Sustainable Travel International and ecoism Proving the Value in Social Enterprise-Nonprofit Partnership

9 May 2012

Through collaboration and resource sharing, sustainable tourism marketing partnerships succeed in delivering ROI, credibility, and integrated thinking. The result: destinations and travel companies develop plans and products designed to benefit the local community, while protecting valued tourism resources.

Portland, OR. and Vancouver, WA. - Global non-profit Sustainable Travel International and ecoism, the sustainable tourism and strategic marketing firm, are determined to advance responsible travel and tourism globally. The new strategic partnership will help clients across all sectors of travel and tourism benefit from the extensive marketing, sustainability and industry experience the two organizations possess.

The STI-ecoism partnership provides a collaborative approach for destinations and travel companies.

“Through their work for the GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council), ecoism has demonstrated a unique ability to integrate sustainability into cost-effective marketing, producing measurable results. Coupling this strength with STI's tools and network across all travel sectors will advance the travel industry in a positive and innovative direction,” says Leilani C. Latimer, Director of Sustainability Initiatives for Sabre Holdings and a GSTC Board member.

STI’s vast experience working across the tourism value chain helps clients identify priority issues, while using comprehensive tools to structure their sustainability plans and track their success. ecoism’s experience in marketing adventure travel and ecotourism helps clients assess their market position and opportunities, creating integrated and cost-effective marketing, branding, and product development strategies that achieve measurable results.

“Product development is marketing,” says ecoism founder Richard G. Edwards. “Clients see the results of our holistic approach with STI, and they understand the impact of integrating sustainability into the product development process and throughout their organizations, so they address the most important business question: Does it sell travel?” Edwards says.

“Our strategic partnership with ecoism enables us to further connect sustainable development with the bottom line,” says STI’s CEO and Founder Brian Mullis. “Together, STI and ecoism are changing the way destinations operate and plan for the future, while positioning themselves ahead of the curve in the global marketplace.”

The focus for STI and ecoism lies squarely on generating results for clients. The partners work with travel clients to align product development and marketing with the values of the destination community, the travel and tourism organizations, and the target market.

STI offers destinations a suite of next-generation strategic solutions, which aim to make sustainability manageable and accessible, while positioning destinations to meet the needs of their constituents.

Travel consumers today have unprecedented access to information and can quickly consult online tools designed to aid in purchasing decisions. These tools are used not only to compare product features or price, but also to explore organizations’ records as responsible global citizens.

“We are seeing a very encouraging trend with travel companies and destinations – DMOs, Tourism Boards, CVBs, and tour operators – that are not only interested in sustainable tourism, they are investing in programs and strengthening their sustainability efforts,” says Edwards.

Many leading travel companies have discovered sustainability represents a significant opportunity to differentiate their brand, expand their customer base, and strengthen visitor loyalty based on shared values, like conservation, wildlife habitat protection, economic development and pathways out of poverty for local communities.

Marketing research supports this trend. A study by Cone indicated that more than 278 million U.S. consumers want to know what a company is doing to benefit a particular cause, and 85% have a more positive image of a product when the company supports a cause they care about.

Both sustainable tourism product development and tourism marketing initiatives that are targeted to savvy, affluent, conscious consumers require an understanding of sustainability principles, expertise in messaging, and an integrated approach.

Without this integrated approach, it is often difficult to identify the social or environmental benefits of travel products, which provide the valuable storytelling opportunities critical to effective marketing.

Corporate social and environmental responsibility in the travel industry has evolved from compliance to voluntary participation to active participation, and leaders throughout travel and tourism recognize the value in the collaborative, results-driven approach STI and ecoism deliver.