Do we need to stop flying to “Save the Planet”

Having worked in travel all my working life, I have seen first-hand the benefits that traveling brings in terms of global understanding and tolerance. However, I have also become one of a growing number of “Green Activists” looking at how we can save the planet by slowing and eventually stopping Global Warming. In this role, I regularly hear fellow activists demanding that people fly less.

However, travel only represents 12% of an individual’s carbon emission and there are many other sources of Co2 emissions that if dealt with would have a much bigger impact.

 The travel sector does need to openly admit it will not be carbon neutral by 2030 or any time soon and address what it does to compensate for this. If it doesn’t “flying” could quickly become the equivalent of smoking and be seen by younger generations as a polluting/anti-social behavior.

A simple solution might be “compulsory carbon offsetting” for every flight taken, with the funds generated used to drive carbon removal programs around the world.

 Global warming can be reduced, by removing carbon from the atmosphere anywhere in the world, which is why I have invested/donated substantial funds to help develop modular hemp farming containers. These can be dropped into Africa to create hemp farms which are 4 times more effective per acre at extracting Co2 compared to planting trees and can be powered by generators that burn the oil created from crushing hemp so that it can create a material this is used for making clothing or building. These generators also power lighting and water irrigation, which allows food crops to be grown, making it a win for the local and global communities at the same time.

 The bottom line is that all extraction schemes need funding, and the best route is via “taxation” on polluting activities.  

 However, can we trust the UK Government not just to pocket any “carbon offsetting” tax in the same way it pockets APD tax, with no explanation on how it is spent or why it is even charged, apart from that it’s an easy stealth tax.

 The UK Travel Industry needs to admit it’s a polluter and pay its taxes, whilst ensuring they are well spent on reducing carbon emissions. If this cannot be done via our government, then the major airlines need to join forces and operate a compulsory carbon offsetting program themselves.

Travel also needs to widen the debate and focus customers’ minds on the bigger Co2 issues, which if dealt with would allow them to continue to travel with a clear conscience.

Unplugging, the petrol pump and buying an EV would cut 29% of an individual’s Co2 emissions, whilst reducing car running costs by 66%. Switching household heating from gas to electric or ground source heating, would rapidly eat into the 41% of emissions created by running our houses, but is less likely as electric heating is currently 4 times more expensive than gas.

However, what’s the point of moving the UK population to clean EV cars and electric heating, if they are powered by expensive and “dirty” electricity?

 The UK electricity board is one of the country’s biggest polluters, with 50% of electricity being generated by burning gas or other fossil fuels. The quickest solution to stopping this is a massive investment in nuclear power, but the Government is still dithering about funding the £500m required to start the process of deploying 20-30 Rolls-Royce “Small Modular Reactors” (SMRs). These will boost nuclear power back to the 25% share of production it used to be in the 1990s and give more time to develop other clean power projects such as solar and wind.

Action is needed now but if we think we have issues with travel being ignored by the government, try becoming part of the nuclear electricity sector!

 Travel will always be a force for good, but it needs to clean up its image via offsetting in the short term and less polluting fuels or power sources such as hydrogen in the longer term.

 In my opinion, we do not need to stop flying to save the planet, but we do need to compensate for the miles we fly to enjoy our holidays and drive change elsewhere.

Let’s act now to protect the industry we love.

Travel Video 1.0 has arrived for High Street Shops.

Covid-19 created a generational change in our acceptance and use of video conferencing technology in both our business and social lives.

My weekly travel from Manchester to London has long gone, with most of my days now spent in my garden “office pod”, where in between Zoom or Team calls with colleagues or potential business leads, I type away on my computer.

The location we work from has changed for many people, with blended working between home and office becoming the norm. This has unfortunately impacted many of our high streets, with reduced walk-in traffic being reported by many high street agents.

Far from seeing this as the latest reason to predict the “Death of the High Street”, I see it as a driver that will force Highstreet agents to evolve their working practices to incorporate appointment-based video conferencing.

At homeworking business TSN, we have been working with video experts “U-SEE Technologies” to develop a bespoke video platform, that allows homeworkers to market their services via email, social media, or google “pulse” advertising to their local communities. The inquiries generated can be handled face to face or by phone, but increasingly customers are making appointments via the diary functions for Video conference calls.  

Agents can pre-prepare for these video calls, storing documents, videos, quotes, or even links to websites, for ease of use. These aspects of the platform are invisible to customers and allow a much slicker/more professional fully branded service compared to the mass market video platforms.

