Nudging tourists towards making responsible choices
Already now, tourists are guided in a responsible direction by tourism businesses’ own responsibility communication and by certificates ensuring the sustainability of products.
“For example, a German tour operator may require Finnish tourism services to have certain certificates, which are used to demonstrate to tourists and partners that the entire tour is responsibly organised, from start to finish, including the whole supply chain,” Pesonen explains.
Tourism businesses should invest in responsibility communication, because when making a choice between two equally strong tourism products, the consumer will usually choose the one that is more responsible.
“Responsibility communication is a way for tourism businesses to tell what they are doing in terms of sustainable development and responsibility. In addition to providing information, communication can guide consumers towards more responsible consumption, and it can influence the image and brand of the company,” says Project Manager Katja Pasanen from the Business School. She is currently writing her doctoral dissertation on responsibility communication.
According to Pasanen, among the recent tools in responsibility communication is nudging, which has proven effective in guiding consumer behaviour.
“There are also ways to nudge customers without using words. For example, a hotel can switch its breakfast plates to a smaller size in order to reduce food waste. And then there are ways of encouraging responsible choices through communication. For instance, customers can get a drink ticket when they make a choice that saves the environment. Nudging has led to a lot of good results, such as reductions in hotels’ room cleaning requests and food waste. The customer experience becomes more positive when the customer is taken into consideration in the process.”
Responsibility communication has become an international area of research in the past ten years. The trend has also been followed in Finland, and research into responsibility communication began at the University of Eastern Finland’s Business School in 2018.
“Back then, problems relating to the sustainability of tourism started to emerge. At the same time, Visit Finland began to develop the Sustainable Travel Finland programme for tourism businesses and regions. Today, responsibility communication is being developed as one area of responsible tourism in a number of projects in Finland,” Pasanen says.
The importance of responsibility communication is gradually starting to be understood, but there are also challenges with regard to, e.g., companies’ communications resources and how to formulate messages so that they catch the consumer’s eye and inspire action.
“Many Finnish tourism businesses act responsibly but do not necessarily inform their customers about it online. Consuming has largely moved to the digital world and, if a tourist cannot find the information they are looking for on a company's website, they’ll move on to the next company.”