As we approach the 2024 high season, it’s evident that the travel industry has undergone a significant transformation in recent years.

Sustainable, or green tourism is at the forefront of this change, consistently topping lists of trending blogs and discussions about the future of travel and tourism.

Eco-conscious travelers are influencing travel marketing strategies. They demand that the travel industry operates in a manner that respects both the environment and local communities through transparency and authenticity.

This means that sustainability in the tourism sector is no longer a niche concept, with the global ecotourism market size expected to double by 2028, reaching $428.97 billion.

Keep reading to learn how digital and online marketing strategies are evolving to meet the demands of the eco-conscious traveler, as well as some eco-friendly practices for tourism businesses looking to go green.

First, what is sustainable tourism marketing?

Sustainable tourism marketing is the process of promoting travel options that minimize environmental impact.

And when it comes to the intersection between business and sustainability, transparency is key.

Green•wash•ing [ɡrin•wɑʃɪŋ]

n. Deceptively advertising or marketing a business as environmentally friendly.

Travelers are increasingly savvy about greenwashing, so it’s important to be transparent about your sustainable practices.

To avoid this, brands need to be transparent about their sustainability efforts and back up their claims with concrete actions and evidence. This can help to build trust with consumers and enhance the brand’s credibility.

Digital marketing plays a pivotal role in promoting sustainable travel, providing a platform for tourism businesses to communicate their commitment to sustainability. This is done through online campaigns that highlight eco-friendly practices and initiatives.

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Use storytelling to connect with audiences on a deeper level regarding sustainability.

Storytelling allows businesses to connect with audiences on a deeper level, sharing the narrative behind their sustainable practices. This can create a strong emotional connection, encouraging travelers to choose sustainable options.

This is why branded content is so effective for promoting your business; it allows you to tell stories that inspire wanderlust and a desire to experience the story firsthand. 

Partnering with Skyline for branded content gets your business in front of our millions of weekly readers without feeling like they’re being advertised to in the traditional sense.

For example, this day-by-day account of a romantic getaway in Yosemite National Park, posted as a branded content ad placement on SoCal Fomo, our online publication covering things to do in Southern California.

Branded content is especially powerful for sustainable tourism marketing because it allows tourism businesses to tell engaging stories about their sustainability initiatives.

Day-by-day formats are excellent ways to paint an immersive picture of the guest experience and how these initiatives fit into that picture.

Collect user-generated content to authenticate sustainable travel experiences.

One marketing trend that is rising in popularity involves encouraging travelers to share their experiences on social media as user-generated content (UGC).

User-generated content acts as social proof, showing potential customers the kind of experiences real people have had with your brand.

UGC can be collected in either written, photo, or video format and displayed on your social channels and website.

Written content like reviews and testimonials, can be highlighted on your website in the form of pull quotes, highlights, or ratings.

Video and photography, such as vlogs or aesthetically pleasing photo snaps, can be used on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or added to review sites.

Partner with sustainability influencers who promote sustainable travel experiences.

One of the core functions of influencers is to sell an ideal. Whether it’s a lifestyle, a product, or an experience, influencers often promote a vision of what their audience aspires to be or have.

Sustainability influencers are a growing segment of influencers who promote environmentally conscious living, ethical consumption, and responsible travel practices to their followers.

When researching and trip planning, travelers often turn to influencers for inspiration and advice. They trust their recommendations and value their opinions. This trust can significantly influence travel decisions.

There are many different types of sustainability influencers, including zero-waste advocates, renewable energy experts, policy analysts, and more broadly eco-friendly influencers. It’s important to select an influencer whose values align closely with those of your business. 

Want to learn more? check out: How to Choose the Right Influencer for Your Marketing Campaign

Head to social media and start dialogues that form lasting relationships.

Like influencer marketing, social media has become a powerful tool for spreading awareness about sustainable travel options. 

This is also where many sustainable tourism businesses use education to articulate their commitment to ethical tourism. 

Education is about empowering travelers by giving them the knowledge and tools they need to become agents of change. It’s also about listening to travelers and creating a dialogue that fosters mutual learning and growth. 

When used responsibly, mixing environmental education and social media can position your brand as an authority and trusted source of information.

Responding to comments, messages, publicly engaging with like-minded accounts can also increase your online presence and position in the green community.

