TMG pursues sustainable tourism

TMG pursues sustainable tourism

TMG – TMG’s sustainability manager Mallory Ewer-Speck talks about how the company has worked to become the country’s first hospitality group to achieve the prestigious Travelife Gold Certification for its hotels and resorts.

Thien Minh Group’s view on sustainability tourism
Mallory Ewer-Speck, sustainability manager of TMG.

What does the certificate mean for TMG in particular and Vietnam’s tourism industry in general?

Mallory Ewer-Speck: To attain Travelife Gold Certification, all of our hotels have met over 140 requirements, which are standardized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Many of these criteria focus on what most people think of when they think of sustainability – such as how we manage natural resources like reducing our electricity and water usage, reducing the amount of waste we produce and recycling and reusing as much as possible.

But many of the criteria also focus on the social side of sustainability such as ensuring that we have fair labor practices, that we give back to the community, and that we preserve the local heritage and culture and encourage our guests to do the same.

I’m proud to say that for our hotels, we were already doing most of these requirements because of TMG’s long commitment to sustainable and responsible tourism.

However, on top of all of this, the most important requirement of Travelife Gold Certification is that we measure, monitor, and report our environmental and social impacts so that we continually improve. Obviously if we don’t measure our impact, we can’t make sure that we’re getting better.

This milestone is a testament to TMG’s commitment to making places better to live, work, and visit through sustainability and corporate responsibility. By achieving a third-party endorsement for all our hotels, a first in Vietnam, we hope to be a pioneer in the industry and to lead the way for other hotels to aim for third-party certification as well.

Furthermore, Travelife Gold Certification also answers to growing customer demand for sustainable travel options that address climate change and protect destination’s local resources, culture, and heritage.

Travelers and tour operators can rest assured that a Travelife Gold Certified accommodation’s impact in these areas has been independently checked and verified through a full onsite audit of the property.

What difficulties did TMG encounter along its way to attain the certificate and how were those difficulties resolved?

Mallory Ewer-Speck: Whenever implementing changes for sustainability such as in the way our hotels operate or provide services, the starting point is always to make sure that everyone understands why we are making the change.

TMG has a culture where our employees genuinely care about the environment and the community, so people are happy to implement changes when they know they’re doing it for the right reasons.

I think one of the biggest difficulties in any company’s sustainability journey is how to best encourage their customers to make sustainable choices. While this is often a challenge, it can’t be overlooked as it’s one of the ways companies can have the most impact.

This was also true for our Travelife Gold Certification. While we want to provide information and help our guests be as sustainable as possible, there were moments when it was challenging to seamlessly embed sustainability information and encouragement into the guest experience and to make sure that it was always positively framed—nobody wants to be guilt-tripped to be more sustainable on their vacation!

To ensure we executed these communications properly, our sustainability team helped draft the wording but we went through many iterations and relied on our hotel general managers to make the final decisions as they are our experts in the guest experience.

What will be the company do to further capitalise on this certificate?

Mallory Ewer-Speck: TMG will continue to push forward in its sustainability journey in 2024.

We are currently working to also get Vivu Journeys, TMG’s destination management company, Travelife Certified. Moreover, one of our main focuses will be developing and implementing a group wide decarbonization plan in 2024.

How does TMG define green and responsible tourism and sustainable tourism?

Mallory Ewer-Speck: TMG’s approach to responsible and sustainable tourism is to take into account both environmental and social impacts alongside the economy.

Businesses must of course always consider economic outcomes, but by incorporating environmental and social factors into our decision-making and strategy, we reduce our negative impacts and maximize our positive ones.

What exactly constitutes sustainable tourism is often debated. Obviously, any travel will have impacts that cannot be negated. Therefore, many people question if “sustainable travel” actually exists.

While this debate can lead to insights in how to better manage tourism, I believe that regardless of definitions, businesses still must strive to make travel as sustainable as possible.

Therefore, when we say sustainable tourism or responsible tourism, it doesn’t mean that these activities have zero impact, but rather that the impact is being monitored with negative effects reduced and positive effects maximized as much as possible.

Thien Minh Group’s view on sustainability tourism 1
One challenge to sustainability journey is how to encourage customers to make sustainable choices

How do you evaluate the sustainable tourism trend in Vietnam and what has TMG prepared to catch it?

Mallory Ewer-Speck: Sustainability is an undeniable trend in every industry and certainly the travel industry is no exception. Consumers want more sustainable products and they want to know that when they travel, they aren’t negatively impacting the destinations they visit.

Therefore, while sustainability has come to the forefront of many business strategies, the latest developments in sustainability focus on how businesses communicate and market sustainability to the final customer.

This trend has been especially important as consumers and governments realize that some businesses are greenwashing, which is when companies promote sustainable or green products without evidence of the actual impact these have on the environment or community.

Achieving a third-party endorsement, such as Travelife Gold Certification, is a good way to avoid greenwashing as it ensures that the impact has been verified by an unbiased third-party.

At TMG, we have the philosophy that we always do more than what we say we do. In other words, we never want to over exaggerate or misrepresent our commitments and achievements.

This core value at TMG has prepared us well for the growing demand for sustainability and for promoting sustainability in a truthful and transparent way. Attaining Travelife Gold Certification has further demonstrated that at TMG, we back up our words with action.

In your opinion, besides green and sustainable tourism, what trends will emerge in the Vietnam tourism sector this year and beyond?

Mallory Ewer-Speck: Besides green and sustainable tourism, I think we will see more people traveling for ‘bleisure’ (mixing business and pleasure) in Vietnam in 2024 and beyond.

For example, more people working on laptops at hotel pools, taking work calls at local coffee shops, etc. After covid-19, many realized how important travel is to them and are looking for more ways to incorporate it into their lives. By working remotely in new destinations, people are able to travel without taking a lot of time off work.

Additionally, with rising rent prices in many parts of the world, the price of staying at an Airbnb or a short-term rental for a few months looks more affordable.

Vietnam is attractive for ‘bleisure’ as it offers a variety of travel from beaches to cities that pair well with working. As ‘bleisure’ travelers want to settle into a place and feel more like a local, I think Vietnam will also be popular because people see it as less touristy than competitor destinations like Thailand or Bali.

For these reasons, I think ‘bleisure’ will be a popular trend in travel in Vietnam this year and in the years after.

Source: TheLEADER