Commentary

An Antidote For Troubling Times

No matter your politics, it’s important that we don’t let ourselves be relegated to the sidelines and forget about the important role we can all play in making the world a better, kinder, more fun and healthier place.

According to a recent survey by Mintel, “The Ethical Consumer,” 63% of consumers agree that ethical issues are becoming more important and 31% say that a company’s ethics often or always influence whether or not they will purchase its products. A 2014 study from Nielsen found that 55% of global respondents said they were willing to pay extra when companies are committed to positive social and environmental impact.

While our nation may find itself widely divided on many issues, these strong consumer beliefs are a reminder that travel businesses should be embracing corporate social responsibility and proactively developing programs that positively impact our local communities, society in general and the planet as a whole.

As a subscriber to Mintel’s research, we get to observe how destinations and brands are creatively responding to this call to make the world a better place for all of us. Here are a few cool and creative things they’ve shared — some small and nuanced, others big and audacious — that reflect what’s possible.

Travel brands have an opportunity to help people get more perspective on issues and experience different viewpoints (especially in a world of alternative facts), discover far-off places and escape the everyday. These are among the outcomes of a viral program in China called “Mobook” that encourages people to read. Over 10,000 books were intentionally left on the subways in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Famous Chinese celebrities have even joined in leaving handwritten notes in the books. Interestingly, the campaign was actually inspired by Emma Watson who has been known to hide books on public transit in London and New York. 

While many travel brands regularly encourage donations and some host drop boxes for charitable contributions, there’s a need in this hyper-mobile, time-starved world for brands to further lower the barriers to giving. In the UK, rather than ask donors to trek to a central location to give a gift, Uber and their partner Age UK made it possible to arrange for an Uber driver to come to your home and pick up the donation, which they then delivered to an Age UK shop. Since many people would prefer to give to their local community, this is a great way for a brand to step up and play an important role in the giving process. 

Today’s consumer wants to feel like they are making a difference and travel brands should be looking for ways to measure, share and even gamify the impact that’s being made. A great example is the bike-sharing program Bluegogo in China that now allows for riders to track the amount of carbon emissions they have saved by cycling and it lets them play a measurable role in the country’s battle against air pollution. Bluegogo gathers, tracks and scores each rider’s performance and then rewards the top contributors. So far, over 100,000 users have registered since October of last year and it’s already in use in several cities.

Think that people are feeling unusually stressed and uptight? No doubt your spa or health club could easily take some aspect of its soothing message to places outside the hotel where it could be a welcomed respite from the distractions around us. Just look at what Lululemon did in London where they launched a meditation bus to help bring serenity to the masses. Themed as “Meditation Om the Move,” the double-decker bus ran for a week and offered 45-minute sessions designed to calm those getting on board, complete with relaxing scents, juices and healthy snacks, steamed face towels and noise-blocking headphones. 

As traffic gets heavier and more unbearable in many cities, and concerns continue over the threat of air pollution, we are starting to see more municipalities (and even businesses) sponsor free access to public transportation. It’s estimated that 92% of the world breathes substandard air, according to the World Health Organization. In response, the city of Warsaw broadcast a message on Radio Poland offering free public transportation for a day and the City of Paris offered two free days of public transport this past December. 

Want to make the world a cleaner and healthier place, while also reducing waste? These are the goals of the partnership between Clean the World and Choice Hotels that focuses on collecting, recycling and donating soap and bottled amenities that can be used to help reduce the spread of hygiene-related illnesses across the globe. 

From food banks and charitable causes, to random acts of kindness and eco-friendly initiatives, there’s no shortage of ways to show that your brand not only understands the challenges our world confronts, but that we’re willing to do something about them.

Now, more than ever, travelers are clamoring for opportunities to give and receive, to express altruism and benevolence, and to remind one another that there are basic human values and traits that we can all stand behind.

For travel brands, it’s our responsibility to show travelers that we truly care.

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