The Thomas Cook Group ‘Local Label’ excursion was borne from the overseas sustainability framework ‘Destinations of Excellence’ that was launched in May 2012. The framework is divided into Bronze, Silver and Gold levels and resorts are targeted with meeting these criteria and reporting their progress annually.
Bronze criteria are about getting our own house in order, looking at reducing energy and water consumption in our overseas homes and offices, reducing waste and passing on practical tips to holidaymakers.
The Silver and Gold levels have criteria that relate to ‘identifying excursions within our programme that are founded in sustainability and assessing their positive impacts to local communities and economies’ (Silver level), the same applies at Gold Level however this time they must be newly created excursions not existing ones, therefore increasing the scope of our positive impacts.
Mario Klemm, Head of Operations (HOO) for Greece and Cyprus came up with the idea of promoting the ‘local’ features of our excursions as he knows that this is what his customers are interested in and knew that this would tick the right Destinations of Excellence boxes. He approached me for support with the idea and together with Joe MacDiarmid who is Mario’s Regional Operations Manager, we created the ‘Local Label’
Based on the Travel Foundation’s Greener Excursions Checklist’, the component parts of each excursion are checked against the relevant criteria (shopping, markets, food & drinks venues etc) I request detailed information from our overseas staff and send the completed checklists to an internal panel which includes a colleague from Thomas Cook Germany. To ensure robustness, we also send at least one in five of the checklists to the Travel Foundation for external review.
If the criteria are met, the excursion can be promoted using the ‘Local Label’ logo and strapline and our overseas representatives can communicate the benefits for the destination, the local community and local economy plus the added value to our guests of taking such an excursion as they will get a more authentic and locally focussed experience.
The Local Label was officially launched in April 2013 and by July we had 28 excursions in 19 destinations. Some excursions have been regular features on the resort planners before and seven are new for summer 2013. Most Local Labels began to run in June with a few starting later in July, and we have been able to do a year on year comparison for these two months.
By promoting the Local Labels based on the authenticity and added value to the customer experience, we have increased our excursion sales by 42% and have sent over 5000 more customers on these excursions during this two month comparison period with 2012. Some of the regular events saw an increase in turnover of between 59% and 280% year on year, which really does demonstrate that sustainability sells and our customers are looking for it.
In addition to the great income achievement, our customers also fill in Local Label surveys to let us know their feedback and their discretionary spend on local produce, this means that we can also demonstrate the added value to local communities and economies from our business. These surveys will be fully analysed at the end of October 2013 when the summer season is closed.
I’m looking forward to the introduction of more Local Labels throughout the remainder of the summer and into the winter programme, and have set myself a target of having at least one Local Label per destination by the end of summer 2014.
Sustainable Destinations Manager
Thomas CookUK & Ireland
and ICRT Alumni