IEMS - Thought Leadership Brief #73

4 SPRING 2023 NO.73 / THOUGHT LEADERSHIP BRIEF Read all HKUST IEMS Thought Leadership Briefs at T: (852) 3469 2215 E: W: A: Lo Ka Chung Building, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon With Support from for the industry to cut on waste.11 Furthermore, they also ask for more incentives to travel sustainably and ask for more environmentally friendly travel initiatives to be offered. One suggestion is that youth advantage cards for railway travel should be available to everyone.12 In a nutshell, it is not enough to brand a product as ‘sustainable:’travellers want to know why it is sustainable, and also want to be engaged with incentives. RECOMMENDATION First and foremost, it is necessary to move beyond plans and towards action. Most industry players in the tourism industry are still hesitant to invest in designing more sustainable tourism products and services. It seems they are waiting for travellers to signal their appreciation, yet their move should come regardless. Efforts like reducing disposable plastic and products in catering services are long overdue, yet despite important commitments like that of the European Union to ban single-use plastics by 2030, very few players are yet to make this change. As a result, the current offer of sustainable products and services in tourism is lacking, and this is where a system of policies, monitoring, incentives, and rewards should come into place. Governments at national and local level, as well as destination management organizations (DMOs) should come up with ways of incentivising or inducing better behaviours from hotels and guide them to design, offer, and promote more sustainable travel products and services. It can be through tax incentives, or by creating partnership systems that make the whole travel experience designed with consciousness in mind. This can in turn yield several benefits for governments – from reducing waste and saving resources such as energy and water to attracting more tourists wishing to travel sustainably that will in turn give visibility to a destination’s image. Industry associations can also play a pivotal role in diffusing and incentivising sustainable practices across the tourism industry. They can partner with national governments to survey and monitor companies and their sustainable practices, helping to promote and reward frontrunners. This process could also help identifying key bottlenecks for them to implement more environmentally friendly technologies and practices. Government and DMOs could also chart guidelines on how to transition to zero waste and remove disposable materials from catering and accommodation services and could design rewards and incentives programs for both industry and travellers that partake in activities such as energy saving, recycling, or even monitoring of hotels’ sustainability. Innovative mechanisms for such rewards are still too few, and reluctance to implement them is mostly based on the wrong assumption that most people do not care about such things and want to be left alone while on holiday. Finally, digital travel platforms are also essential to enable travellers to access the information required for their choices more easily. Currently, only some of these platforms have started to provide such information, which remains limited and shows that, in certain destinations, sustainable accommodations providers are too few. Once the information on providers is collected, statistics can show if travellers choose sustainable properties and why. The collected data will be extremely valuable, also for governments and DMOs, to analyse travellers’ choice and to encourage late adopters of sustainability practices to follow the rest. Hence, only through coordinated efforts and engagement can the tourism industry finally embark on a meaningful transition towards becoming more sustainable. This policy brief is an elaboration of the author based on the White Paper ‘How to Create the Sustainable Travel Products Customers Want’ published in 2022 by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Accenture. The author was part of the group who provided feedback to the writing team before publication. 11 Agoda, 2021. Sustainable Travel Trends Survey, 2021: agoda-sustainable-travel-trends-survey. 12 ETC, 2022. Forewords. Exploring Consumer Travel Attitudes and Expectations to Drive Tourism Recovery, European Travel Commission Market Intelligence Report, Brussels: ETC. Angela Tritto is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Asian Studies at the University of Brunei Darussalam. She was formerly with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. In 2020 she was awarded the Hong Kong Postdoctoral Fellowship and she served as Fellow of the Global Future Council of Sustainable Tourism at the World Economic Forum. Her most recent research examines China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Southeast Asia. Her publications analyze the role of public, private, and third sector organizations in affecting development outcomes and sustainability. She holds a PhD in Public Policy from the City University of Hong Kong.