Today, businesses are starting to acknowledge their responsibility to give back. Protecting our environment, our communities and our economy is on top of the list for companies in many different sectors. As public awareness around climate change and social issues increases, more and more businesses are taking steps to make the world a better place in a way that resonates with their customers.
The vacation rental industry is no exception. Sustainable travel has become a major travel trend. Travellers are starting to be more conscious of the adverse effects of tourism on communities. Vacation rental companies must do their part in supporting good causes and providing travellers with a chance to make a positive impact.
In this post, we continue our Travel Trends series with a look at how short-term rental property managers can give back – and at the same time, respond to the growing trend of sustainable and socially conscious travel and incorporate it into their vacation rental marketing efforts.
We dive deep into the examples of 5 property management companies – LetsRoost, EnjoyApartments, Casal dei Fichi, Air Peace of Mind and TreasureRome – to prove that responsible travel and vacation rentals go hand in hand.
Responsible travel: A fast-growing trend
Global warming. Deforestation. Poverty. Social injustice. Exploitation. Income inequality. Water scarcity. Overtourism. These are just some of the global issues that are on people’s – and traveller’s – minds these days.
While it’s going to take a very long time and universal measures to solve these problems, the heightened awareness that surrounds them has inspired individuals to try and contribute to the solution. People want to travel better.
Socially responsible and sustainable tourism has become a travel trend that the hospitality industry can’t help but address in 2020.
Research conducted by Booking.com suggests that almost three quarters (72%) of travellers believe that we need to act now and make sustainable travel choices to save the planet for future generations.
And it’s not just Millennials. 74% of adults aged 46-55 also believe that this is a high priority.
Additionally, 73% of global travellers intend to stay at least once in eco-friendly or green accommodation, and 70% say they would be more likely to book lodging knowing it was eco-friendly.
Travellers concerns stretch beyond the environmental. 68% of the respondents to Booking.com’s survey would like the money they spend on travel to go back into the local community.
Seeing these compelling statistics on the responsible travel trend, the hospitality industry has begun to take measures that reflect travellers’ values.
Responsible travel and vacation rentals: what the industry has done so far
Some hotels and airlines were quick to jump on board the sustainability train. For example, Marriott International has eliminated miniature toiletries that come in plastic bottles. Airlines like JetBlue and British Airways have started offsetting their carbon emissions.
What about vacation rentals?
Unsurprisingly, the first large-scale projects that brought together responsible travel and vacation rentals were launched by industry giants.
Airbnb has been taking part in various social impact initiatives around the world for many years. They also created their Global Office of Health Tourism to promote sustainability and empower local economies. In 2017, Booking.com launched the Booster Accelerator Programme to support startups on sustainable tourism.
Next to the big players, some niche listing sites have also started programmes to foster the relationship between responsible travel and vacation rentals. You can find details about them and the environmentally-friendly/socially responsible projects they support in our new ebook, the Who’s Who of Short-Term Rental Listing Sites.
Why should property managers consider combining responsible travel and vacation rentals?
Next to listing sites, property managers can also do their part in promoting responsible travel.
Of course, the main reason why you should consider donating your time and/or effort to a charitable cause is simply to give back. It should be a selfless act.
However, it would be naive to deny that there are added benefits to having an environmental agenda or a social impact strategy.
Property managers who have implemented social/environmental programmes have experienced a bonus of:
- Opening up new market opportunities (socially and/or environmentally conscious guests and owners)
- Engaging employees
- Standing out from the crowd
- Incentivising repeat bookings and personal recommendations
- Getting good reviews
Let’s take a look at what you can do to marry responsible travel and vacation rentals.
What can property managers do to support social and environmental causes?
There are many ways that property managers can support social, economic and environmental causes.
Here are a few initiatives that you should consider undertaking:
- Implore your guests to offset their carbon emissions and use low-impact modes of transport like trains, cycling and walking
- Use green energy at your properties
- Encourage recycling
- Start phasing out single-use plastics (water bottles, tiny toiletries, etc.)
