on a budget. Increasing prices in peak season to subsidize cheaper prices in low season means that average income remains the same.

Most hotels often use demand-based pricing to maintain steady revenue flows. Airlines also use seasonal pricing and service offerings to increase yields from tourism. Local businesses can make use of seasonal pricing in their service offering.

In peak season, restaurants can increase their menu prices, entry fees, and range of services to attract greater yield. During slow times, businesses can link together to offer affordable package deals that attract visitors and increase spending. This incentivization allows the destination to defy seasonality in strategic destination planning, increasing yields from tourism to benefit the local economy.

Strategic destination planning technique 2: Target locals and domestic tourists

Locals are fantastic people to target when attempting to combat seasonality. Low barriers to tourism, such as lower cost and distance, increase their propensity to travel in off-peak times. These times of the year are quieter and are likely to attract locals who wish to have a more relaxing experience.

An example was the Victorian travel voucher scheme, which encouraged tourism within Victoria, Australia, in late 2020. The vouchers gave a $200 discount on tourism in regional Victoria, if customers met certain requirements. Customers had to spend at least $400 on activities, lodging, or tours in regional Victoria to use them.

This helped regenerate tourism after a period when tourism numbers were at an all-time low. The DMO used this plan during the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdown. However, destination managers can also use it to fight against seasonal changes. In Australia, this strategy is part of a broader narrative to create a ‘tourist mindset‘, bolstering domestic visitation.

With a strong domestic tourism economy, cheaper, shorter travel leisure trips help to fill in gaps in low periods, aiding stability. This is particularly important in areas with high economic reliance on tourism.

Strategic destination planning technique 3: Development of a broader product and package range

Creating tourism products and packages for low and shoulder season tourism are great ways to combat seasonality. Every destination has something to offer at all times of the year, even if it is not their hallmark product.

A great example of this are “four season resorts” (and no, we are not just talking about the lavish hotel chain), where unique experiences are offered at all times of the year.

Guests can enjoy skiing in winter, swimming in summer, and other indoor activities like ice skating or leisure treatments. Operators can also create special deals for conferences and MICE events for low season to fill in the gaps. Ensuring that there are no times when the tourist does not have a reason to go is key in combatting seasonality in strategic destination planning.

A prominent example of this is, coincidentally, the “Four Seasons” Resort in Whistler, British Columbia. While most prominently a ski resort for winter months, it also offers experiences in fall, summer and spring. Combined with adjusting season rates and other seasonality adjustments, the resort brings in visitation year-round. This preserves jobs and ensures stability for the destination, even if there are minor fluctuations in seasonality patterns.

Whistler, Canada, the location of an all-seasons resort that aims to mitigate seasonality

Whistler, Canada, the location of an all-season resort that caters to tourists throughout the year, not just the winter peak. (Photo Credit: Brigitte Werner/Pixabay)

Key takeaways to eliminate seasonality in strategic destination planning

The bottom line is tourism will happen if tourists are happy and will slow if they are not. The key to any successful strategy lies in how customers respond. This comes down to the needs of the tourism segment in your market and the external environment. Listening to both customers and the needs of society and the environment is vital in creating a sustainable tourism strategy.

For price-sensitive tourists, seasonal pricing of airfares or hotels may be an effective approach. However, in areas frequented by more affluent tourists, enhancing the quality and breadth of tourism offerings can serve as a better incentive.

Monitoring peaks and troughs in tourism activity and their repercussions on the broader economy, society, and environment is paramount. If local communities, infrastructure, and natural ecosystems are adversely affected by fluctuating tourist numbers throughout the year, proactive measures are necessary.

If you’re considering a trip, it’s an opportune moment to reconsider your travel timing and approach. Sustainability concerns aren’t solely the responsibility of destination marketing organizations; significant changes can stem from individual behavioral adjustments. Opting for off-peak travel times and educating yourself about current issues in your destination can contribute to mitigating adverse impacts.

