Accor, a world-leading hospitality group, in partnership with Trip.com Group, a leading global travel service provider, and global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, today published a new educational whitepaper that examines the environmental impact of China’s tourism sector, analyses Chinese travelers’ sentiment towards sustainability and ultimately sets out actions key stakeholders in China’s tourism sector need to take to foster sustainable travel. The pioneering survey identifies a series of sustainable changes that ought to be made, from the everyday to the systemic, which can support the travel and hospitality of tomorrow with the intention of becoming an informative industry reference tool for change. The report, entitled “The path toward eco-friendly travel in China”, proposes that by adopting a set of collaborative measures across the industry value chain, from guests to major global providers, China’s tourism sector could move toward a more sustainable future.
The world is facing an unprecedented sustainability challenge and the Chinese tourism industry has a significant role in the required transformation of hospitality. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, China is expected to have the world’s largest tourism market by 2032 and, prior to the pandemic, was already one of the biggest global markets. Analysis for the whitepaper found the environmental impact of China’s travel industry is substantial: tourism represented approximately 6-8% of China’s total carbon emissions in 2019.
Data from McKinsey found that Chinese travelers are engaged about their environmental impact and are starting to seek out sustainable alternatives, but the report found they may need more help understanding where to look. Trip.com Group found that 85% of Chinese travelers rate travel sustainability as important or very important, while 60% are concerned about climate change. However, the paper found, at the same time, that Chinese consumers are not yet used to the idea of paying extra for sustainable travel. As such, it is important to provide travelers guidance regarding sustainability costs, highlighting the industries’ efforts to improve provision of sustainable offerings. This will increase willingness to pay by showing the burden to be shared and that price rises will only be short-term.
In response to this, the report provides guidance on the actions that travelers can take to travel sustainably and to empower their own consumer decisions, including booking sustainable travel options with certified service providers, spending more time in one destination, and cultivating sustainable habits such as changing towels or bed linen less frequently and refusing to use single-use plastics in guest experience. Traveler behavior is just the first consideration the report highlights. Long-term sustainability will be achieved in tandem with initiatives from tourism providers, who hold a responsibility to inspire travelers’ mindset.
The whitepaper sets out a series of suggestions for the hospitality industry to support the Chinese traveler in their understanding of sustainable travel, inspire behavioural change and ultimately support the sector’s journey towards a net positive model, one which gives more than it takes. Such recommendations include using technology platforms to make sustainable travel options more visible online, using labelling to ensure travelers are informed on the environmental impact of their actions, providing incentives to encourage sustainable behavior, and training employees to adopt a sustainability mindset.
While greater traveler awareness and willingness to choose sustainable options combined with tourism providers’ individual adoption of more sustainable practices can help China’s travel sector realize “quick-wins” in sustainable impact, lasting sustainability improvements require collective industry-wide effort. The report concludes as a call to action for the hospitality industry to work together hand in hand to achieve sustainable transformation in China. This collaborative project is a starting point for this collective mindset, as a resource which can be used by guests and industry players alike in a united effort for positive change.
Image Credit: © Accor
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