- Support global and/or local charities and non-profits through donations
- Encourage your travellers to sign up for volunteer work through local organisations
- Ask your travellers to avoid areas of the city where overtourism is causing a problem
- Give advice to your travellers on where to shop and how to support local businesses
- Protect the natural resources of your destination by giving back
You can promote these projects to guests and invite them to participate via:
- Your website
- Social media campaigns
- In-stay materials (brochures, digital welcome books)
- Other marketing initiatives
Now you may be thinking: OK, but what does this look like in practice?
Let us take you through the examples of 5 property managers that have already implemented many of these practices and show you how it works in real life.
Responsible travel and vacation rentals: 5 examples of property managers with a charitable cause
1. LetsRoost – helping to reduce homelessness
LetsRoost is committed to improving the lives of people who struggle with homelessness in the UK. A proportion of the profits they generate is earmarked for the Roost Foundation Trust, a charity they’ve created to reduce homelessness in a responsible and ethical way. They also offer an “ethical add-on” that owners can attach to their property management packages and give an extra 1% per booking to the Foundation.
Owners working with LetsRoost receive an ethically-sourced award to place in their properties and let their guests know that they are helping to make a difference.
“First and foremost travellers book with us for the accommodation, and this is really important. However, owners are selecting our package on our ethical model, so our focus is on homeowners rather than travellers.”
Richard Curtis, Co-Founder at LetsRoost
“There is definitely a growing sector of socially responsible homeowners (they are not all revenue hunters at all costs) and this gives them a chance to stand out amongst the crowded market place,” says Richard Curtis, Co-Founder at LetsRoost.
2. EnjoyApartments – promoting responsible tourism
EnjoyApartments donates 1% of every booking to various charities. In 2019, the company chose Hospital Sant Joan de Deu, a children’s hospital as their main beneficiary. They also work with OneTreePlanted, Casal del Infants and other small, local initiatives. In Barcelona, they donate 1 euro per check-in to mothers and children at risk of social exclusion. And, for every review they receive, they plant a tree to help reforestation around the world.
“We feel that responsible tourism is a must, in particular for short-term rentals. It is the only way that we – the sector as a whole – can be fully integrated and accepted in society. That is why we have opted for giving back.”
Ralph Taal, Managing Director at EnjoyApartments
“We try to educate our guests in some way but mainly we adopted our programs to do good; we do not expect anything in return for it. It is more of a conviction. The most important thing is that all our guests, whether highly socially involved or not at all, feel comfortable staying with us,” says Ralph Taal, Managing Director at EnjoyApartments adds.
Not only is EnjoyApartments committed to social responsibility, but they also encourage their guests to adopt environmentally-friendly practices while travelling.
“Where years ago only a small part of travellers were separating waste or asking about eco-friendly ways to get around, we see this happening much more now and are happy about that development,” Ralph says.
Last but not least, EnjoyApartments wants to help alleviate the pressure of tourism on cities by asking travellers to discover hidden gems (instead of only visiting the most popular tourist attractions) and buy at local small to medium-sized shops.
EnjoyApartments not only functions as a property manager but also as a listing site. They are one of the top niche vacation rental sites mentioned in our new ebook The Who’s Who of Short-Term Rental Listing Sites representing the social responsibility travel trend.
3. Casal dei Fichi – planting trees to protect the environment
Casal dei Fichi‘s primary charitable involvement is with Treedom. They encourage local restaurants to donate a percentage of their guests’ bill, which they then supplement and donate to Treedom. This funds sustainable planting of trees in Kenya, providing a livelihood for subsistence farmers and assisting the elimination of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
They also invite guests to offset their flights to reduce their carbon footprint.
“In the 2 years that we have been running the scheme, we have contributed ourselves about €2,400 which represents 2% of our annual income. To date, we have funded the planting of over 500 trees which have absorbed nearly 2,000 tonnes of CO2. Our objective is to engage the guests and through their actions, we can amplify our impact on the environment and the communities locally and further afield.”
Bob Garner, Owner at Casal dei Fichi
In 2019, Casal dei Fichi received the Award for Excellence in Customer Experience at the Vacation Rental World Summit to acknowledge the positive way they engage their guests in their community activity.
In order to minimise their impact on the environment, Casal dei Fichi has introduced over 20 eco-friendly practices. For example, they support ethical and sustainable suppliers such as Who Gives a Crap, a company that manufactures toilet paper from recycled paper and finances sanitation projects in the developing world. They also give their guests reusable Jerry Bottles that support water projects around the world.