Solimar’s tourism expertise helps you create a captivating story that promotes tourism all year, not just in peak season. Want to help implement sustainable tourism solutions? Learn more about our virtual internship opportunities here

Fish-eye style photo of two Gen Z backpackers riding on a motorbike, a sustainable form of transportation. They are driving on a rural road in central Vietnam, surrounded by rolling hills covered with beautiful green plants. Photo by Jordan Opel on Unsplash.

Tourism is a constantly changing industry that works best when it can anticipate and adapt to new trends amongst tourists. It’s in the best interest of destination management organizations (DMOs) to frequently engage in tourism planning, and to consistently navigate changing trends and adjust to new demographics. As we prepare for the changes to come in 2024, let’s take a look at how Gen Z travel trends are shaking up the tourism industry.

Why Focus on Gen Z Travelers?

Members of Gen Z are typically considered to be those born between 1997 and 2012. In the United States, they make up over 20% of the population. They’re diverse, well-educated, technologically savvy, and are likely to make big changes to many industries across the board.

You might be wondering why it’s so important for destinations to consider Gen Z when it’s still a relatively small percentage of spenders—the youngest members aren’t even teenagers yet, and the oldest are just entering their mid-20s. Here are a few reasons why it’s important to keep this group in mind: 

  • The oldest members of Gen Z will have recently graduated college and are entering the workforce. They’ll be flexing their new spending power with a growing disposable income.
  • Gen Z is among the most eager to travel after COVID-19. Many were sent home from study abroad programs or had to cancel plans for gap-year travels due to the pandemic.
  • Younger Gen Z can have a strong influence when planning family vacations. This is a significant consideration when family travel makes up about 30% of the travel industry.

Read on to discover how Gen Z likes to travel, and the trends that are changing the travel industry.

Social Media Driven Wanderlust

A young Gen Z traveler is taking a photo for her travel blog. She is standing in front of a large wall covered with light and dark blue tiles, with windows letting in lots of natural light, in Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash.
A Gen Z travel blogger photographs a beautiful blue tile wall in Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash.

Gone are the days of brick-and-mortar travel agencies or dusty guide books listing off the same ‘cities that everyone needs to see before they die’.

Online resources are the predominant method for modern travelers to use when developing their travel plans. TikTok has frequently been regarded as Gen Z’s new preferred search engine, with 40% using the app for inspiration (the #travel hashtag on TikTok has over 182 billion views). For Gen Z, active social media use and hyper-connectivity have been dominating features for most of their life. The world is made so much smaller through the internet—never before has someone been able to see and connect with people and places on the other side of the world.

This increasingly globalized world creates an incredible resource for tourism marketing. Tourism has always been a visual industry. People are more willing to travel somewhere if they can see what that place looks like and, by extension, if they can imagine themselves there. Social media can show corners of the world that may never have been highlighted by the traditional travel brochures or guide books, inspiring waves of people to explore off the beaten path.

Across all industries, influencers have largely replaced traditional forms of advertising and marketing. People are much more willing to engage with a product if they feel that they can trust the source. Travel influencers are able to uniquely market destinations in a way that comes across as authentic and relatable, and is the Gen Z travel trend that may have the biggest impact in how the tourism industry looks in the future.

Travel influencers in Tunisia

Solimar has recognized the importance of social media use in destination marketing, as can be seen through our collaboration with the USAID Visit Tunisia project. The campaign, called “Tounes Lik”, worked with two travel influencers to promote domestic tourism in Tunisia, and at the time of this blog post’s publication, saw a major increase in engagement with the campaign’s social media pages: a 37% follower increase on Facebook and 300% follower increase on Instagram. In this follow-up blog, Visit Tunisia celebrated an increase in bookings for the companies featured in the “Tounes Lik” social media content, proving that these travel influencers had a direct impact on the domestic tourism industry in Tunisia.

It’s crucial for destinations to have a strong online presence. Accounts on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are great ways to get the attention of Gen Z travelers, and intentional collaboration with travel influencers and content creators can promote businesses and destinations to viewers all around the world. 

