When we buy a holiday we are a buying a dream. We go without and save for the week or two away: It is a big purchase item. We need to be able to trust the people we are buying it from.
Because if it goes wrong it is a big loss.When it goes wrong we lose the experience and the memories, and for most of us it is a long time until the next holiday.
The industry realised this long ago. ABTA has rules that ensure members sell travel experiences backed by the guarantee of repatriation if there is an ash cloud or the operator goes bust. Or that the hotel will be located where it says it is in the brochure, and that the food and the pool will be safe.
The industry has a gone a long way to ensure that the consumer can trust the supplier – backed by a complaints procedure to ABTA that underpins the trust essential to the purchase of a holiday which takes place months and hundreds of miles away, often in a country where the consumer does not speak the language and about which they know little.
TUI and the ‘trust agenda’
The tour operator’s trust agenda is broadening. In his introduction to TUI Travel’s recently published Sustainable Holidays Report , the company’s CEO Peter Long recognises that: “Customers increasingly trust us to live up to our sustainability ambitions of minimising environmental impact, respecting culture and people, and bringing economic benefit to communities. In doing so, we improve the quality of their holidays, and help preserve the destinations we all love to visit.”
In the same report, Johan Lundgren, the Deputy Chief Executive and the PLC Board sponsor for sustainable development, reports that TUI’s own customer research wants: “the reassurance of knowing that their holiday’s impact on the environment and destination communities is being actively managed by us, their tour operator. We strive to do so in a way that involves our customers, reinforcing their expectations of a high commitment to sustainability from our brands.”
For many consumer brands taking responsibility for the sustainability for the goods and services it sells is now part of its consumer proposition, and consumers increasingly expect it to be. TUI has consumer facing sites for Thomson and First Choice that both present their commitments and the progress they have made, along with their suppliers, to achieving their sustainability targets.
For TUI taking responsibility for sustainability makes business sense:
• In 2012 it cut its costs by £16m through environmental efficiencies – good for the bottom line and for the environment.
• 89% of TUI Travel’s aircraft are now fitted with fuel saving winglets. Across TUI Travel airlines CO2 emissions per revenue passenger km were cut by 73g, making their fleet one of the most fuel efficient – again good for the bottom line and for the environment.
• Two million of TUI tourists stayed in hotels with sustainability certificates.
Taking responsibility for environmental, social and economic costs and communicating this to customers builds confidence in the brand. For TUI, engaging consumers in this way means:
“We will have more than 50% of our customers rating us as ‘excellent’ on our approach to the environment and local communities. We will do this by engaging with them more on sustainability while they are on holiday. In 2011, 43% of our customers rated our approach as ‘excellent’.”
All this is good for business, as TUI explains in its report:
“We want our holidays to benefit local livelihoods and protect the environment, and in doing so maintain the quality, viability and desirability of our products for years to come. We’re working with stakeholders in destinations around the world to make this a reality.”
and they point out that “our most sustainably-managed hotels are also those which are delivering higher quality and customer satisfaction.”
There we have it: trust and responsibility really do go together like a horse and carriage.