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Highlights and insights from L.E/Miami 2023

Extracted from the Editor's Letter - Bites and Bytes Newsletter 8

Published June 2023

by Melony van der Merwe

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to join Emma Riley, Strategy Director, AKQA Bloom and Paul Salmon, Chairman & CEO, Rockhouse, Skylark & Rockhouse Foundation at L.E/Miami for a conversation about sustainability in the tourism industry. With its thriving tourism sector coupled with its vulnerability to climate change, Miami felt like an especially fitting location for our discussion.

Our panel took place during L.E/Miami’s Master Pass, exclusive sessions running parallel to the main event, designed to inspire and challenge the top 50 leaders in contemporary hospitality through expert-led thought leadership.

With an especially engaging audience, what stood out for me not just from our panel but from  the rest of the sessions throughout the day, was that the pandemic created the space for many travel and hospitality leaders, no matter the size of their organisations, to evaluate their positioning in a new global travel environment, and consider what was most important to both their internal and external stakeholders and for many, the greater community that surrounded their place of operation.

There was a keen awareness of the interconnectedness of everything and everyone, and that what is done locally impacts the greater industry, especially people and place.

Choosing progress over perfection

Most importantly, many in the room were now focused on taking action. However it was also evident that there was no uniformity nor a clear path specifically for the travel industry to take stock of the granular aspects of what was happening on the ground, and how to communicate it to a new generation of impact-minded travellers.

The rising demand for eco-friendly travel options among tourists signifies a shift in expectations beyond basic measures like hotels inviting guests to reuse their towels. In fact, it was this very scenario that gave us the term ‘greenwashing’—in the 1980s an environmental activist coined this portmanteau in response to a hotel’s marketing campaign that encouraged guests to reuse towels to save the environment. He pointed out that this campaign was more about saving costs for the hotel rather than genuinely trying to protect the environment—and all the while, the hotel continued to engage in other environmentally harmful practices.


Why the practice of sustainability should sit in operations, not marketing

Today, showcasing your dedication to sustainability can make your business more attractive to the growing number of travelers seeking eco-friendly options, but customers can see the difference between mere marketing ploys and true operational change. And that’s where the practice of sustainability should sit: in operations, not marketing.
Sustainable business operations encompass much more than we might have been led to believe. In addition to environmental protection and conservation, sustainability should take into account vital social aspects that are just as important to a business’s resilience and bottom line. Consider your employees’ engagement, wellbeing, learning and development; or supporting and preserving local communities, culture and heritage. Sustainability can and should include best management practices that create better customer experiences and shared value for resilient, long-lasting partnerships and commerce.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

Recognising that environmental and social impact are no longer optional considerations for properties is a great place to start—but knowing where and how to take action is another story. As we discussed in Miami, one of the biggest challenges the travel industry faces is understanding their impact so they can begin to take actionable steps in the right direction. That’s where Weeva can help.

Once you’ve gathered your data, you can harness these conservation, community, culture, and commerce metrics to positively impact your bottom line. Whether that’s by measuring and optimising your employees’ engagement and wellbeing in order to cultivate a resilient and high-performing workplace, or by using Weeva’s commerce parameters to align with vendors that echo your values, leading to broader impact throughout the supply chain and a symbiotic relationship that enables you to provide stable employment, promote positive tourism, invest further in sustainability, and secure a fair return—the choice is yours to make based on what works best for your business.

As we continue to navigate our industry’s evolving landscape, it’s abundantly clear that sustainability is an essential component for the future of travel, tourism and hospitality. Embracing tools like Weeva can help us not only understand our impact but also guide us in making more conscious, ethical decisions that resonate with our values, and create more resilient, profitable businesses along the way.

Melony van der Merwe

Melony van der Merwe

Trade Ambassador | Weeva

Melony van der Merwe is a sales and marketing consultant with more than 16 years of experience in the luxury travel industry. She specialises in community building, trade relations and strategy development and is an advocate for regenerative tourism. Over the course of her career, Melony has worked with a range of clients, including Regenerative Travel and Natural Selection Safaris to help optimise their investment in some of the most important source markets of luxury and impact-driven travel in the world. Mel is Weeva’s Trade Ambassador, based in Miami.

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