Xavier Font, Professor of Marketing and Sustainability at the University of Surrey in the UK, in this interview reflects on his academic and consulting career, where he sees the main sustainability challenges and opportunities, and how tourism businesses and destinations should (not) communicate their sustainability initiatives.
- How Xavier Font’s view of sustainability and tourism changed over time;
- His key insights as sustainable tourism researcher and consultant;
- Where he sees the main challenges – and opportunities – for sustainability in tourism;
- Xavier Font’s recommended books;
- In which parts of the world he sees most momentum for sustainable tourism;
- His thoughts on the future of sustainable tourism research;
- Why he founded Respondeco and how the consultancy is helping companies and destinations;
- The most important aspects when communicating sustainability initiatives;
- What you should always and never do when telling your sustainability story;
- Most important academic journals for sustainable tourism scholars.
Xavier, what was your view of sustainability and tourism when you first started your professional career?
Brought up in the Costa Brava, north of Barcelona, I remember thinking “there must be another way” better than mass tourism. I thought of sustainability as an alternative form of tourism, very different from what I could see on a daily basis impacting negatively on our landscape.
Now at the beginning of 2015, what has changed?
I have come to realise that every type of tourism product must be more sustainable, and that all companies must take responsibility for it. But I no longer think sustainability is a niche, a highly different product, but I see it as a journey. Focusing on the niche aspect allows the big players to get away with murder.
Your main insights from working as sustainable tourism researcher and advisor?
I believe most of us are driven by routines and easy choices – we don’t intend to be unsustainable as consumers or suppliers of tourism services, just as we don’t intend to get fat from eating the wrong things. Purposefully asking individuals to change their behaviour will only affect a small percentage of the population.
An alternative approach is needed to help most people consume more sustainable products, based on making their daily choices easy. This also means that suppliers of tourism services need to learn to redesign their products thinking of sustainability as part of quality management.
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