Developing Digital Nomad Havens

A Gen Z traveler sits on a sandy beach with the ocean in the background. She is leaning against a bright orange suitcase and is working remotely on both her phone and laptop. Photo by Anastasia Nelen on Unsplash.
Gen Z traveler sits on the beach, leaning against her suitcase and looking at both her phone and laptop. Photo by Anastasia Nelen on Unsplash.

A digital nomad is someone who moves to another country with the intention of working remotely for an employer in their home country. As remote work becomes increasingly common across many industries worldwide, many Gen Z individuals are opting to exchange the typical office lifestyle for a life on the road. This trend increased following the COVID-19 pandemic, when many businesses decided to keep employees working from home. Many see remote work as promoting a better work-life balance, and lots of Gen Zers are using this as an opportunity to become a digital nomad.

Many countries are developing digital nomad visas to attract adventurous workers to stay for longer periods. This visa scheme can also help address the problem of “brain dumps” (skilled workers immigrating to other countries to find work). It can also really help to stimulate the local economy following the economic plateau caused by the pandemic. 

Immigration Advice Service listed 42 countries offering some form of digital nomad visas, across Europe, the Caribbean, South America, the Middle East, and Asia. There are many incentives for remote workers to become a digital nomad, including: 

  • Little to no income tax to be paid towards the host country (Croatia, Costa Rica)
  • Lower cost of living, especially for those coming from the United States (The Republic of Georgia, Saint Lucia)
  • A simplified path to extended stay visas and residencies (Greece)

A word of caution: the challenges of digital nomadism

Life as a digital nomad can be sweet. However, the huge influx of wealthy foreigners can sometimes be detrimental to the destinations.

In the time since the visa has been established, the cost of living has risen exponentially in many destinations popular among digital nomads. Mexico and Spain, for example, have seen housing prices skyrocket. This forces the locals to be evicted to make space for those who can afford these rising prices with higher foreign incomes, potentially fostering resentment among the local population.

Digital nomad visas are still relatively new and might not have as many regulations or restrictions as other visa schemes. As Gen Z gets older and more people are sticking to a hybrid work environment, it’s important that digital nomad visas are thoughtfully developed alongside DMOs in order to best support both the traveler and the destination.

Gen Z and Sustainable Tourism Practices

Bright yellow CityCycle bikes are lined up next to the pavement on an urban road in Brisbane, Australia. The popularity of sustainable forms of travel have made these bike rental companies much more common throughout the world. Photo by ZACHARY STAINES on Unsplash.
Photo of many rental bikes lined up on an urban street in Brisbane, Australia. Photo by ZACHARY STAINES on Unsplash.

Gen Z has been reported to be among the most concerned about climate change and is leading the push towards more sustainable tourism practices, as can be seen in Solimar’s webinar concerning sustainable changes to the travel industry following COVID-19. 69% of Gen Z reported feeling strongly about sustainable travel, compared to only 48% of the Baby Boom generation.

This concern over climate change is fueling a change in the tourism industry. Gen Z travelers are trending towards sustainable tourism, and are doing so through experiences that encourage community engagement. Sustainability means more than just the environment; it also covers bolstering the local economy and preservation of the local culture. TrovaTrip has found that Gen Z travelers are more willing to give back while traveling, through community and environmental restoration projects—and Globetrender found that they were 3 times more likely to give back when traveling when compared to other generations.

Some sustainability changes that Gen Z travelers have been making include:

  • Traveling by road or rail instead of by plane
  • Shopping at locally owned businesses, ensuring that money is spent within the local community instead of at foreign-owned businesses
  • Researching tourism providers thoroughly to ensure their sustainability practices are reliable
  • Volunteering with local projects or engaging in community-led efforts to support the environment

Destinations should keep in mind Gen Z’s inclination towards sustainability and understand that it’s becoming a priority for more and more travelers as we continue to operate within the climate crises. Gen Z clearly cares deeply for the destinations they’re traveling to. They’re undertaking a stewardship role when they travel, something that hasn’t really been seen in generations before.

As a whole, Gen Z travel trends are directing the tourism industry towards a more connected and sustainably conscious world. DMOs can help destinations to embrace these trends and develop tourism practices that will positively impact both the traveler and the destination. 

