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The Influence of Sustainability on Consumer Choice

In the 2009 CMIGreen Traveler Study, the document opens by posing the question 'how' will sustainability influence consumer choice? The study acknowledges that it's not a matter of whether or not sustainability will be a consideration for consumers, but that on some level it will indeed be a determining factor for consumers. Thanks to rising public awareness of sustainability issues, green facilities, and environmental awareness in general, the tourism and hospitality has new opportunities to attract consumers whose preferences and travel behaviors are in concert with sustainable facilities, services, and products.

The study is a lengthy document with the following summary:
"Travel and hospitality consumers are rapidly and enthusiastically becoming educated on the issues, and demanding greater social and environmental engagement from destinations and suppliers. There is a shift in consumer consciousness that is resulting in a rethinking of consumption patterns toward more responsible, earth-friendly alternatives. Tourism and hospitality industry leaders are similarly embracing sustainability to establish competitive advantage, enhance brand value and drive sales. This is moving market share for those taking initial steps."

How are you as a tourism and hospitality professional responding to this shift in consumer consciousness? You first must have an understanding of the green consumer and the CMI study tackles the task of creating a green traveler profile. Not surprisingly, they found there are various "shades" of green travelers. The various profiles are created based on responses to a series of questions and behavior categories including:
  • Environmental Awareness
  • Green Purchases
  • Choosing Money or the Environment
  • Use of Environmental Media
  • Attendance at Events
It's worth scanning the study and answering basic questions about your own facility and services. Do your customers fit within the profiles described? If so, how are you catering to their green travel preferences?

Responding to the shift in consumer consciousness is a seemingly overwhelming but necessary process. It is more than a list of tasks to "go green;" it is a parallel shift in tourism and hospitality consciousness. We know this because sustainability is part of our own business--it is something we understand, teach, consult on, develop, guide, implement, and support.

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