“The overwhelming majority of our visitors consider our environmental credentials a major contribution to their holiday experience. Based on our green approach, we were recently rated number one in The Times’ list of the Top 50 Places to Stay in Italy,” says Casal dei Fichi owner Bob Garner.
“We believe guests feel good when the host’s ethics align with their own. They feel that […] themselves have played a small part in making the world a slightly better place,” he adds.
Bob and his partner are also founding members of The Star Throwers, and organisation that helps vacation rentals owners and managers give back to their community. They’re always looking for new members to join!
Most recently, Casal dei Fichi has been shortlisted for the Shortyz Award recognising sustainable eco best practices in the holiday rental industry. You can vote for them here.
4. Air Peace of Mind – tackling homelessness and aiding veterans
Air Peace of Mind regularly contributes to two charities: Streets of London and Supporting Wounded Veterans. The former is an organisation that helps tackle homelessness at the grassroots. The latter runs a programme to rehabilitate veterans and help them find employment.
Emily Bruce Watt, Founder and Managing Director at Air Peace of Mind chose these two initiatives because they are both close to their heart.
Through a pleasant daily interaction with a homeless man outside a coffee shop, she realised “how lucky I was to be offering such beautiful homes to global travellers,” and it made her “think about the other end of the spectrum; the homeless.”
Out of solidarity, she once slept outside in the cold November weather, with nothing but a sleeping bag and some cardboard matting.
“It was very cold and extremely wet and I didn’t sleep a wink. To think there are over 10,000 sleeping rough in London every night is just heartbreaking,” she says.
Since then, she’s made it her mission to try and combat homelessness in London.
“Together with the help of my incredibly generous homeowner clients, I raised over £3,000 for this amazing charity which is helping to tackle the homeless plight.”
Emily Bruce Watt, Founder and Managing Director at Air Peace of Mind
She also feels strongly about helping veterans readjust to civilian life. Her father was in the Army, and she learned about the struggles that discharged veterans face through the media. Now she’s committed to helping the charity Supporting Wounded Veterans with their rehabilitation programme.
“As part of the course, the veterans are taken to the mountains to learn how to ski with their horrific injuries. This helps them regain lost confidence and rebuild their strength and fitness and offers them a new start as often they also suffer from depression and isolation,” she says.
Travellers who stay with Air Peace of Mind aren’t aware of the business’s charitable component, but homeowners are actively involved.
“My team are helping me put on a fundraising night and I hope some of my homeowner clients will attend as I want to raise as much money as possible for such a worthwhile cause,” Emily says.
5. TreasureRome – giving back to help children in need
TreasureRome is a socially-conscious property management company that considers it fundamentally important to give back to those in need.
“As business owners, parents and global citizens, we feel called to give back and help support the next generation of young leaders in our international community. This is why TreasureRome is proud to support the Real Pearl Foundation, a non-profit organisation that operates in one of the poorest regions of Hungary, our country of origin,” says Henrietta Kiss, Co-Founder at TreasureRome.
According to Henrietta, the Real Pearl Foundation’s mission is to help end child poverty through art, education, community development and social entrepreneurship.
For every reservation with TreasureRome, the company donates €5 to the Foundation. They also host events in Rome to showcase the children’s artworks and help sell their crafts at local fairs. Some of these handmade items make an appearance in TreasureRome homes, like the colourful treasure boxes at the entrance of each apartment.
Since 2016, TreasureRome has donated €4500, raised €3000 and held several exhibitions and charity sales in Rome. What’s more, they have organised a meeting for a group of children with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
TreasureRome is also a member of the The Star Throwers programme, a vacation rental network that believes social responsibility is an integral part of any venture.
“We live in an era where our money carries real power and we have the opportunity to support important causes through mindful purchases. We do believe awareness and consciousness are raising in the travel industry, and that more and more people pay attention to what they choose to support with their money – even on holiday.”
Henrietta Kiss, Co-Founder at TreasureRome
“Our social impact is a differentiator, something that definitely creates connection and incentivises repeat reservations and personal recommendations,” she adds.
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