For responsible travellers, ‘luxury’ has been redefined as sustainable, soulful, mindful and – increasingly – vegan. But how can high-end hospitality respond to this growing movement and embrace vegan travel?
The travel industry has always been a reliable barometer of any society, mirroring the politics, fashion fads, lifestyle trends and cultural shifts preoccupying the minds of consumers at a given time. Dealing with pleasure, aspiration and lifestyle, hoteliers and operators have to be nimble to survive in this sector, rapidly responding to the demands of a relentlessly trend-obsessed and increasingly particular public. So it would be unwise to ignore the vegan movement, which continues to gather momentum and impact industries far beyond F&B.
In 2019, veganism is the single fastest growing lifestyle movement. Consumers defining themselves as vegan in the US has risen 600 per cent in just over three years, while there are 3.5 times as many vegans in the UK as there were in 2006. A key reason for this exponential growth is sustainability, an increasingly popular concern shared by those who choose to follow a plant-based diet – and it’s a concern supported by conservation experts.
Oxford University scientist Joseph Poore estimates that worldwide conversion to veganism would cut greenhouse emissions by one quarter, while the same study concluded that a plant-based diet is the “single biggest way” a human can reduce their environmental impact on earth. However it’s important to note that veganism as a movement doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it’s bound up with other ethical concerns including supporting local businesses, plastic consumption, seasonality and food miles. Vegan or not, the travel industry is catering for a new breed of consumer: a responsible traveller who believes that luxury travel means travelling without compromising principles.
Here are five simple ways the travel industry can respond to the demand for vegan travel.
1. Make vegetables the star of the show on the menu
It’s no longer enough to include a solitary, woeful vegetarian/vegan dish at the bottom of a list of meaty offerings. The hippest restaurants around the globe have eagerly embraced plant-based dishes, often a menu of small, sharable plates. And in January 2019, Chantal Di Donato founded the Vegan Chef Institute cookery school in London, in response to restaurateurs’ growing demand for skilled vegan chefs. “A lot of the food on offer was uninspired. But vegan food can be more than just a salad or a roasted cauliflower – that’s why we think this is important,” says Di Donato. Integration is key when it comes to putting together the physical menu; there’s no longer any need to divide it up into meat/fish/veg sections. Shorter menus centred on local, sustainable seasonal produce are a much more modern way to showcase the talents of your kitchen.
2. Opt for cruelty-free interiors
In January 2019, food design studio Bompas & Parr created the world’s first vegan hotel room at the Hilton London Bankside, omitting the use of leather, wool and feathers throughout its interiors. So it’s worth being aware that some travellers will object to leather, furs and skins, but the general consensus is that ethically sourced, high-quality, and (ideally) vintage pieces remain a more conscious design decision than opting for cheap, artificially-made furnishings and fabrics that won’t last.
3. Consider the little things
Tea and coffee stations in bedrooms have been resting on their laurels for a long time. It’s time to do away with tiny, single-use plastic cartons of UHT milk or creamer. Consider offering guests a choice of almond, soya or dairy milk, provided in a refillable glass bottle kept either in the minibar refrigerator or at room temperature beside the kettle. The St Giles Hotel in London also offers guests a vegan room service menu of Bol ready meals, which include vegetable pots, salad jars and soup bowls. Paying attention to details like these proves that your commitment to vegan travel goes beyond the obvious.
4. Offer vegan ‘experiences’
So your hotel/company offers a tapas tour, or a visit to the local market? Make sure that vegan travellers don’t feel they’re getting a compromised experience, or missing out. In the meaty cities of Lisbon, Barcelona and Rome, veganfoodtours.com take travellers on a meat-free gastronomic tour of the markets and tapas restaurants. Offering a vegan food tour or vegan wine-tasting is much more of a unique selling point, so if you offer special tours and experiences for vegans, be sure to shout about them.
5. Switch to vegan beauty products
Vegan bath and body products are a huge trend within the beauty industry, so providing vegan bathroom amenities is an easy win. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts switched to cruelty-free beauty products, and now offer Le Labo toiletries, whose cruelty-free skincare line is made from exclusively natural ingredients. Just one thing to note: tiny, single-use-plastic bottles have fallen out of favour fast, and today’s conscious consumers are likely to also care about your plastic policy. Large, refillable glass bottles of local, naturally based and ethical shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and even the humble bar of soap are a much more twenty-first-century touch.