YELLOW VESTS: IT’S ALL ABOUT MAKING ENDS MEET
What does France’s Yellow Vests movement have to do with wellness? More than you might expect. At the outset, one demonstrator complained that President Macron “speaks about the end of the world while we talk about the end of the month”. And that is the crux: at the heart of the discontent lies the problem of financial wellness.
The gilets jaunes are the manifestation of a malaise in French society that runs both deep and wide. The protestors come from different social classes and professional backgrounds, but have one thing in common: they find it difficult to make ends meet. This is at the core of their angst and their main complaint against their more prosperous fellow citizens.
“Deep political and social polarization caused by financial un-wellness is not specific to France”
to France; almost all leading economies are experiencing growing problems with household debt, which in turn is taking a terrible toll on mental health. An inflection point has been crossed: as more and more people feel poor and financially unwell at a time when markets have been booming, they are taking their anger to the streets.
This is a complex issue that only politicians can resolve. But the hospitality and wellness industry can at least show that it is sensitive about the issue, and that it cares about financial wellness.
And all employers can offer counseling and practical help to employees facing financial difficulties. That could mean giving employees a breathing space or working with them to tackle debt.
Thierry Malleret, Co-founder and Director, Well Intelligence
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
The world’s most sparsely populated country, Greenland, is making a push for more visitors; while Airbnb’s list of 19 trending destinations for 2019 forecasts growing interest in places that are off the beaten track, from Kaikoura in New Zealand to Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. It may seem ironic, but there’s increasing tourist demand for destinations that are not crawling with tourists.
Greenland, a country described as ‘at the limits of human survival’, currently attracts just 85,000 visitors a year, fewer than London’s Natural History Museum receives each week. Kaikoura, meanwhile, tops the Airbnb list with a 295% year-on-year increase in bookings via the website, while little-known Xiamen in China is up 283% and Normandy – not usually perceived as France’s hottest region – is seeing bookings growth of 229%.
“We’ve found that most of our trending destinations are places where the increased ‘healthy’, more sustainable and authentic tourism will benefit residents and travellers alike”, says Airbnb.
“Most of our trending destinations are places where the increased ‘healthy’, more sustainable and authentic tourism will benefit residents and travellers alike”
The narrative around ‘escape’, ‘sustainability’ and getting away from the madding crowd provides a valuable indicator of where destination demand is set to grow, as people search for destinations and venues that have fewer people, are less developed, are authentic, basic and natural.
But savvy tourists and governments also share a responsibility to protect these ‘in vogue’ destinations. Expect to see public and private sectors working together more closely than ever to balance the economic boost with an appropriate sustainability strategy.
Anni Hood, Co-founder and Chief Executive, Well Intelligence
TOWARDS A WOKE CAPITALISM
Paul Polman, trailblazing CEO of Unilever, is stepping down at the end of this year. He’s been a pioneer in spotlighting business practices that focus on long term sustainable growth over short term gains, and his legacy includes helping to persuade fund managers who control $90trillion of assets to sign up to ESG (environmental, social and governance) strategies.
Delivering profit growth is the biggest pressure causing many business leaders to compromise their values – with an impact that often extends outside the company, leading to damaging results for society and the environment.
Polman set out to champion an ethical, values led culture at Unilever, realising that both consumers and employees are more likely to relate to brands that they buy or companies that they work for if they perceive them to have shared values. And he did it without sacrificing profit growth. During his tenure shares rose by more than 150%, whilst pushing forward what many saw (and some still do) a new-age agenda towards ‘woke capitalism’. In a recent interview he said: “The cost of not acting is bigger than the cost of acting”.
In the hospitality and travel sector brands following a similar approach include G-Adventures and Six Senses. But the most effective changes to culture, values and business strategy come from getting owners and shareholders to buy into the idea, and ensuring there is a mass move in the same direction.
“Both consumers and employees are more likely to relate to brands that they buy or companies that they work for if they perceive them to have shared values”
Organisations such as the B team http://www.bteam.org have set out to get the big asset managers like Black Rock and Fidelity, pension funds and high-net-worth individuals together in a room to make multilateral commitment toward sustainable business practice.
The biggest challenge for many of the hotel groups we speak to is the disconnect between the owners and the hotel brand operator. Education and enlightenment need to spiral up as well as down.