© Oliver Raatz

The first Visit Luxembourg Destination Forum "Luxembourg, ready for the future of green travel?"

15.05.2023Sustainability

Is Luxembourg ready for sustainable tourism?

Sustainability is a hot topic. It is often talked about, but mostly in an economic context. And yet, sustainability has become an integral part of tourism. This is also reflected in the national tourism strategy 2022, which was presented by Lex Delles, Minister of Tourism. On the occasion of the Annual General Meeting, Luxembourg for Tourism (LFT) organised the first Visit Luxembourg Destination Forum on 10 May 2023 on the topic "Luxembourg: ready for the future of green travel?”.

Juliet Kinsman, journalist and freelancer at Condé Nast Traveller, London Evening Standard, the BBC Radio and sustainability advisor in the travel sector, and Eduardo Santander, Executive Director of the European Travel Commission (Visit Europe), provided valuable food for thought. Some of Luxembourg's tourism regions were also represented with information stands.

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How sustainable can and must tourism be?

Tourism is a classic cross-sectoral industry and is firmly anchored in people's everyday lives. "The theme of sustainability is a common theme within Luxembourg's tourism strategy," says Minister Delles. From accommodation and regional economic cycles to mobility and accessibility in the tourism offer, the aim is to achieve a sustainable location quality for all. "It is not about travelling less, but travelling more consciously. And it's not just about changing towels less often or not using plastic dishes. Sustainable tourism goes far beyond that," says Dr Sebastian Reddeker, CEO of LFT. Travellers should discover the country completely and mindfully. A longer stay, for example, is much more sustainable (currently, the length of stay of leisure travellers is four nights on average). LFT provides many ideas and inspiration in the context of communication on how to have a great time in Luxembourg.

The two speakers wanted one thing above all: to create awareness and show that change is inevitable. The term 'sustainability' is complex, but dealing with it is inevitable. And all decisions by politicians and stakeholders must be based on measurable and reliable scientific data that nobody can evade. Last but not least, modern, young travellers are increasingly making their travel decisions dependent on sustainable local tourism. Among other things, Kinsman proposed incentives and reward systems.

© Olivier Minaire Photography

Like Juliet Kinsman, Eduardo Santander emphasized the importance of delivering on a brand's value proposition. This also includes sustainability. Food for thought: the discourse on environmental protection and sustainability varies greatly from country to country. Many have trouble thinking outside their borders, but that is what needs to happen. He also named several practical “recipe ingredients” for sustainable tourism. A good tool is officially recognized eco-labels, which also exist in Luxembourg. And a fundamental success factor is the satisfaction and quality of life of the residents themselves, i.e. the strengthening of their own community. Only then would tourism whose target groups are a good match for the destination be accepted.

The main target groups of the tourism destination Luxembourg are the so-called 'Explorers' and the 'Nature Loving Actives', a per se quality-oriented clientele that is interested in nature and socially relevant topics such as sustainability.

Sustainability is multidimensional

From an economic point of view, the destination has a large customer potential within a radius of 300 kilometres. This allows for different travel options. Keywords: rail travel and free public transport in Luxembourg. According to the LFT guest survey, the share of holidaymakers who travelled by train increased from 10% to 15% between 2018 and 2022. But the country should also keep an eye on the customer flows themselves. Positive in this context: only 6 percent of residents say there are too many tourists in the country. Nevertheless, 60 percent would like to see a better regional distribution. Luxembourg is far from "overtourism", but a better regional and also seasonal distribution beyond the summer can contribute to even more sustainability. LFT therefore markets Luxembourg with the capital and five diverse regions and shows how attractive Luxembourg is as a year-round destination. In 2022, 73% of leisure overnight stays in the northern and eastern regions were still distributed over the four months of May to August

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Social dimension: "Perfect Match"

Tourism also always has a social dimension. 72% of the population support tourism, only 11% oppose it. Social sustainability also means a high quality of life locally. "Tourism development has a positive impact on the quality of the location. This benefits everyone," emphasises Tourism Minister Lex Delles. In Luxembourg's guest groups, there is already a correlation between 'green travel' and the themes of nature, culture, local encounters, museums and castles. "A 'perfect match' that also offers numerous points of contact in the area of product design," says Sebastian Reddeker. In addition, there is a good development in the area of inclusion, for example in tourism for all with many barrier-free offers and labels such as EureWelcome.

Environment: certified quality

When it comes to the environment, Luxembourg is also on the right track. In the 'Environmental Performance Index', Luxembourg ranks 6th among 180 countries. There are now, for example, over 40 businesses that belong to the EcoLabel - and the trend is rising. Other labels and offers such as Green Business Events, bed+bike and MoveWeCarry as well as various bicycle rental systems and a good e-bike infrastructure and, last but not least, free public transport are also part of this. This goes far beyond certifications and offers starting points for sustainable activities on trips to Luxembourg. In addition, individual providers such as youth hostels already have a high educational standard in large parts of their offers in terms of the environment. Linking with the Visit Luxembourg brand

All this, as well as the affinity of the LFT core target groups with the topic of sustainability, shows: sustainability can be linked to the core brand values of Destination Luxembourg. In fact, 21% of overnight guests are already of the opinion that sustainability is a core element of the 'Luxembourg' brand.

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What's next?

In Luxembourg, as many as 9% of all overnight travellers in the leisure sector were ecologically motivated (and as many as 16% in the core target group of Nature-Loving Actives). This may (still) seem low in absolute figures - but the question is justified to what extent sustainability can become a main travel motive at all: for travellers, the experience value will remain in the foreground in the future. The industry is therefore all the more called upon to proactively set standards and to promote and publicise sustainable offers. Sustainability is becoming a hygiene factor in the quality of offers in the destination - and can represent a decisive competitive advantage (and thus ultimately also generate higher profitability).

 "As a destination, we must not wait for demand, but must think ahead and develop appropriate sustainable offers in cooperation with all tourism stakeholders.   Sustainable management benefits society, the environment and the tourism sector itself," says Minister Delles. A sustainable offer includes improved information, for example. But it also means making sure that new offers are sustainable, simple and useful for the customer. "Green travel must be simple, it must be just as sexy as travel itself," emphasises Sebastian Reddeker.