There are two mega-topics in tourism that are currently repeatedly in the focus of the players: One sustainability, the other digitalization. According to Markus Orth, head of Lufthansa City Center, only the combination of both can lead to the goal.

Markus Orth Geschäftsführer Lufthansa City Center

The travel industry worldwide is strongly influenced by Covid-19 and has been massively affected for the past two years. Nevertheless, the desire to travel is unbroken, the longing for variety, warmth, other cultures is boundless. At the same time, the issue of sustainability is becoming increasingly important for products, sales and marketing. Even before the pandemic, this led to changing demands on the travel industry. Cruises, for example, already felt the social pressure in summer 2019 and became the focus of critics.

Traveling without traveling is difficult

The reason is obvious: Travel is a major contributor to global CO2 emissions and is therefore very much in the focus of society social discourse. However, it is difficult to travel without climate-damaging mobility. This is why dealing with the issue of climate neutrality is particularly relevant in the industry.

From a producer's point of view, the travel behavior of customers plays a central role in dealing with this issue and has an influence on customer interfaces. Due to the change in travel behavior, it is to be expected that information, knowledge and advice on all aspects of sustainability will become more important. However,  the attitude behavior gap among customers is currently the greatest challenge. This is because actual consumer behavior is hardly changing at present: customers act contrary to their attitude. Especially on vacation.

Although almost half of Germans are interested in sustainable travel, less than ten percent actually travel more sustainably. There are many reasons for this: Convenience, lack of range, insufficient knowledge. But a lack of offers and insufficient advice in sales and from tour operators are also hurdles that still need to be overcome.

Evaluate interaction and exploit opportunities

Optimization must therefore be made, especially at the interfaces to the customer. Digitalization and sustainability are the drivers of change today. Also in our industry. Combining both is therefore the order of the day. The travel industry would be well advised to assess the interdependence and interaction and to take advantage of the opportunities.

After all, digitalization has led to customers informing themselves and booking more intensively online. As in other industries, the pandemic has become a catalyst for the digital transformation. Digitalization creates the conditions for processing and linking large volumes of data. Translated, this means capturing and tagging this information for each travel component like flight, train, hotel and rental car.

Taking the customer by the hand

For tour operators, the task arises of bundling and labeling data. The distribution systems are required to adapt their booking masks and filter options accordingly. Sales should then take customers by the hand.

In order to promote sustainable travel, it will be crucial in the future to provide this information at the touchpoints and to give a "nudge" for advice and booking. Customer behavior should be actively steered toward sustainability. Nudging tourists is already the technical jargon. Only in this way can this gap between aspiration and reality be overcome.

Re-sorting the data jungle

The German Findus study came to the conclusion four years ago: High prices, a lack of information and low visibility of sustainable travel offers are the main identified obstacles for consumers to book sustainable vacations. This leads to the central point to what extent the abundance of data on holiday products will be suitable for the classic consulting process in the future and instead sustainability will develop into an enabler of the already advancing digitalization in the travel market.

As a result, sustainability will prove to be an accelerator in digitalization. What is certain is that the prerequisites are far from being in place today. Travel agencies are well advised to focus on their strengths and take the complexity out of the customer's hands. They should introduce them to sustainability and, in the process, take advantage of the opportunities offered by digitalization themselves.

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