A model for an integrated transformation process towards sustainable business practices in tourismThe project “Green Travel Transformation” is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the Social-Ecological Research Program. The aim of the project is to significantly increase the share of more sustainable travel options in all booked travel products. Thus it is necessary that such travel products are visible (labelling) and bookable (within the information and booking systems). Targeted consultation by the travel agency staff regarding the realization of sustainable holidays can increase the sense of responsibility, efficiency and potentially sufficiency. Accordingly two aspects can be achieved: The advantages and chances of sustainability become visible to travelers and travelers have the possibility to specifically book sustainable products.
The project focuses the entire system of the tourism industry in order to set an appropriate framework to obtain a significant change towards sustainability. The project design allows fundamental investigations in a first step, demonstrating which efficiency and rebound effects arise in the tourism value-chain from the producer (tour operator) up to the consumer (tourist). In this context the functions of the macroeconomic system of the tourism industry are taken into consideration by means of a resilience approach, in order to identify options for action when dealing with resources and to maintain the system-relevant services.
Implementation concept and system transfer
Investments in sustainability are usually hard to communicate and their meanings are usually unknown to all parties within the value chain. Tour operators are also faced with the challenge to classify sustainable offers and to distinguish the level of sustainability. Thus it is difficult to integrate them into the corporate communication and moreover into the information and booking systems in a ways that is sufficiently concrete and meaningful for sales partners and customers.
Basis of criteria: For the development of the implementation concept a first review of relevant labels as well as their criteria and challenges took place. The different labels cover a bandwidth of criteria. Hence for the project an appropriate basis of valuation has to be derived from the given data. The system behind the evaluation must be transparent and resilient. Furthermore, the selection of the labels needs to be clear and comprehensible. In order to develop a practical application and a realistic industry solution, all data must be available. Within the working groups and workshops, particularly the criteria and the recognition of the GSTC emerged as a generally accepted valuation basis for labeling.
Database: In order to combine different parameters the projects aim is to develop a neutral database (Green Travel Index) as an interface between travel agencies, tour operators, hotels, certifiers and booking systems. Hotels and other service providers, which are certified by a GSTC recognized certification, are listed in the database. To encourage recognition through the GSTC also other certified hotels will be inserted for a test period but will only remain, if the certification becomes GSTC recognized. Thus the criteria of the GSTC form the basis for entering and staying in the database. Tour operators and hotels can add additional information on the database website to ameliorate the individual sustainability communication. To make a lasting change in the tourism industry the concept provides a continuation of the database beyond the end of the project.
Communication of sustainable travel options: The question is whether sustainable products are to be communicated following a “black and white” principle or based on different sustainability scales. A differentiated visualization based on the measured sustainability could e.g. stimulate service provider to implement additional measures to promote sustainability. At the same time a differentiated presentation is more difficult to communicate to the customer and the travel agents, since the subject matter is already highly complex. A simplified visualization possibly facilitates the communication at the counter. In general, a single statement about the sustainability of a trip is often not sufficient. More information needs to be provided for the travel agents and customers. This could be done in form of key/marketing statements. To identify the relevance of individual criteria for the consumer and an appropriate customer language, a market study is being conducted within the project.
The challenge, which is addressed in the project, can be understood as a transformation. A core element of this transformation within this module is the training. Accordingly coaching programs will be developed to foster a transformation of work and consultation routines in travel agencies. The educational concepts are developed in cooperation with the German Travel Association. The concept is based on three stages: a basic course, an extension course and specialization courses. The accreditation of the courses will be done by the German Travel Association.
Social-Ecological Research – “Sustainable business practices”
May 1st 2015 – April 30th 2018
Travel Bridge GmbH
Lufthansa City Center
INATOUR Institut für nachhaltigen Tourismus
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
Prof. Dr. Edgar Kreilkamp