Hospitality Needs to Shift Its Attention to People
After Two Decades of Focus on the Planet and Profits
By Rauni Kew Public Relations & Green Program Manager, Inn by the Sea | May 14, 2017
By largely ignoring People hotels are missing a huge opportunity for profitable networking, community collaboration, branding and setting barriers to competition with unique, regional guest experiences. A brief history of the growth of green travel and sustainability in tourism and hospitality offers a backdrop to understanding how far hospitality has come in a very short time, and where the industry should go in the future using People, Planet, Profit as a business model.
History tells us people have always traveled out of necessity to find food, escape from oppression, or for religious reasons. Evidence of travel on trade routes for precious metals and spices go back to 3,000BC and beyond. Travel for pleasure is documented in Roman times as the very wealthy traveled to soak in baths for health, or escaped to the coast for relief from summer heat. For centuries most travel was unpredictable, difficult and fraught with danger for all but the very wealthy until mid 18th century when improved roads, trains and ships made mass travel, simply for pleasure and education, feasible.
Thomas Cook is credited with being an entrepreneur of modern tourism. The Thomas Cook site states "Thomas Cook began his international travel company in 1841, with a successful one-day rail excursion at a shilling a head from Leicester to Loughborough on 5 July. From these humble beginnings Thomas Cook launched a whole new kind of company- devoted to helping Britons see the world." And so began modern tourism. The industry developed quickly, benefiting from our shared and ongoing desire to see and experience new things! In 2015, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel & tourism generated $7.2 trillion, representing 9.8% of global GDP with 284 million jobs, or 1 in 11 jobs.
After World War II global tourism began to escalate, as did growth of travel related products. By 1960 some operators, governments and even travelers began to recognize there was a downside to the rapid growth in tourism- that the economic benefits of tourism also brought negative impacts to natural environments and local eco systems, and disruptive, sometimes devastating consequences to local communities and traditions.
However, interest in finding solutions to the negative impacts created by tourism and travel by both the industry and travelers was not main stream. In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development created the Brundtland Report on sustainable development, a landmark study that laid framework which eventually led to sustainable tourism development. Five years later, The UN's Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero outlined actions around sustainability, many of which had appeared in the Bruntland Report. In spite of these landmark reports, and global participation by government leaders with recommendations for sustainable development, acceptance of these concepts was not embraced by the majority of hospitality or tourism operators, and the studies were largely ignored by the industry.
Sensibilities to the environment were evolving, and by the 1990's some operators were beginning to take notice. In 1994 a British economist, John Elkington, working on issues related to corporate social responsibility, coined the phrase Triple Bottom Line. Triple Bottom line accounting expanded the traditional concept of success outlined by financial performance to also take into account social and environmental performance. This 3 word phrase created a straightforward road map for business that was easy to understand. Simply put, a business could no longer see itself as profitable unless social and environmental impacts were addressed.
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