Veganism isn’t just about not eating animal products – it’s a lifestyle, and one that is increasingly influencing the choices vegan tourists make in terms of the destinations they visit and hotels they stay in. Rose Dykins reports

According to data and analytics company GlobalData, vegan-friendly tours, excursions and digital travel apps will become increasingly important for catering to travellers’ post-pandemic lifestyle preferences.

GlobalData’s research at the end of 2020 – which surveyed 5,700 people globally – revealed that 76 per cent of respondents said they were influenced by how ethical, environmentally friendly or socially responsible a product or service is.

In contrast, the company’s 2019 research found that just 46 per cent of respondents said they actively buy products that are better for the environment or animal friendly. This suggests there has been a shift in international consumers’ perceptions due to Covid-19, and many people are now opting for more responsible choices – such as a vegan diet.

Among the tourism industry’s responses to the rise in plant-based living are are vegan traveller apps such as Air Vegan and Veg Visits. Air Vegan rates how vegan-friendly airports are, and shares the best plant-based dining spots in each facility.

Meanwhile, Veg Visits is a home sharing platform with vegan hosts across 80 different countries – so consumers can book self-catering accommodation with meat-free kitchens, or with a live-in vegan host who prepares meals for them or offers advice about the best local restaurants for plant-based food.

vegan kitchenGlobalData also highlighted the trend for hoteliers and accommodation providers tailoring their offering for vegan guests. Hilton, for example, opened its first vegan hotel suite in 2019 at Hilton London Bankside, where everything from the room key card to the carpet is made from natural materials, and the entire minibar and room service menu is plant-based.

At around the same time, Saorsa 1875 in Scotland became the UK’s first 100 per cent vegan hotel, complete with everything from vegan bedding (no wool or feathers) to vegan minibars.

Tour operators are capitalising on the vegan traveller market. Brighton-based Responsible Travel, for example, promotes 34 vegan holidays across the world, with destinations including Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Greece and India where “you can be confident you won’t be relegated to the salad menu every time”.

Ultimately, GlobalData chalks the vegan tourism trend up with the fact that the travel industry needs to move with the times to help consumers overcome barriers such as dietary requirements.

The pandemic may have sped up the plant-based trend, but global consumers have been increasingly turning towards plant-based diets – or at least exploring ways to reduce their consumption of animal products – in recent years.

This year in the UK, sales of vegan and vegetarian products are expected to increase to £658 million. And in China – where in 2016 the government outlined a plan to reduce national meat consumption by 50 per cent – the country’s plant-based meat market was projected to grow by up to 25 per cent annually in 2018.

VegeRadar is a digital platform that shares maps to help consumers find vegan and vegetarian restaurants across the country.

“A common objective across the entire travel and tourism sector is to deliver a ‘seamless’ traveller experience for each customer along every touchpoint, on an individualised, trip-by-trip basis,” says Johanna Bonhill-Smith, travel and tourism analyst for GlobalData.

“Vegan travellers can often encounter problems ranging from where to stay to a lack of suitable meal choices. Language barriers and cultural differences can often exacerbate these problems. This creates an opportunity where personalised recommendations are lacking, and catering for a growing vegan consumer base could soon be a key differentiator.”

GlobalData states that following Covid-19, it will be more important than ever for brands to offer personalised support for travellers. “Servicing a traveller’s every need is going to be critical in post-pandemic recovery to both restore confidence and ensure satisfaction,” says Bonhill-Smith.

“With a greater level of satisfaction, there is, in turn, a higher chance to attract loyal customers – a promising prospect in light of Covid-19 and the detrimental losses it has inflicted on company revenues. As travel companies aspire to personalise each individual’s experience, veganism should be an area to be acknowledged and acted upon, not ignored across the tourism sector”.

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