When going about my daily life, I try to stay as conscious as possible about how much plastic I’m using, recycling and throwing away. The moment I step on a plane, into a hotel, or begin a holiday, it’s hard for this not to go out the window, as convenience becomes king. With streams of documentaries and campaigns aiming to sensitise people to the prevalence and impact of plastic waste, does the travel and tourism industry need to wake up and act before they fall short of consumer expectations?
In the UK, plastic is fast becoming public enemy no.1, and the movement is being mobilised from all angles. The government kick-started a collective conscience and shown how habits can shift with the 5p bag charge that has had a staggeringly positive impact. Recently there has been a wave through the casual dining and food on-the-go industry as straws are being removed from outlets like Wagamama and customers are being rewarded with a 50p discount for bringing a reusable coffee cup to Pret A Manger. While incoming government regulations such as the banning of plastic straws, and international policies such as China’s discontinuation of recycling management have a large sway in these events, brands are beginning to own this territory and build compelling customer stories around it.
But what does this mean for hotels and airlines? It is becoming increasingly difficult for plastic waste not to be on consumers’ mind. Even when blissfully detached in holiday mode, there could still be a pang of guilt when yet another plastic bottle turns up on your hotel night stand. The pang might become even worse if you see an identical bottle wash up on the beach the very next day.
Some of the industry is getting ahead of the game. Earlier this month, Marriott declared it would ban plastic straws in its hotels with immediate effect. Royal Caribbean have pledged to become plastic free, even if they haven’t quite told us when or how. Disney have recently launched Villages Nature in Paris, what might seem like the opposite of the kingdom of princesses and extravagance just down the road. With geothermal heating and an eco focus throughout, Disney is confident that families are just as interested in experiencing this way of life. For whatever reason, these eco holidays and eco initiatives in travel and tourism are creeping their ways into the mainstream, rather than remaining the remit of yoga holidays and alternative retreats.
Villages Nature Paris
The challenge for all brands who want to meaningfully engage with this important topic is how to do so sincerely and in a way that reflects their individual values and personality. Sustainability and eco-consciousness can come in many guises, and the most successful campaigns and initiatives to engage with this are those that link brand purpose to sustainable activities. Banning straws and removing single-use practice may soon become a necessity, but when it comes to looking after the planet that travel and tourism brands love to share with the world, what will show that your brand really cares?