Authentic is the new Eco

by Tom McCallum on August 25, 2010

David Kirkaldy of MassiveGroup (an astute and passionate businessman and marketer indeed!) coined this phrase recently, but is “Authentic” really the new “Eco” ? What do we mean by this anyway ?

Hotel and tourism marketers worked out a while ago that more and more of their customers wanted to know the “Eco” credentials. So, whether or not their clients cared at all about the environment, they pushed them to work on their green credentials so they could have the ammunition they needed for PR and other marketing channels.

Now, it seems that more and more people want “Authentic” experiences when they travel, so the new pressure will be on making that kind of experience part of the offering.

Watch out, though, there is a catch. You can be caught out with either being “Eco” or being “Authentic”.

What is the catch then ? It’s all in the ” ” ….. the “quotes”.

Customers are savvy and information hungry. They have an advanced “b.s.” detector. They look at TripAdvisor reviews and discard those at the fringes as if they were cutting out the high and low scores from the judges at Olympic Ice Skating. Make sure the attitude is true, and the experience real.

If you are going to be real, be authentic, not “authentic”.

If you are going to be green, be eco, not “eco”.

A great example of how to do it right comes from the team at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman, and it is in the story of Sweetie the Dog, who is now in Pittsburgh having been adopted by guests of the hotel whilst a ward of the Cayman Humane Society. The full story is reported by the Cayman Compass here, but the crux of it, from a marketing standpoint, is that the Ritz Carlton found a way to provide their guests with a genuinely authentic experience that is very much a part of Cayman, that of local people taking their time to walk the stray and abandoned dogs that are taken in by the Cayman Humane Society. An authentic, not “authentic” experience.

Another example comes from theReef Resort, who have seen no fewer than four turtle nests spread along their beach during the current nesting season. The Department of the Environment in Cayman does an excellent job of educating management of hotels, condos and villas on the importance of taking various measures during nesting season, including masking lights on the beach (so turtles are not discouraged from nesting, and hatchlings move towards the ocean, not the buildings). The team at theReef have clearly taken this, as well as other environmental concerns (several are trained and certified to catch the invasive Lionfish) to their hearts, and they pride themselves in talking to their guests about turtle nesting, what it is all about, what guests can do to help etc. They couldn’t hide their excitement at discovering the first nest of the season (here), and even blogged information on how to identify what type of turtle is making the tracks on the beach (here).

Yes, be authentic, be eco… but you’d better watch out for the quotes.

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