At Solimar International, we help DMOs anticipate these changes in travel trends and develop a proactive plan to help support tourism industries in destinations around the world. For a closer look at the work that DMOs provide to destinations, check out this Solimar blog post.

Want to learn more about sustainable tourism development? Get in touch and be sure to follow along with us on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn

Kiama, a beautiful destination near Sydney, Australia with a comprehensive storytelling and destination marketing plan.

In the dynamic landscape of 21st-century tourism, the forces of climate change, social media, and a major post-pandemic travel resurgence are shaping the industry. As such, the significance of storytelling in sustainable destination and tourism marketing has never been greater.

The art of storytelling now stands as a pivotal tool in captivating the hearts and minds of travelers. Every destination harbors a unique narrative, yet not all have mastered the art of narrating it effectively. To craft a compelling marketing campaign for your tourism offerings, one must delve into the profound craft of storytelling marketing.

What is storytelling in sustainable destination and tourism marketing?

At Solimar International, we have elevated storytelling to an art form and a passion. With a global portfolio of projects, we are dedicated to developing, managing, and promoting sustainable tourism destinations.

Our approach transcends conventional content marketing, forging emotional connections that bind audiences to the destination. It involves crafting a narrative that weaves together the destination’s history, culture, and community through engaging anecdotes and stories that resonate with travelers.

A destination rich in compelling stories stands poised to reap the rewards of increased footfall, expenditure, and profitability. The challenge, however, lies in the fact that many Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) excel in content marketing and optimizing the marketing mix. However, they often overlook this deeper connection.

Technical aspects like segmentation and search engine optimization are important, but they work even better when combined with storytelling techniques.

To make a successful tourism content marketing campaign, remember these four essential elements of storytelling skills:

  • Creation and maintenance of a consistent narrative and brand.
  • Illumination of knowledge that fosters interest, reliability, and relatability to the destination.
  • Celebration of distinctiveness and noteworthiness of the destination.
  • Brand connection from the heart and engagement through emotion.

Creation and maintenance of a consistent narrative and brand.

A place needs a clear brand and identity that stays consistent across all aspects of marketing. Marketing messages should consistently communicate the destination brand through memorable points of discussion, such as personal or collective stories. These stories promote the destination brand on a deeper level, creating greater engagement, reputation, and conversion.

Sustainable tourism marketing strategy example: Blue Mountains

Earlier this year, I went to my favorite destination, the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, Australia. I admired the local community’s work and Blue Mountains Tourism‘s efforts to establish a consistent story and brand for the area. This brand focused on community and ecotourism despite being impacted by devastating bushfires in 2019-2020. 

The storytelling narrative of community strength and grassroots sustainability was integral in the positioning of their tourism branding. For example, local groups collaborated to promote tourism and obtained certification from Ecotourism Australia, Australia’s ecotourism accreditation body.

You can sense their strong connection to the area when you talk to locals or visit local businesses in the mountains. Their passion for the Blue Mountains inspired me to join their cause. Indeed, the destination’s brand reflects the love and care for storytelling through mesmerizing natural, sustainable ecotourism experiences in the region.

Wentworth Falls in the pristine Blue Mountains, an Ecotourism certified sustainable tourist destination. The blue mountains has a great tourism storytelling and destination marketing strategy.
Photograph of Wentworth Falls in the pristine Blue Mountains, an Ecotourism certified sustainable tourist destination (Photo Credit: Christos Anastasiou).

Illumination of knowledge that fosters interest, reliability, and relatability to the destination.

Many of the destinations that Solimar International works with are still in the early stages of building their tourism industries. Many of these destinations are still unknown to most individuals, let alone as a candidate for their next adventure. 

Education can clear up misconceptions and can inform people of the opportunities that exist that they may not be aware of. For example, many people are probably unaware of the beautiful destinations within Liberia, such as Libassa Ecolodge.  

Good storytelling boosts a destination’s reputation, dependability, and interest in its products and services, opening new opportunities. Storytelling also displays how certain tourism experiences and brands are accessible to everyone, not just select groups of people. Hence, they may feel more likely to have a connection to, and thus purchase a holiday to the destination.

