Conscious Travellers Care – Do You?

Report on Voluntourism – click image to download

When Milton Friedman’s ideas dominated business thinking, the purpose of business was assumed to be solely about generating profit and maximizing returns to shareholders. Then in the 90s it became fashionable to demonstrate some level of corporate social and environmental responsibility (CSR) – but, again, CSR was still treated as an optional extra; an indulgence during periods of prosperity that would enhance the brand. Over the last 5-10 years, however, it has begun to dawn on many that acting responsibly is not an option but a necessity.

Again, it has been consumers – individuals like you and me – who have been leading the way. The shift in attitude to viewing responsibility as core and not peripheral is occurring because there’s money to be made in doing so, i.e., there is a market and that market is growing because consumers are increasingly taking on personal responsibility and embracing communitarian values.

In an October 2009 Monitor Brief, Yankelovich wrote:

People are now embedding responsibility into their day-to-day lives. Think of it as responsibility underpinning the “new deal” consumers are striking with themselves – and with the world around them and with the marketplace  – that’s both powerful and far reaching.

Conscious, thoughtful decisions are at work, requiring consumers to make many changes – some self imposed, some imposed by others. Examples are everywhere, from consumers opting to save not spend, to marketing campaigns that give pause and encourage temperance. As the Recovery Marketplace starts to take shape, businesses will have to work hard to find the “responsibility voice” that rings true for them.

The most immediate sign of the growing sense of caring is the rise in “voluntourism”. According to a Conde Nast poll, 14% of Americans have taken a voluntourism holiday with 53% saying they would like to do so.

Half of the consumers polled by Euro RSG say it is important to feel good about the companies with which they do business and 57% prefer to buy from companies that share their values.

Never has it been so important for suppliers in the travel and tourism sector to pay attention to those values and determine why they are in business and what they stand for. If it’s solely to exploit a scenic or cultural asset for the purpose of making money, then they are likely not to stay in business very long or be able to attract the passionate, purposeful employee who can help build healthy profits.

In short, showing you care means showing that you are minimizing your use of resources, your production of waste, and your generation of carbon while doing all within your power to protect and revitalize locals economies, cultures and ecosystems.

Even shorter still, it means proving that you’ve done all you can to tread lightly on Mother Earth and leave Her unscathed.

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