Sustainability at TUI

Thomas Ellerbeck

TUI is a listed company and is committed to its shareholders. How should there be room for social and ecological objectives? These are two sides of the same coin. I see a positive interaction, not a contradiction. Awareness of the environment and sustainability is growing. Let‘s think of the discussions about the use of plastics or the protection of the oceans. As awareness grows, it also has an impact on our decisions as customers. We are therefore successful if we include the expectations of all relevant stakeholder groups in our decisions. These are our guests, our shareholders, our colleagues and the people in holiday destinations. Our sustainability strategy „Better Holidays, Better World“ is guided by this approach. Two examples: In 2017, 53 percent of our customers demanded that tour operators invest in ecological and social initiatives. In 2012, the figure was 39 percent. And in Northern Europe, around a third of our customers want to make their travel plans even more sustainable in the future. Sustainability is therefore increasingly relevant for the strategic positioning of a company – for customers and shareholders as well as for employees who are interested in TUI as an employer.  

But the concept of sustainability is vague. What do customers expect in concrete terms? Sustainability is much more clearly defined today than it was ten years ago, the standards are more precise and the results are more measurable. A group like TUI therefore has a multi-year sustainability strategy that affects all business areas. For example, when we order new aircraft or ships or build or renovate a hotel. This already starts with the planning of a new hotel: can I operate solar systems like in the Robinson Clubs in Agadir and Apulia, how is the palm garden designed to reduce water consumption etc. In addition to ecological sustainability, TUI is focusing strongly on social sustainability and customer demand for authenticity is also growing. Many people want to get to know local products on holiday, immerse themselves more in the culture and make contact with the local population. At the same time, this also increases their sensitivity to local circumstances: What are the training and working conditions like in tourism? Do people benefit from tourists‘ expenses? What about waste disposal, energy efficiency and environmental protection at the holiday resort? We take this responsibility very seriously and are not only business partners for the holiday countries, but also see ourselves as a real partner. In many countries TUI has been around for more than 50 years, which is an enormously strong bond.  

Can TUI meet these expectations? TUI was the pioneer in the tourism industry in terms of the environment and sustainability. We continue to set standards today. Over 80 per cent of TUI Hotels & Resorts are certified to global sustainability standards. Over 9 million holidaymakers have already spent their holidays in a certified hotel in 2018. We are working on further increasing this figure. A second example is our excursions. The TUI Collection excursions must meet sustainability criteria and, for example, protect the environment or benefit the local population. In 2018, these excursions were booked 1.2 million times – up 15 per cent on 2017.  

TUI cooperates with many hundreds of partners. What influence can you exert? At TUI Group, we try to convince the partners in destinations of our approach. At TUI we work together with our partners on sustainable tourism. We meet regularly with political decision-makers in the destinations and with other stakeholders to discuss and jointly develop our approach to sustainability. Hotel and excursion partners are essential to achieve our sustainability goals locally. We work continuously with them to set ambitious goals and then achieve them together. In addition, with the TUI Care Foundation we are involved in 30 local projects in 25 countries worldwide. Let‘s take Crete as an example. There, the Foundation supports around 200 small farmers in cultivating grapes and olives in a sustainable way. They are also networked directly with the tourism sector so that they can sell their products locally. We have developed a kind of cooperative for the many small, local businesses. Each of them was too small to meet the needs of hotels and restaurants. Now the local businesses are working together. After the positive experiences in Greece, similar projects are running in Spain and Turkey. This creates concrete opportunities, jobs and local employment. And with the TUI Academies, the Foundation offers disadvantaged young people opportunities for vocational training. Education and training are the key to a better life. This is very sustainable for the local people in the holiday destination.  

The current sustainability strategy extends to 2020. What will come next? We started further planning in 2018 with a view to 2030. We first surveyed customers, employees and financial markets as well as politicians, the media, NGOs, scientists, shareholders and business partners. An initial analysis shows that there are many expectations with regard to our focus on sustainability issues. In the current year, we will formulate our strategy for 2020-2030 more concretely. We want to remain the pioneer in this field for the tourism industry. This is what the management and our 70,000 colleagues at TUI stand for. 

 

Thomas Ellerbeck
Member of the Group Executive Committee (Group Corporate & External Affairs)
TUI Group Chairman of the Board, TUI Care Foundation