As business travel gradually returns, there is a recognition within the industry that sustainability – and particularly a focus on the environment – will be crucial in coming years. From interviews conducted at the International Hotel Investment Conference (IHIC) in Berlin in September this year, and the Business Travel Show at the end of the month and into October, participants from ground transport to travel management companies and airlines to hotels spoke of sustainability.
Cynics will say we have been here before. Similar noises have been made in the past, and what followed the statements of intent was price cutting, expansion and growth. Will this time be different? Perhaps it will, because the world has changed. Interviewees all mentioned the Covid-19 pandemic which has not only forced a re-think of the way companies and individuals organise their business travel and thrown up questions about whether all trips are necessary, but also the intention of many governments – and perhaps societies – to ‘build back better’.
There is also the renewed focus on the environment, not just because of the forthcoming COP26, but because the scientific evidence for climate change, confirmed amongst the majority of scientists for decades is now increasingly showing itself in natural disasters. Estimates for the contribution transport makes to carbon and other missions varies, but as other industries and market sectors reduce emissions, those of transport – and particularly aviation – come into focus.
Add to this the focus on ESG investments (Environmental, Social and Governance) by the financial community – airlines, hotels and transport companies rely on finance just like other sectors, and so will rely on ESG ratings to continue to attract money – and the millions of employees working in the industry who expect companies to ‘do the right thing’, and it could be that this time is different. Here’s what we learned speaking to the industry in recent weeks.
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