Sustainable tourism marketing strategy example: Liberia

Speaking of Liberia, Solimar International’s Liberia Conservation Works project captivates the importance of sharing knowledge in storytelling. The project involves strategic content creation that educates the public on the beautiful places, cuisines, and activities to do in Liberia.

The beautiful Libassa Ecolodge, a sustainable tourism hotspot in Liberia. Solimar International is currently implementing sustainable tourism storytelling in their destination marketing strategy in Liberia.
The beautiful Libassa Ecolodge, a sustainable tourism hotspot in Liberia (Photo Credit: Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism (MICAT))

The project empowers Liberian communities and individuals to share their stories with the world. This will make people trust Liberia as a tourist spot and know about its interesting places. It builds trust and encourages people to add Liberia to their travel experience list and plan a trip to the country. 

Celebration of distinctiveness and noteworthiness of the destination.

How often do you open your social media platforms? Do you often see aesthetically pleasing photographs of picturesque scenery or luxury hotels? Are they posted for engagement and popularity? These photos are crucial in any content or influencer marketing campaign, but on the surface, they are very common.

A good storytelling tourism campaign tells stories that highlight what makes a place special compared to others, to create meaningful written and visual content. It will also highlight the destination’s known highlights and idiosyncrasies. You can read a great example here by Thomas Kalchik, another blogger here at Solimar International. 

Kalchik’s skillful storytelling beautifully captures the allure of Capurganá, Colombia, elegantly blending vivid descriptions of its unique biodiversity and stunning scenery with the positive impacts of tourism. This narrative sets Capurganá apart as a distinct ecotourism destination, inviting readers to envision an immersive and transformative vacation experience in this hidden gem.

It’s essential to present information in an exciting way, so the audience doesn’t become overwhelmed with a sea of complex information. While there may be a wealth of incredible information about the destination, the overuse of statistics or complicated facts can bore the audience.

Instead, including some of this information in small portions within a story about the place is better for creating memories. It’s also a good idea to explain the unique stories behind photos in more detail to attract the ideal customers. It also gives photographs and destinations depth and life.

Sustainable tourism marketing strategy example: Australian Tourism Data Warehouse

DMOs can use a variety of tools to assist with showcasing the stories of their destination’s distinctiveness and noteworthiness. With destinations having a large variety of attractions and services, there is no better way of doing this than letting tourism communities and businesses tell their own stories.

In Australia, there is a tool called the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse (ATDW). The ATDW is a platform for user-generated content, which plugs into DMO websites. Local tourism operators use it to create a digital marketing profile.

Illawarra Fly, near Wollongong, Australia, an interactive ecotourism experience that is supported by the ATDW in their marketing campaign for tourism (Photo Credit: Christos Anastasiou).
Illawarra Fly, near Wollongong, Australia, an interactive ecotourism experience that is supported by the ATDW in their marketing campaign for tourism (Photo Credit: Christos Anastasiou).

This profile is then posted on DMO websites across the country, including Tourism Australia and other local or state websites. These profiles allow businesses to highlight their points of difference and what makes them special, curating their own content marketing campaign.

Businesses can prioritize storytelling over more time-consuming marketing and branding tasks, to attract tourists with a captivating and persuasive narrative. It also allows tourism businesses to showcase their accreditations, including their Ecotourism Australia certifications, which display their level of sustainability.

Brand connection from the heart and engagement through emotion.

The key to good storytelling in sustainable destination and tourism marketing is the bond created between the storyteller and the audience through the brand’s story. The deeper the connection, the deeper the desire to travel to the destination. One way to do this is to appeal to the audience’s emotions and generate a desire for visitation. One method is to create a content marketing plan that makes your audience feel happy and unable to ignore.

Destinations can do this effectively through the advertising of local cuisine. Food advertisements in tourism content marketing are powerful and reach many audiences because everyone loves food! Food is also a vehicle for local culture, which too strengthens the connection between the audience and the destination.

