Like Your Travel Green?

Green is definitely the new black — or it was briefly.

Take a look at all the consumer surveys and this is what you see: people care about the environmental impact and ethics of companies and products (especially Baby Boomers and young people). But they also increasingly believe that “green” is a cynical marketing label and strategy put forth by corporations to manipulate well-meaning consumers into buying their products. Reputedly “green” products and services are seemingly ubiquitous and yet it’s unclear whom to trust. 

One of the interesting questions in my mind is: How much will people change their behavior for their professed values? They report that they will and do. However, my thesis and experience is that they don’t and won’t much.

If there are two products side-by-side on the shelf, good laundry detergent vs. evil laundry detergent, and the good laundry detergent is just a little more expensive, people will buy it. As I’ve argued to people many times, if you put a recycling bin in the kitchen everyone will recycle, but if you ask someone to schlep their bottles and cans to a recycling center, only a tiny fraction of that same group will comply. 

That’s why a site like WholeTravel is very interesting. I spoke to them this week. 

The site has spent considerable time — and no doubt expense — creating an interesting database of sustainable hotels. There’s even an associated non-profit to go with it that tries to project and ensure the integrity of ratings/rankings of these hotels. I was also told that a majority of these hotels are not in the major online travel databases. 

Travel is a very competitive category. As evidence, here’s a round up of the “top 100” travel sites (many are non-US). I would bet that most people can’t name more than about six. However the founders of Whole Travel believe that there’s an unmet demand for “sustainable travel” out there and that will differentiate the site and help it gain attention. 

Maybe so. And if it crosses a certain traffic and visibility threshold, the site will be acquired for its user base and database. 

In addition, there’s a luxury and/or adventure travel angle here which may also appeal nicely to the demographic groups that the site is aligned with: Boomers and younger, more “conscious” travelers. What I argued to them was this: the site must work and stack up as a great travel site independent of its “greenness.” I also said that the site should emphasize the uniqueness of its database and let the sustainability be something that everyone can feel good about. 

Many if not most consumers seek deals and discounts when they travel. At the other end, some travelers are looking for luxury. Green may be a value for many but it’s typically not going to be a leading consideration; it may be a tie breaker (as I’ve suggested above). 

Regardless, Whole Travel (no relationship to Whole Foods) has built a nice site. The question is: Will YOU use it? I’m interested to hear others’ opinions.

3 Responses to “Like Your Travel Green?”

  1. Tom Caughlin Says:

    The leisure travel market and those who stay at “luxury” brands are the market segments that will adopt the “greening” of the hotel industry. As suggest at iGroupNews,, in an article entitled “Meeting Planners Go (for the) Green, the author is spot on!

  2. MiriamEllis Says:

    I think the idea is interesting, Greg, but am having a couple of issues with the site.

    The homepage is not self-explanatory. It gives no statement about what the site does or is. If I hadn’t reached it via your blog, I wouldn’t have understood how the site is any different than any other travel site. That’s a real weakness, in my opinion.

    The copy above the search box reads something like “What’s Your Grand Adventure?” This is an extremely vague call to action. Is it asking me what the best vacation was I ever took…or where I’d like to go in future…or something else? Again, there is a lack of clarity here about what I’m supposed to use the site for.

    Not understanding what was being asked of from me, I typed in several major tourist towns in California and was told there was no data for those towns.

    So, I then typed in the word ‘California’ and, lo and behold, there was a hotel in one of the towns I’d searched for earlier, right at the top of the list. However, it was accompanied by very minimal data and some blank stars. As I’m not even sure how stars are acquired (is this an SM voting thing or a score given by the website based on some criteria), I still had no idea that there was some kind of Green ethic involved by which hotels would be sorted, rated or what have you. By this point, I’ve spent nearly 5 minutes on the site and still have no sense of how it is serving me.

    The Green criteria, if there is one, needs to be on the homepage of this website. There needs to be a checklist for each hotel listed of their green practices. If there is such a thing, I didn’t encounter it.

    And, I can tell you, I might just use a well-done site like this if it was smart enough to realize that many of the people who have gone green have done so for health related reasons. I would like to see a checklist like this:

    Are chemicals used on the grounds?
    Are room cleaning products unscented and non-toxic?
    Are the fibers in the bedding/decor natural and non-toxic?
    If it’s a B&B or has a restaurant, does the hotel have it’s own organic garden or are they purchasing organic food from local farmers?

    I could make quite a long list like this, and implementing something like this would involve direct contact with the hotel owners. It would require an investment of time and money, but the end results would be valuable.

    I have not forgotten staying at a hotel and having my sinuses completely swell up from the cleaning products, going outside for some fresh air and having a gardener walk by the patio spraying pesticide. What a vacation!

    I think Whole Travel could have a good thing going, but they really need to work on their USP, their copy, their database and the calls to action.

    Thanks for showing this to me, Greg.

  3. Greg Sterling Says:

    Very thoughtful remarks. Thanks

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