High ROI for accommodations that implement sustainability into their businesses

Ireland has made positive strides in sustainable tourism in the last decade, including the development of a globally recognized tourism eco-certification program and the Wild Atlantic Way touring route filled with agritourism food trails, naturalist-guided adventure activities and environmentally conscious boutique hotels.

While Fáilte Ireland (Ireland’s National Tourism Development Authority) has provided some information to tourism businesses about the criteria and importance of sustainable tourism, one question remained unanswered: What is the economic value for Irish tourism businesses and communities that want to attract more conscious tourists?

Given the lack of benchmarking data behind ‘green is good for business’ claims, Fáilte Ireland commissioned a pilot study that would compile actionable information about the Operational, Community, Customer, and Employee ROI elements of sustainable tourism. The data revealed that:

•There was a higher ROI for accommodations (i.e. green hotels, hostels, lodges) versus guiding (i.e. day trips) companies that implemented sustainability into their businesses,

•While Operational ROI remains negative for at least five years (aggregated for the study’s participants), the investments made by these tourism businesses toward local communities, employees and customers make up for difference, and

•For both accommodations and guiding companies, the triple bottom line ROI driver was providing clear and direct information to customers about sustainability.

On the other hand, the analysis showed that Operations ROI for sustainable accommodations was most affected by government tax incentives or rebates offered to these businesses to invest specifically in renewable energy and waste management systems.

For both accommodations and guiding companies, Community ROI was most affected by the development of community engagement and internship programs as they served a dual purpose of educating the community about the tourism business’ ethos for sustainability and marketing to the region about the business’ unique product offering(s).

Finally, Customer ROI was most affected by the revenue from customer referrals and repeat customers due to the higher customer satisfaction rates (and ostensibly increased awareness) by the customer about the sustainable aspects of their stay.

So, regions and nations that define a clear sustainable tourism strategy along with specific goals and measurements for the visitor experience, the environment and the participating communities win on the communications front.