There are two main ways to engage an audience: through humor and by discussing the enjoyment of a tourism adventure. Another way is to create empathy and connection with people and communities that would benefit from visiting.

Sustainable tourism marketing strategy example: “Stay close, go further.”

Visit Victoria, the tourism organization of my state in Australia launched a successful tourism campaign called “Stay close, go further.” This campaign effectively utilized emotions and created heartfelt connections with its audience.

This campaign happened after a three-month lockdown in 2020 ended. Victorians were tired of staying home and wanted tourism to resume.

The campaign aimed to encourage people from Victoria to explore regional Victoria. It aimed to support local businesses affected by lockdowns, thus promoting social sustainability.

The Bendigo Tulip festival, an event promoted as part of Visit Victoria’s “stay close, go further” destination. Visit Victoria is the lead of Victoria's Destination Marketing Strategy.
The Bendigo Tulip festival is an event promoted as part of Visit Victoria’s “stay close, go further” destination marketing campaign (Photo Credit: Amelia Gee).

This tourism marketing campaign evoked emotional connection both in generating a desire to travel after an extended period of lockdown, as well as empathy for local businesses that have faced hardship and a desire to help these businesses.

This storytelling campaign was effective as it told the stories of multiple people affected by lockdowns and created a mutually beneficial solution through sustainable tourism. This tourism campaign was very successful and still continues today, promoting local tourism to spread out visitors and lessen environmental effects.

Final Takeaways

In the realm of sustainable tourism marketing, the art of storytelling has become a potent tool for branding strategy and content marketing. Effective tourism marketing transcends mere technical aspects and delves into the craft of storytelling.

Storytelling in sustainable tourism marketing involves creating and maintaining a consistent narrative and brand. Storytelling in sustainable tourism marketing involves creating and maintaining a consistent narrative and brand. This narrative and brand should share knowledge that sparks interest and connection to the destination. It should also celebrate the destination’s uniqueness and build a strong emotional bond with the brand.

Destination marketing case studies from the Blue Mountains and Liberia, and campaigns such as “Stay close, go further” in Victoria, Australia, illustrate the power of storytelling in tourism and strong branding of destinations.

Storytelling is important for successful, sustainable tourism content marketing. It plays a key role in a changing world with climate change, social media, and post-pandemic travel.

Nacula Island in Fiji, a place with a remarkable story that inspires tourism.
Nacula Island, Fiji, a tourism location with remarkable storytelling. (Photo Credit: Christos Anastasiou)

Liked learning about storytelling in sustainable destination and tourism marketing and want to hear more? Take one of our courses to learn more about how to make your destination marketing strategy richer. Visit our Institute for Sustainable Destinations website today.

Tourism is a global business: last year, global capital investment in travel and tourism totaled $856 billion. Governmental and non-governmental stakeholders invest not only domestically, but also abroad. This article highlights some reasons why private, governmental, and Intergovernmental Organization (IGO) stakeholders invest in foreign tourism projects.

Private and Governmental Investment in Foreign Tourism Projects

Investment in foreign tourism is a form of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). In FDI, a corporate or governmental stakeholder makes substantial, lasting investments in a foreign country. In the case of tourism, many developing countries are rich in scenery and culture but lack the capital to develop their tourism. FDI can foster and maintain economic growth in those countries and expand the recipient countries’ job market.

Chain hotels are a classic example of private-sector FDI in tourism. In the second quarter of 2023, Marriott International, Inc. earned 61% of its revenue from managed hotels in the international market. The multinational corporation just announced its plan to open three luxury hotels in Vietnam on October 26, 2023. Such projects in developing countries can improve the overall attractiveness of the destinations, strengthen the local workforce, and help the countries gain access to the global market.

A representative governmental agency that invests in foreign tourism projects is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID has implemented multiple large-scale projects to coordinate FDI in countries like the Republic of Georgia and Bangladesh. In 2023, it disbursed $65 million and $320 million to the two countries respectively. In the case of Bangladesh, specifically, the US hopes to help the country become a middle-income country by 2030 and harvest a strong partner in the Indo-Pacific through FDI.

