Country head of Booking.com for Vietnam Varun Grover, discussed sustainable tourism in Vietnam with VIR’s Oanh Do and offers solutions to support partners to develop sustainable models for online travel platforms.
Booking.com has published a travel sustainability programme. Can you tell us more about this?
|Country head of Booking.com for Vietnam Varun Grover |
We have travel programmes to make sure we make it easy for accommodation partners to highlight their sustainability practices and get certified, which depends on factors that prove they are eco-friendly. However, it is not just about that trade. We feel that we have that capability to really understand consumer behaviour in total.
Every year, we come up with a travel sustainability report; it is our eighth year of publishing that report, serving more than 40,000 respondents across the globe.
We try and understand what sustainability travel really means. What are the motivations? What are the needs for leaders to want to continue innovating? This year, the report highlighted a few key trends.
One of the biggest trends is that customers are faced with a dilemma over whether they should buy according to cost because we all know that the global economic scenario is not very conducive for people who travel. But at the same time, they also want to experience travel more because that actually helps them to forget about everything that’s stressful in life.
That is why sustainability as a trend is becoming crucial for today’s travellers because travel is no longer just travelling and sightseeing and looking at faces.
Tourists wish to contribute to local communities and want to contribute to a better tourism environment.
I’m super excited to say that we are living in Vietnam, where 97 per cent of respondents said that they would like to reduce the negative impact of travel on the environment. This really motivates us to continue researching and experimenting because we are seeing a huge trend where the younger generation are very motivated to try this.
Some say sustainability activities are just a ruse set up by tourism businesses to sell products. What are your thoughts on this?
I am not denying this initiative is a huge marketing run, but that does not mean it is only about marketing. If you search for sustainable tourism on Google Trends, results are returned quickly with numerous searches. The fact that so many people want to travel without causing a negative impact on the environment shows that it is clearly a global phenomenon.
Greener travel has become important in so many fields and professions. Currently, businesses have listened to customers’ wishes more and want to bring them special experiences. Booking.com is the same. We are one of the largest online travel platforms in the world, and it is our responsibility to create and encourage our customers to engage in better travel. Marketing about these programmes helps us spread it to more customers, making a bigger impact.
What efforts are you making to support travellers to follow these positive trends?
This is what concerns us, as this type of low-impact travel is such an important philosophy for tourists. We are first focusing on making accommodation more eco-friendly for our travels. Booking made sustainable accommodation badges available to properties after they provide us with information from 2019. Therefore, we make it easier for our customers to see those companies, and they go there if they are so inclined.
We all have our own values and preferences. It is our mission to make it easier for anybody. We intend to provide the right knowledge and information to our travellers to make their own choices. If you want to go to England, you can go to our platform, use the filter of properties, choose a sustainable option, and go to the top information and content for that section. If tourists do not like it, they have hundreds of other options. We are expanding this type of travel, but we want to provide other options. We wish to make sure our customers do not have to go anywhere else.
As for partners, how have you helped them promote sustainable products and brands?
Working together with industry stakeholders, we really need to show that we support the value ecosystem, and that is something we always try to do. Therefore, we want to support the government’s initiative on low-impact travel.
We have grown, our supplies, our accommodation partners, and then over the last two or three years, we have a dedicated marketing team who looks after our partners’ agenda and do many educational workshops. We feel good that our travel is doing something good for nature and the environment.
Travelling with an eye on the environment also contributes to the wellbeing of travellers. This is why changing the perception and behaviour of both customers and partners is so important on this.
As a company, we have come up with a Climate Action Plan, aiming to become net-zero by 2027. That is one thing which drives us to continuously talk about and educate on sustainable tourism.
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