Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Does "green'' matter to you?

When you make a travel decision, does "green" matter to you?

That's one of the questions that came up on a lunch panel in Scottsdale, Ariz. I'm here with a number of other journalists -- including Dana Dickey of Conde Nast Traveler, Travel Troubleshooter Chris Elliot and Travel Mom Emily Kaufman -- talking to PR professionals at the Hyatt Regency Resort at Gainey Ranch.

No one is questioning whether the environment is important, or whether we should be protecting it. What is up for debate is whether travelers care enough about it to make environmental impact part of their decision-making.

Conde Nast Traveler thinks social consciousness is so important that it has created a "green'' travel conference for industry decision-makers. And for those executives, the environment is crucial; if there's not enough water to keep the golf courses green or not enough water to support wildlife, those types of tourism could disappear.

But Chris brought up the reality check: For his cost-conscious readers, room rate probably comes first. Most of Conde Nast Traveler's readers bend toward luxury travel and can afford to make decisions on criteria aside from value.

My own view: There's a baseline now. All travelers expect hotels to have some basic "green'' practices in place, just as they expect hotels to have wireless internet access. Not meeting those basic expectations is a problem. But many of the green programs implemented by hotels and other suppliers are largely "green washing'' -- they sound good, but they don't deliver. So unless a green program shows demonstrable impact, it may not mean much -- unless it affects the traveler's cost.

It's a strange conversation to be having in a desert community known for magnificent golf courses. But all is not lost: At this Hyatt, the greens are maintained with recycled water. Which is a real impact, and makes them truly green.

What do you think? Vote in the web poll at right.

No comments: