Source: The Travel
From the summit of Mount Everest to the Spanish island Mallorca, "overtourism" is now rampant, leading to environmental degradation, dangerous conditions, and pricing-out locals in their own towns. Last week His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex announced his own solution to this problem, Travalyst, which encourages consumers and companies to engage in sustainable tourism practices. Companies such as Booking.com, Ctrip, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor, and Visa have already signed on with commitments to decrease their footprint.
But criticism has come quickly over a perceived lack of tangible steps for how Travalyst will reach its ambitious goals. Gregory Miller, executive director of the Center for Responsible Travel, says, "They have a nice website…with some very lofty language…" but he suggests that they "develop a more meaningful and measurable set of commitments with outcomes". There needs to be action and follow through.
Palladium's William Upshur, Senior Manager of the Commercial Innovation Practice, works with companies looking to integrate sustainable practices while simultaneously growing their business. He has three suggestions for ways that travel and tourism companies can align with Travalyst:
1. Source Products and Services from Community Enterprises
Multinational companies have significant purchasing power when they enter a new market. By sourcing locally, whether it's food and beverages for a hotel or tour operating services for a cruise ship, companies can help the flow of tourism dollars stay in the local community.
Upshur says, "Sourcing locally seems like an easy first step, but often communities are lacking the infrastructure to meet a new, high demand. But companies must think more long-term and develop local networks of suppliers, which will increase trust with the community, and save money and waste over time."
In turn, companies can offer increased authenticity for visitors, possibly lower cost of operations, and garner goodwill with local stakeholders.
2. Hire and Develop a Local Talent Pipeline
Travelers come from all over the globe to popular destinations and may have diverse customer service needs. To deliver a high service standard that drives referrals, companies need to develop a strong talent pipeline from the local community who know the landscape, cultural nuances, and destination offerings.
"Sometimes this involves identifying the resources and skills that are lacking in the community," says Upshur. "Companies entering a market can create the demand needed to close these gaps, offering a stable source of income for workers with certain skills, or a stable buyer for local retailers, which helps the entire community's economy."
With the support of local agencies and universities, companies can strengthen their customer experience by investing in their recruiting and training programs, while simultaneously creating employment opportunities for surrounding communities.
3. Develop Tourism Coalition and Other Governance Entities
Destinations can face a host of challenges that impact everyone living and operating in the area – overcrowding, increased cost of living, and environmental degradation, to name a few. We believe stakeholder engagement, through coalitions and other governance entities, can unlock solutions that are more effective than those led by a single organisation.
Upshur adds, "Stakeholders must all be aligned, which can be the most difficult part. It often takes a convener or a catalyst to identify who needs to be at the table, bring them together, and then create a long-term strategy so all the benefits are realised."
The creation of these entities represents a significant investment in both time and resources, however, we have seen tremendous benefit from this collaboration.
Business’ Unique Position
"This is yet another recent example of private organisations and businesses stepping into the breach," says Upshur.
Indeed, companies are in a unique position to address the negative consequences of tourism – especially overtourism. Fragile ecosystems are overrun, communities are frustrated, and governments are forced to pass restrictive regulations to combat overtourism. The private sector can capitalise on the inflow of customers while maintaining a social license to operate in crowded or vulnerable destinations.
It's especially encouraging to see companies stepping up to the Travalyst initiative on the heels of the new definition of corporate purpose from the Business Roundtable. Upshur continues, "The gap between positive impact in society and positive impact on the bottom line is increasingly narrowing. Convening organisations like Travalyst and the Business Roundtable provide vital leadership."
"This is a new but rapidly rising trend in business, and I think increasingly we will see large corporations at the forefront of social stewardship."
To learn more about inclusive growth and integration of sustainable business practices, join us at one of our upcoming Kaplan-Norton Strategy Execution Boot Camps.