Tourism is an important part of USAID projects, contributing to their overall economic growth, biodiversity conservation, and climate resilience objectives. USAID not only invests in tourism but also conducts capacity-building to help Bangladesh develop tourism practices. USAID has evaluated the current tourism market of Bangladesh. It identified poor certification policy, the lack of promotion, and the lack of skilled workforce as areas of improvement.

On-the-ground Impact of Foreign Investment in less-Developed Countries

Less developed countries are often aware of the benefits of FDI. Bangladesh categorizes tourism as a “thrust sector”, that is, a high-priority sector for investment. In early 2023, the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) formulated ten development project proposals (DPPs). In the next fifteen years, these DPPs will require around $1.18 billion investment, mostly private. The investment will be used to upgrade the tourism infrastructure of ten regions, including the Sundarbans, and construct more infrastructure including accomodations. 

The Sundarbans EcoGuide Training, which took place between September 14-21 (photo source: BECA) 

As the world is recovering from the pandemic, tourism FDI is returning to its pre-pandemic level. According to UNWTO and fDi Intelligence’s 2023 report, foreign investors announced 352 tourism projects in 2022. That is an increase of 23% from the previous year.

However, despite FDI’s positive impact in developing countries, high-profile foreign direct investment historically still cluster in developed countries. The UK, home of many globalized tourism corporations, devoted only about 6% of its outward tourism FDI to developing countries.

The environmental sustainability of private-sector tourism FDI is also questionable. While Vietnam welcomes Marriott’s investment, it has experienced the negative ecological impact of FDI. Between 1991 and 1995, 24% of FDI in Vietnam entered the tourism sector, especially the construction of hotels. The investment helped Vietnam increase its international arrivals by fiftyfold. However, resort development strained Vietnam’s natural resource: by 1994, the country’s forest coverage dropped from 43.7% in 1943 to 26.1%. Such examples highlight the necessity for investors to be environmentally conscious.

 

The pristine natural scene of Nhị Bình, Vietnam

IGO Funding Foreign Tourism Projects for Sustainability and International Development 

Inter-governmental agencies like the UN and World Bank also invest extensively in foreign tourism projects. They emphasize World Heritage preservation and economic sustainability. 

UNESCO: Foreign Investment Benefits Environmental and Cultural Conservation 

According to UNESCO’s policy guideline, tourism has a two-way connection with World Heritage Sites. World Heritage Sites offer tourism destinations, and tourism presents the sites’ outstanding value to a broader public.

Tourism, however, must be sustainable. Climate issues like erosion, rising sea levels, and deforestation threaten World Heritage Sites on all continents. Because tourism will contribute over 10% of the world’s carbon emissions by 2035, it could exacerbate the challenges facing our World Heritage.

To protect World Heritage Sites from the negative impact of tourism, UNESCO operates the UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Program. The program administers two million euros funded by the German government to support sustainable tourism development. Such support is especially important as tourism recovers from the pandemic.

In Angkor, Cambodia, the program launched a “Cash for Work” Scheme. In this program, unemployed tourism workers earn a wage while building a new footpaths in Angkor Wat that regulate the flow of tourists and protect the green areas around the temple. UNESCO also enhances the economic sustainability of Cambodia’s tourism. Workshops are held for vulnerable groups in local communities – particularly women artisans.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNESCO funds the municipality of Mostar to implement a tourism tax. The tax is be collected from vehicles with more than six passengers. The municipality’s funds will likely gain an additional €2.5 million through the tax.

World Bank:  Foreign Investment Benefits Global Economic Development 

The World Bank regards tourism as a key economic driver of growth and one of the primary employers. It partners with governments and the private sector to develop tourism in less developed countries.

Between 2018 and 2023, the World Bank invested $40 million in Ghana to boost the country’s tourism industry. The project took place when Ghana’s economy suffered. In 2016, Ghana’s economic growth slowed down significantly. The fall in gold price, decline in oil price, and shortage of energy rationing caused the country’s GDP growth to fall from 7.3% in 2013 to about 4% between 2014 and 2016. Amid the recession, however, the election in 2016 led to a peaceful transition to a government keen to diversify its economy.