Incorporating these same tools into shop-based selling could seamlessly extend opening hours and drive higher conversion by offering greater convenience.

A simple bold poster in the window promoting this always-open “Video Appointment” system, would allow the shop to generate inquiries from customers even when it’s shut. A QR code on the poster, when scanned by the customer’s phone opens the shop meeting diary and asks the customer some simple qualifying questions. Date and times are then selected, giving the customer the convenience of a face-to-face consultation from the comfort of their home.

Some travel businesses already operate “out of hours” call center support to extend the opening hours of their shops, but there is always a natural conflict as shop staff don’t want the leads, they generate, converted by other staff who take a large cut of their commissions. It would be interesting to see if these shop staff will be willing to jump on evening video appointments to complete bookings or generate fresh leads. A key advantage is that unlike call centers there is no need to spend idle hours waiting around as only pre-arranged and diarised calls need to be handled, making any time allocated to this work highly productive.

The U-SEE diary function is highly tailorable and links into your personal diary, behind the scenes, so that business appointment hours are automatically blocked, when kid pick up/drop offs or other social events pop into the diary.

There are numerous product extensions that will create Travel Video 2.0, such as QR stickers on brochures or specific posters/social posts promoting destination or product expertise e.g., New York Breaks, Safari’s, and Adventure holidays. However, partnerships with high-traffic locations such as train stations, and supermarkets to promote “face-to-face” holiday booking via video may be the big volume drivers.

Seeing a customer’s reaction and adjusting sales pitches on the fly, drives higher conversions. Combining this with appointment-based selling, reduces wasted time and boosts convenience for both the customer and the travel agent.

PS. If anybody wants to hear more from U-SEE simple message and I’ll send an appointment link!

Hotels: Give Direct Bookings “Priority Access”

Hotels and airlines for years have successfully operated “loyalty” programs, which aim to lock frequent travelers into using their hotels via points-based schemes that offer room upgrades or free stays for family leisure trips.

These schemes are more successful the bigger the chain of hotels or airline networks involved and tend to focus on business travelers, where the company is picking up the tab.

Can individual hotels or beach hotel chains use these types of schemes?

A key weakness is the low frequency of customer stays, with even loyal holidaymakers only traveling to the hotel once a year for their 7-night beach holiday. This makes “points” schemes irrelevant for this market of customers, forcing them to look for other ideas to drive loyalty and direct bookings.

“Direct Bookings” have become a bigger focus for beach hotels in recent years, because of the evolution of the market away from “vertically integrated” tour operators who used to promote them via printed brochures and often “guaranteed” their rooms with big up-front cash payments. Today the UK OTA and low-cost carrier tour operators’ sites allow few opportunities for hotels to stand out and promote the refurbished, high-quality offerings they have invested so heavily in.

At the same time, the dominant hotel only OTA has used its size and power to impose stringent price parity rules, which effectively means hotels cannot offer lower prices to direct bookers.

This neutralises the most obvious route for driving direct bookings, which is cheaper “Non-Refundable” room rates, where customers pay in full on booking via hotel direct sites, boosting cash flows and creating firm bookings. and other OTAs use their scale to demand access to these same rates even though in most cases they don’t pass on the cash for these “Non-refundable” rates any earlier.

This price parity demand means customers can get the same price via the website or app, which they use regularly for domestic and international travel. This frequency of use builds a level of brand loyalty and convenience, as holds all personal details and cards. This makes it a much quicker and simpler booking process, that a beach hotel will never be able to match.

At the same time, advertises above hotels in Google, when customers search for a hotel name, ensuring that customers know they can book via this well-known brand at the same price as the hotel direct.

At HDC (Hotel Distribution Consultancy) we advise hotels to look at ways they can give their direct booking customers advantages that don’t breach these price guarantees, as distribution is key and needs to be protected.

We offer a portfolio of recommendations about how to focus on customer “needs” during their holiday stay to create a “Priority Access” schemes, which are only available to Direct Bookings.

These “Priority Access” schemes can be promoted to customers on the hotels’ websites as a reason to book direct and be rewarded during their upcoming stay, rather than having to collect points they can only use on future trips.

These schemes offer a workaround OTA “price parity” rules, to reward direct booking. This drives healthy early cash flows and greatly reduces the 30% cancellation levels delivered by the model, which under-commits customers as they can often cancel up to 24 hours before arrival free of charge.

Taking control of their own destiny via direct bookings must be a key focus for beach hotels.