Driving Sustainable Tourism Collaboratively

The co-lab initiative can become a clear catalyst for change, but it will never be a model that can be replicated everywhere.

Melvin starts out by sharing the core vision of TUI Group and how it sees its impact.

Melvin starts out by sharing the core vision of TUI Group and how it sees its impact.


Discovering the world’s diversity, exploring new horizons, experiencing foreign countries and cultures: travel broadens people’s minds. At TUI we create unforgettable moments for customers across the world and make their dreams come true.
We are mindful of the importance of travel and tourism for many countries in the world and people living there. We partner with these countries and help shape their future – in a committed and sustainable manner.
Think Travel. Think TUI.


TUI's Sustainability Agenda focuses on Tourism being a force for good. Strengthening the positive impact whilst also reducing the environmental impact is important.


To start on this journey, Melvin believes it's also important to recognise that there is an impact, from emissions, waste and food to many other aspects.


Pressure of Expectation


Melvin talks about the pressure of expectations and how never before has there been quite so many expectations from a wide range of different places:

  1. Consumers
  2. Talent & Employees
  3. Suppliers & Partners
  4. Local communities
  5. Societal Organizations
  6. Politicians and policymakers
  7. Trade associations and regulatory bodies
  8. Investors and the financial community


Destination Co-Labs


Melvin talks about the concept of a co-lab initiated with the island of Rhodes. For TUI, this represents a chance to accelerate where the success is built on partnership, where the involvement of local communities, government and business is key.


The vision of the whole co-lab is based on the principles of sustainability:


"Become the first global example of a holistic transformation of a destination aiming for the long-term prosperity of its people and its natural environment, transforming its tourism-based economy on the principles of sustainability.”


Three pillars drive this business model:

  1. Regenerate the natural environment
  2. Strengthen social development and cultural heritage
  3. Foster inclusive economic development in the tourism business model


All of these are working towards the common ambition, requiring an enormous number of granular steps and actions towards reaching this from transportation to food waste which all need to be mapped out.


If we look at just the first priority Regenerate the natural environment, we can identify some efforts which can help us to see the goals we want to reach, through active collaboration.

  1. Development of renewable energy projects
  2. Electrification of mobility
  3. Achieve net gain in biodiversity


Melvin points out the first clear observation, that as a travel company they are not an energy company, meaning they of course cannot directly achieve that first or even second objective. Do other questions come into play, such as can the grid support that objective, is there enough supply of PV panels needed to provide this transition? He points out that if we work together, we can also co-design that method towards getting there, whereas an individual hotel will struggle to do that alone.


Likewise, a priority like the electrification of mobility needs a lot more than simply electric buses but a total replacement of the entire supply chain from energy, to charging infrastructure to even examples where car rental companies will require their entire fleets to be replaced.


In the third pillar of net biodiversity, again we can see more examples of action:

  1. Development of thematic tourism
  2. Sustainability standards
  3. Linking local agriculture to demand


If we just focus on the last part, this is where they've identified an opportunity to link local agriculture to other priorities. Food mileage for example and reducing that will deliver on reducing the carbon footprint, whilst by doing so we effectively support the wider supply chain more directly by upscaling the availability of local products in the supply chain - both for consumers and guests to experience a more authentic local product, but also providing more opportunities for local producers to find a local market - even if it's a transient one.


Skills, Knowledge and Partnership


Having ambition is great and we can all set a vision or make a commitment, but it is clear that there is a huge gap in knowledge and skills in the area of sustainability in order for everyone to deliver and contribute towards sustainability.


As TUI prepare to release the full framework, they also recognise the importance of partnership in order to be able to deliver on all the ambitions set-out. There are no doubt going to be challenged to overcome, requiring everyone to be on-board with the idea but also the action.


One key benefit that Melvin talks about is that of knowledge. The process will serve to both inform sustainability decisions within the wider business but also channel learnings to teams based on the first-hand experience of driving a sustainable transformation.


It seems clear that whilst the co-lab initiative can become a clear catalyst for change, it will never be a model that can be replicated everywhere. The lessons learnt in this will serve as a model and guide for others to consider, whilst enacting large scale destination change will always require strong governance from policymakers alongside commitment and determination from stakeholders.

Key Takeaways

  • Whilst the co-lab initiative can become a clear catalyst for change, it will never be a model that can be replicated everywhere.

  • If we work together, we can co-design a method towards getting there, whereas an individual hotel will struggle to do that alone.

  • We should focus on providing consumers and guests with a more authentic local product experience, but also provide more opportunities for local producers to find a local market.

Published on:
December 2022
About the contributor

Melvin Mak

TUI