Leverage data analytics to target and engage with sustainable-minded travelers.

Audience segmentation is an excellent way to make the most out of data analytics.

With today’s advanced targeting abilities, you can easily identify segments of travelers who are interested in sustainable tourism based on their demographic characteristics, preferences, and past behavior.

These segments can then help you gauge audience sentiment, understand the customer journey, and customize your content accordingly.

Data analytics also allow businesses to understand and predict sustainable travel trends.

This information is invaluable in crafting effective marketing strategies. Predictive modeling involves forecasting the behavior of sustainable-minded travelers to anticipate demand.

Stay up-to-date with emerging technologies to market sustainable destinations.

Technology is playing a pivotal role in sustainable tourism marketing. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics are being used to personalize travel experiences and engage with eco-conscious travelers.

1. Mobile-first strategy: In response to travelers using their mobile phones for everything from researching destinations to booking accommodations and navigating new cities, many businesses are finding success by implementing a comprehensive mobile-first strategy. Other mobile trends include smartphone applications and optimizing content for voice search. 

2. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR): VR and AR allow potential travelers to explore destinations virtually. Sustainable tourism marketers can use these technologies to showcase eco-friendly accommodations, conservation projects, and experiences, providing a preview of the sustainable offerings available.

3. Blockchain technology: By implementing blockchain-based systems for certification, authentication, and transaction tracking, sustainable tourism marketers can build trust and credibility with environmentally conscious travelers.

In the face of climate change and other global challenges, technology’s role in marketing sustainable tourism is only expected to grow over the coming years. Keeping up-to-date with emerging technology can help your business stand out in today’s increasingly competitive market

The latest trends in tourism marketing prove that the industry must continue to innovate, adapt, and align with the evolving values of travelers.

Still, promoting sustainable travel is not without its challenges. One of the main hurdles is the perception that sustainable travel options are more expensive or less convenient.

This can deter potential customers who prioritize cost and convenience over environmental impact. To overcome this, marketers need to effectively communicate the value of sustainable travel.

The integration of technology, the rise of eco-conscious travelers, and the shift towards sustainable practices are all shaping the future of travel marketing. These trends present both challenges and opportunities for marketers.

Peak tourist season is fast approaching. Is your sustainable marketing strategy ready to bring in customers? Book a quick call with our marketing experts!

Looking to eco-upgrade your business for the planet?

Here are six earth-friendly practices for sustainable tourism businesses:

1. Demonstrate your commitment to the environment with eco-certifications.

Eco-certifications are another excellent way to demonstrate how your business is committed to environmental protection via a trusted third party. You can also feature certification badges in your visual assets.

2. Invest in sustainable infrastructure and building practices.

Use low impact building materials, energy efficient windows, and consider pursuing green building certifications.

3. Reduce your environmental impact by conserving water, energy, and reducing waste production.

Footprint reducing measures include: waste reduction policies (reduce single use plastic, offer recycling and composting options), water conservation (responsible water management practices, water-saving appliances, grey water recycling), energy-efficiency (efficient lighting & appliances, renewable energy sources).

4. Embrace community-based initiatives and local sourcing.

Community-based ecotourism (CBET) is a sustainable tourism approach that ensures the economic benefits of tourism are distributed more equitably by directly involving the surrounding community.

By involving local communities in tourism activities and sourcing goods and services locally, destinations can minimize their environmental footprint, support small businesses, and preserve cultural heritage. 

5. Engage in conservation efforts to protect nearby ecosystems.

Incorporate environmental education and awareness among visitors, local communities, and tourism stakeholders or show support for local conservation projects. For example, following the Leave No Trace (LNT) conservation ethics system when visiting parks and natural spaces.

6. Educate and raise awareness among visitors and guests.

Educate and communicate transparently to stakeholders, employees, visitors, and guests about the role they play in sustainable tourism, as well as your environmental initiatives.

+ some industry buzzwords and definitions:

Slow Travel: A trend that’s being effectively marketed to travelers seeking meaningful experiences. Slow travel encourages travelers to spend more time in fewer destinations, reducing their environmental impact and fostering a more immersive experience.

Regenerative Travel: Encouraging travelers to contribute to the places they visit by supporting local artisans, participating in community events, restoration projects, and practicing conservation ethics such as Leave No Trace (LNT).

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