Due to Ghana’s relative political stability and rich natural resources, the World Bank identifies tourism development as a feasible means for Ghana to gain more international exchange revenue. The World Bank aims to attract $10 million in private investment in tourism-related activities in project areas. The development activities will achieve a 5% annual growth rate in international tourist arrivals in Ghana.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s UNESCO World Heritage Site 

Community-based Foreign Tourism Investment

Admittedly, some grand-scale tourism investment projects do not directly benefit the locals. According to a 2019 survey by Booking.com, 68% of global travelers would like the money they spend on travel to go to the local community.

Several micro modes of foreign tourism investment focus on empowering the local community. Community investment and microfinance are two examples.

Community Investment

Community investment means that investors provide economically disadvantaged communities in the recipient country with financial resources. In tourism, community investments typically focus on micro- and small enterprises and infrastructure-related projects. These projects can serve both local residents and visitors.

The collaboration of UNEP’s Small Grants Program and ACTUAR (Costa Rican Association of Rural and Community Tourism) is an excellent community investment initiative. ACTUAR strengthens community-based rural tourism throughout Costa Rica. UNEP supported ACTUAR’s work in Los Campesinos Reserve by funding the upgrading of the local lodge. ACTUAR Received a small grant of $2500 to construct a small tourist receiving area and restrooms. The new infrastructure enhanced the experience of both the visitors and the locals.

Microfinance 

Microfinance is a form of banking service provided to low-income individuals or groups who don’t have access to financial services. it provides credit to entrepreneurs with little or no collateral in amounts considered far too small (typically between $100 and $1,000) to interest commercial lenders.

OneSeed Expedition, for example, is an international tour operator that uses microfinance to uplift the local communities at its destinations. The agency prioritizes underrepresented groups and independent business owners when selecting local suppliers. To support community entrepreneurship, OneSeed partners with local microfinance institutions (MFI), donating 10 percent of all revenue to local microfinance since its first trip in 2011. The local microfinance institutions then approve funding allocation to entrepreneurs, who repay the loan when their businesses grow. As of 2021, OneSeed has invested $376, 884 in 841 loans.

Women have been the main target audience of microfinance programs—out of the 20 million people benefiting from microfinance globally, 74% are women. Since women make up 54% of the tourism workforce but hold only 23% of leadership roles, Microfinance in tourism contributes to female empowerment. 90% of the recipients of OneSeed’s loans are female. En Via, another tourism organization based in Mexico, uses 100% of the tour fee to provide interest-free loans and educational programs for entrepreneurial women in one of the six communities where they work.

The Journey Forward: Sustainable Investment and Community Empowerment 

The stunning natural scenery of the Sundarbans should be protected by sustainable tourism development 

Tourism investment is a thriving business. As the world recovers from the pandemic, global investment in tourism is gradually recovering from its lows. World Travel & Tourism Council forecasts robust 11.5% growth in investment in 2023, amounting to $955 billion, with a return to pre-pandemic levels anticipated by 2025.

While stakeholders’ investments in foreign tourism projects strengthen the recipient country’s economy, investments must be beneficial to the environment and local communities. The following approaches would contribute to this goal:

Conduct Comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs): Before funding international tourism projects, stakeholders should thoroughly assess the potential environmental consequences of the project. The assessment should identify potential risks and propose mitigation measures to protect fragile ecosystems, wildlife, and natural resources.

Implement Sustainable Tourism Practices: Sustainable tourism should be at the core of tourism projects. Stakeholders should invest in tourism activities that reduce energy and water consumption, minimize waste, and support eco-friendly accommodations.

Foster Community Engagement and Benefits: local communities should participate in the decision-making process of tourism investment projects. International stakeholders should collaborate with local stakeholders, such as indigenous groups and local businesses, to create opportunities for local employment and infrastructure enhancement. Stakeholders should encourage community-based tourism initiatives that allow locals to showcase their culture and traditions.

To learn more about how Solimar is meaningfully involved in foreign investment projects and making a positive impact, please visit Solimar’s website

 

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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