There is very little point in putting together a really sustainable tourism product (like one that minimizes emissions, maximises local community benefits and delivers an authentic life-changing experience) and then going off and marketing it in a brash unsustainable way.
As sustainability can deliver benefits to whatever you do, and is a mind set as much as a practice, you will massively increase your results and your credibility if you market your sustainable tourism offer in a sustainable manner to a sustainable market.
But it’s got to be nose-to-tail holistic!
The key to sustainable marketing is that as you create your product you provide yourself with a multi-layered story, not a one-dimensional one – why? Because every single element of a sustainable tourism offer has its own authentic story – it hasn’t just happened because it’s cheap!
Sustainability also has a story in its tail – in other words, by creating a sustainable tourism offer, you are recognizing that there is a long chain of effects – economic effects, cultural effects, environmental effects and economic effects.
And it is this long chain of effects that both creates your story, emphasizes the quality and durability of your offer, creates your brand, identifies and qualifies your market, provides you with your marketing material and creates your marketing.
How? Because tourism has a very long, very deep, very complex value chain. Tourists travel by a variety of means, they stay in hotels that are in themselves purchasers of an enormous variety of consumables and use-ables and durables. Tourists eat a variety of foods, drink a variety of drinks, buy a variety of things and services in a variety of places on their travels. They affect the destination communities in a variety of ways – not only commercial.
Each tourism touch-point is also an opportunity to maximize both the actual value of the tourist’s and the local’s experience and an opportunity to maximize the perceived value of the tourism product.
So tourism is complex and multi-sectoral –it is therefore crammed full of opportunity for economic, social, cultural and environmental opportunities.
And every opportunity represents the potential to make life better for someone or somewhere plus the opportunity to make your offer more authentic and the opportunity both to market better and often to recruit more marketing partners.
One of tourism’s key techniques is interpretation. Whether it’s a building, a historic or natural beauty site, an object, a place, whatever – putting it in its historical and cultural context by telling its story is what adds value to tourism, as it does for anything worthwhile.
Food producers nowadays have often appreciated this value-adding attribute of interpretation. Quality food really appreciates in perceived value when its story is told. The origins of foods, where and when and by whom they are produced, and how – all add layers and layers of value and offer the opportunity to differentiate and personalize in markets that are becoming commoditized and wholly price-based.
And, of course, this process is exactly the same for tourism. The effect of mass tourism, chain hotels and low cost carriers combined with internet-based global distribution systems is to commoditize tourism and to make price the major differential.
Sustainable tourism can play profitably outside this game, create and market well-drawn travel offers and use their stories to market them.
Moreover, mass tourism is often a business model that is composed of protagonists rather than co-operators. The key participant n the value-chain (often a tour operator) manages the chain so that often the only value left accrues to that organization
A more sustainable model, emphasizing the authenticity of the elements and their situations can also create co-operative marketing models – getting more power behind the marketing and widening its scope.
The power of both tourism delivery and its marketing lies in the wealth of stories that describe it and entrance potential buyers. Sustainable tourism simply delivers more stories, better stories, healthier stories, much more entrancing stories.
Moreover these stories can be delivered, with effect and enthusiasm, and for benefit, by every member of the value chain, multiplying the sales and promotional potential and the opportunities for each participant enormously.
And making the whole process, simply, more sustainable.