Sustainability in visitor attractions – Meet your green guest

Over 70% of attraction visitors want to be more sustainable. Are you helping your green guests make the right choices?
April 2021

Up to now, family time, fun and laughter have been the key considerations when choosing our big days out. But with the rise of the green guest, that’s starting to change. 

According to a recent report by Garnier, 73% of Brits want to be more sustainable in 2021. In the US that figure is 78%, whilst the UAE, Brazil and India all sit above 85%! And that doesn’t just mean switching to eco-friendly products; from our cars to the type of energy we consume and beyond, consumers are increasingly voting with their feet and choosing to invest in brands that support their sustainability goals. 

What does that mean for the attractions industry? On top of having a great time, guests increasingly want the attractions they love to do the right thing by the environment. In parallel with this year’s Earth Day and the launch of Greenloop, we’ve been taking a deep dive into the mindset of the green guest. Stay with us to discover who they are and where they’re crucial to your success in the future.

Green experiences: Why now?

As information about the impact of human activities on the environment becomes more accessible thanks to the digitalisation of news outlets (thank you, social media!), the public has become increasingly aware of the damage caused by their leisure activities. And to compound this growing sentiment, recent global events have made it virtually impossible to ignore the signs of ecological upheaval. 

In a recent BCG survey of more than 3,000 people across eight countries, researchers found that following the COVID-19 Pandemic, people are more concerned about addressing environmental issues. Crucially, they’re also more willing to change their behaviours to support sustainable agendas. 

Some 70% of respondents said they were more aware now than before COVID-19 that human activity threatens the climate. Of those who said that the last year has made them think differently, around 50% agreed that 2020 was a “wake up call” to protect the environment.

And it’s not surprising when we take the year in context. From the bushfires that engulfed Australia in January, destroying nearly 18 million hectares of land and around 3000 homes, to the flash flooding that displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Indonesia and America’s most active hurricane season on record, 2020 will go down in the history books as a year of environmental turbulence. Combined with the Pandemic and a heightened focus on environmental issues in pop culture (David Attenboroughs’ A Life on Our Planet’ drew in millions of viewers when it aired in 2020), this has made sustainability everyone’s business. 

Coming of age as a green consumer

Even though public awareness of environmental issues has increased as a whole, it’s most pronounced amongst younger generations. Millennial and Gen Z spenders already translate their environmental consciousness into eco-friendly choices, with commentators observing that ethical spending is fast becoming a status symbol for young consumers and a way of expressing identity.  

Smart attractions will realise the tangible benefits of this trend. By 2025, millennials and Gen Z’ers will represent 75% of the working population, which means their spending power will rise along with their influence. And we’re already starting to see signs of what’s to come:

  • 53% of millennials actively seek out environmentally friendly options vs just 34% of baby boomers
  • Gen Z are the demographic most likely to make lifestyle changes in the pursuit of being more environmentally friendly- 74% of Gen Z consumers have made significant changes over the past year
  • 75% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable solutions
Greenloop Conference Statistics

What does this mean for the experience economy?

In the future, experiences, services and products will need to match the expectations of younger generations, who are leading the way when it comes to sustainable experiences. Raising the sustainable credentials of your attraction will deliver a competitive edge compared to less environmentally friendly initiatives. Here’s a taste of what to expect:  

how to launch a successful mobile app for your visitor attraction

Investors will become increasingly green

Investors are increasingly likely to be part of the ‘green generation’, and moving forward, we expect to see millennials furthering the sustainable agenda through investments. Capgemini’s World Wealth Report 2020 found that 41% of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) under 40 advocate for sustainable investing as compared with 27% of HNWI respondents overall. Younger HNWIs are also more willing to commit a more significant portion of their assets (53%) to sustainable investment opportunities. 

In short, sustainability could become a pull factor for experiences looking to secure funding. Laying the groundwork by establishing an environmental agenda now will position your attraction favourably for the future. 

Sustainable consciousness is now a social conversation

Thanks to digitalisation, your guests now have unprecedented access to public platforms, from which they can, and increasingly do, comment on sustainability issues. Stories of best and worst practice can spread quickly and even reach mainstream media outlets within hours.

Consequently, making an active commitment to sustainability can be seen as more than a CSR initiative for your attraction but more broadly as a positive PR stance and an opportunity to show a commitment to the issues at the forefront of your guests’ minds. Those that demonstrate their commitment to sustainability will benefit more from positive social reach. Correspondingly, attractions that ‘greenwash’ or promote less sustainable practices are less likely to thrive.

Greenloop Conference 'digtial conversation'

Sustainable initiatives will increase guest satisfaction and spend

In a study of 27,000 people across 27 markets, Globescan discovered that younger generations are most likely to feel ashamed about living lifestyles that are not environmentally friendly. They’re also the most self-critical, believing that they can do more for the environment than they currently do and have a heightened awareness that what is good for them may not be suitable for the environment. In light of this, they’re more likely to say no to activities that don’t promote an environmental agenda, even if they’d otherwise enjoy it. 

Fortunately, 81% of those under 30 believe brands are an essential part of the solution, and they will reward brands that take responsibility for their role in creating the change they seek. By aligning your attraction with sustainable goals, you’ll produce happier guests, minimise the internal conflict they can experience and increase spend on-site- if exemplary sustainable practices are adopted. 

What next?

Increasing awareness of the human impact on the environment and the very recent experience of living through the Pandemic has brought sustainability to the forefront of public consciousness, with younger generations feeling compelled to change their spending habits. When it comes to experiences, guests are looking for attractions that mirror their commitments so that they can have a guilt-free experience at sites that align with their goals. Fortunately, taking your first steps is easier than it sounds. In part two of this series, we explore the quick wins for incorporating sustainable initiatives at your attraction. You can read it here.

April 2021
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