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Sustainability Management for Tourism Businesses: What, Why and How


TrainingAid, an international tourism training company specialized in sustainable tourism, offers a facilitated professional course on Sustainability Management for Tourism Businesses, which provides useful tools for managing, monitoring and continuously improving sustainability practices. 

Based on lessons and discussions shared during the recent course, here are just a few of the key takeaways, for anyone interested in better understanding sustainability management for tourism businesses.

Why Management?

Ever feel like you're spending too much time working on your sustainability to-do list than actually implementing meaningful actions?

Talking about your commitment. Coming up with new ideas for positive actions that resonate with your audience. Making sure your impacts are presented in an attractive way.

These are all important parts of your sustainability efforts. But if you're always chasing projects and tasks without an efficient way of coherently managing them, you will end up feeling sustainability is just really complicated.

But it doesn't need to be that way.

With a strong foundation based on your core values and purpose, you can confidently incorporate sustainability into what you do. This will help you prioritize your actions, and know where and how your efforts will lead to most important impacts.

So how can a tourism business build such a foundation?

By implementing a sustainability management system, which will guide your overall approaches to sustainability, and ensure your sustainability efforts actually lead to concrete benefits.

What Does It Look Like?

A mistake that many businesses often make is to consider sustainability as something to be managed separately from other aspects of the business, such as health and safety, customer satisfaction, investor relations.

The most important aspect of an effective sustainability management approach is for it to be incorporated into how you manage your business; NOT an optional add-on focused only on one-off campaigns, or a nice-to-have that is implemented only when it's convenient.

For your efforts to be meaningful, sustainability needs to be integral to how you run your business, service your clients and treat your staff.

This is both about making sustainability a part of your philosophy and why your company exists, AND about practically incorporating sustainability into the existing framework of how you manage different aspects of your business. 

So building a sustainability management system for your tourism business is not about purchasing a shiny new app to help you with number crunching, nor setting up a new program / project / campaign to discuss sustainability actions. (Although arguably some of these steps CAN be part of your work.) 

Rather, it's about understanding what you already have in place, assessing where you have gaps that need to be filled, and implementing concrete management approaches to how you're addressing key sustainability challenges and opportunities - and again, importantly - making it a part of how you operate.

Start by Understanding Where You Are Now

Understand the positive and negative impacts that you are creating by analyzing your products and services. Ask how your business practices are creating sustainability impacts

For example, implementing environmentally responsible procurement practices that help reduce your resource consumption; proactively taking care of employee wellbeing; and optimizing business opportunities for local suppliers.

These impact areas matter, because they represent the key conditions enabling your products and services.

Define and Prioritize Relationships

Stakeholder engagement is not a checkbox exercise, but a core business priority.

The importance of working together with various internal and external stakeholders is particularly relevant when considering sustainability management, because the success and effectiveness of your sustainability efforts will depend on the relationships you have with those who make your business possible - from your staff, suppliers, to community members and customers.

It's through these relationships that your sustainability vision and goals become meaningful impacts.

Share Your Stories, Including Both the Good and the Bad

It may be intimidating to talk about your sustainability efforts, and you may be tempted to focus only on your achievements.

But you don't need to focus only on validating your efforts or impressing your audience. In fact, the process of sharing itself (which helps you reflect on your achievements and your challenges) can be a valuable part of your sustainability efforts.

Sustainability management is an ongoing process of continuous improvement. Reporting on and communicating about your work is a part of that ongoing journey.

Interested in learning more? Want to get involved? See more information on the course here, and feel free to get in touch (ayako [at] trainingaid.org)!

More about TrainingAid 

TrainingAid is an international tourism training company specialized in sustainable tourism, providing practical and accessible professional development opportunities for industry professionals. We seek to achieve these goals by:

  • Investing in People: We believe in investing in people's potentials. In fact, the future of our industry depends on the skills and talents of those who work in tourism - today and tomorrow.
  • Making Learning Matter: We seek to make professional development in tourism more practical, accessible and meaningful, by applying our knowledge, expertise, ideas and visions for better skills training for tourism professionals.
  • Creating Ripple Effects: By helping spread knowledge and strengthen skills, we are making it easier for tourism industry professionals to make a positive impact.
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