Telling stories is good and bad, desirable and deplorable. We will start with the bad. Greenwashing is bad story telling.
When we accuse a child of telling stories, we are suggesting that they may be exaggerating, making things up or fibbing. When adults tell stories in this sense they have either lost touch with reality or they are simply lying. Of course, some politicians struggle, and fail, to distinguish between what is factually the case and what they wish was true.
Back in September last year, I wrote here on Travel Tomorrow about how important storytelling is in tourism, both in the marketing done by businesses and destinations and in the memories which lead to repeat bookings and referrals.
Stories, particularly the stories we tell ourselves, are the way we understand the world, the way we make sense of what goes on around us. As the Harvard academics Gilmore and Pine have argued, consumers – including holidaymakers and travellers – seek the real rather than the fake. Authenticity is valued as much as — if not more than — price, quality, and availability. Authenticity, they argue, is a new and powerful “strain of consumer desire, holidaymakers seek out original, genuine, sincere and authentic experiences.
The stories we tell about travel and tourism are an important part of marketing, promotion and sales. Products are being redesigned to increase the experiential content and there is increasing focus on the customer journey, the consumer’s experience of the agent or operator as well as of the destination.JoAnna Haugen, founder of Rooted
For WTM Virtual in November 2020, I interviewed JoAnna Haugen of Rooted about the ways in which narrative is essential in the storytelling process of any travel experience, as she says we are storytelling animals. The interview focused on how this can make for better guest and host experiences, creating a better world of tourism for all.
Storytelling is powerful in tourism in helping us to understand our world, but they need to be good, honest stories. We must drive out the bad.
Transparency is at the heart of responsibility. In the last few weeks there have been two major steps forward on greenhouse gas emissions from flights and hotels.
Travalyst and six top travel brands have aligned on a shared framework to collect and display flight emissions data. The framework consists of a set of shared principles and preferred methodology for estimating carbon emissions from air travel, which have been agreed upon and committed to by the Travalyst coalition partners, which include Skyscanner, Google, Booking.com, Trip.com Group, Tripadvisor and Visa. The data will enable travellers to book the most carbon-efficient flights. Google has published a Travel Impact Model for emissions estimates that further details the Travalyst framework. The Travelyst Aviation Principles are Responsible Principles:
- Provide travellers with a transparent way to easily understand and compare travel options, no matter where they book their travel;
- Provide airline partners with the tools and information to accelerate their sustainability efforts;
- Be trusted, accurate and reliable;
- Be available to all industry players and serve as a benchmark for aviation sustainability.
As Andrew Ede has pointed out “there are the businesses, those not in tune like Radisson, which engage in greenwashing – the marketing illusion of eco-responsibility.” In an effort to avoid greenwashing Federico González Tejera, CEO of Radisson Hotel Group, has developed a list of 12 basic sustainability indicators required by any hotel that claims to be sustainable. Federico González Tejera argues that, “sustainability seems to be the fashionable word, but it is too broad and confusing, which means that not only the owners but also the clients are confused by diverse claims and very vague decisions without a concrete objective”. In principle, eight of the 12 criteria are mandatory, while for the rest the hotels can commit to carrying out their implementation in the next three years. The proposed measures include actions to measure and reduce energy and water use, as well as carbon emissions, and identify and reduce waste.
Now travellers can check the veracity of the stories told by businesses – that empowers consumers and drives responsibility just like it does when we encourage children not to tell stories.