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Travellers placing emphasis on supporting locally owned businesses

Published:Thursday | October 22, 2020 | 2:31 PMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer


Travellers are beginning to place greater value on tourism sustainability, including options to support local communities, in making their travel decisions, according to head of travel research at Euromonitor International, Caroline Bremner.

According to Bremner, while visitors generally are looking for safe destinations to visit, local experiences and cultural immersion are an increasingly important part of their agendas, and this should be an area of focus for the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).

Explaining what sustainability actually means for consumers, she said that the number-one answer they got from the people they questioned was supporting locally owned businesses in communities.

“So that again strikes a chord with consumers globally,” she noted during a virtual Tourism Recovery Forum staged by the CTO recently.

“This is where we balance the environmental needs with the social needs of communities and the local people to ensure that they see the true value,” she said.

Bremner expressed concern, however, that despite the new thrust towards sustainable tourism, there is no concomitant effort being made by travel businesses.

“There does seem to be this disconnect. We see on the one hand that consumers are expected to be more concerned about sustainability – three-quarters of them expected to be more concerned about the environment and the social aspects and sustainability. However, 42 per cent of travel companies and destinations that we spoke to said that they will actually postpone or pause development of sustainable products,” she lamented.

“This is the time when we should be doubling down on this type of investment because it also makes sense for long-term survival of our industry,” she stressed.

Bremner said research conducted by her organisation shows that aside from supporting local communities and businesses, the most common actions taken by consumers for sustainable travel in 2020 was through staying at eco-friendly accommodations, using hotels or tour guides with green certification, packing eco-friendly essentials, and taking green-transportation options, among others.

“A total 57 per cent of global consumers support local businesses and communities; 51 per cent of global consumers stay in eco-friendly accommodation,” she said.

Nevertheless, she said many travellers are moving away from international travel and are taking holidays closer to home, as revealed in the July 2020 Consumer Behaviour Survey, which stated that just under eight per cent more consumers said they would reduce international travel permanently.

More than 80 per cent of those surveyed also said that they would reduce overall spending, decrease overall carbon emissions due to limited travel, while 45 per cent said they would permanently pay greater attention to how companies treat people in making their travel choices.