Giles Fuchs, owner of Burgh Island Hotel, highlights why boutique hotels are in a favourable position to welcome travellers that seek ethical experiences.
Tourists increasingly want to travel ethically, from finding alternatives to flying, to organising their time around morally sound activities. But for hospitality businesses, it isn’t always easy to measure the ethics of your offering.
A recent Ethical Consumer report, for instance, revealed that only 10 per cent of leading travel businesses were mitigating their environmental impact in a way that could be regarded as highly ethical. In addition, popular travel agency Tui was ranked poorly in this pioneering report, after selling tickets for animal parks that turned out to be unethical.
Boutique hotels are often better placed than chains to provide the ethical experience that these travellers demand.
Boutique hotels have an advantage over large international chains in the self-sufficiency stakes because the latter is far more likely to rely on exactly that – chains. Large international supply chains are susceptible to disruption, as we are currently seeing, and they also incur a considerable carbon footprint.
In contrast, smaller independent hotels are better at investing time and money into building connections closer to home that have a mutually beneficial outcome. This not only supports local businesses, but it also minimises the hotel’s environmental impact.
A candid approach
Independent hotels are also typically better at making their commitments to sustainability clear and tangible. Whereas large hotel brands can often be more vague in their promises on sustainability and the drive to net zero, boutique hotels can afford to be more candid about what precisely they are doing to help save the planet.
This matters because sustainability is now so important to travellers. According to one recent report, more than 70 per cent of people plan to travel in an environmentally friendlier way this year, up 10 per cent on 2021. However, almost 60 per cent of travellers express frustrations at the difficulty of making informed decisions about where to go and where to stay.
Travelling with a purpose
In today’s economy there is an emphasis on purpose; businesses need to have one, over and above their commercial aims, and even consumers feel this pressure too. Yet holidaymakers have always travelled with a purpose, namely to create long-lasting memories by doing something different from their everyday life.
This purpose, and the more recent purpose of preserving the environment, are best served as a package deal – and again boutique hotels are in the best position to deliver. They are more likely to offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences that complement their natural environment.
Connecting with nature
Of course, guests should still be able to access nature. That’s why another benefit of going boutique is getting to experience nature at every turn, not just as a one-off experience. More likely to be located in areas of outstanding natural beauty, boutique hotels offer guests an unparalleled opportunity to immerse themselves in the local flora and fauna.
Boutique hotels, therefore, are best placed to take on this trend of travelling with ethics in mind. Hoteliers should capitalise on this as quickly as possible because, while ethical travel may have gathered momentum relatively recently, it is far more than just a phase. Moving forward, ethical travel will increasingly become synonymous with travel itself, so boutique hotels should not be shy about playing to their strengths.