New survey examines sustainable travel and ecotourism
Sustainability is a growing concern, and many folks will put in a little more work and pay a few more dollars to support greener businesses when traveling. So says travel reservation giant Booking.com after tallying results from a large international survey.
The study analyzed answers from more than 30,000 travelers from 32 countries and territories. Climate concerns are driving travelers to embrace sustainable travel, or at least the idea of it. Seventy-three percent of travelers said that sustainable travel is important to them, with 44% citing recent climate change news as an influence.
Booking.com commissioned the research, which included about a thousand people. Some countries included were U.S., Brazil, Thailand, South Africa and more. Participants were at least 18 years old, traveled at least once in the past year and were planning to travel in 2022. The online survey took place in February 2022, a few months after Booking.com introduced its sustainable travel badge program for properties that meet its green criteria.
The survey found that 39% of U.S. travelers actively seek information on the sustainability efforts of lodging. Of those who don’t, 48% said if the info is easily accessible, they’ll review it. Of those who had chosen sustainable properties, 30% said they made the decision based on wanting to reduce their impact on the environment. A quarter said they believed that sustainable properties treat the community better and 27% wanted to have a more locally relevant experience.
Thanks in part to COVID, travelers are also trying to space their trips over the year, looking for less busy seasons and less crowded places. Sixty-four percent said they’d avoid the most touristed destinations and attractions to help reduce or disperse the impacts of their visit.
Around the world, travelers said they’d be encouraged to make more sustainable travel choices if it was easier. Just over a third of respondents said they want online booking sites to offer a sustainable filter option, and 36% wanted travel platforms to clearly identify sustainable options.
Transportation is one of the big sticking points for travelers. For U.S. travelers especially, while the idea of a train trip may seem romantic, it takes forever, is prone to delays and often costs more than a plane ticket. Meanwhile, the less environmentally-friendly airplane gets you there in hours rather than days. Still, 51% of travelers globally said they believe that lower-to-no CO2 emissions through their transportation choices is important to sustainable travel.
One of the easiest ways to lessen impact is to stay closer to home. Twenty-three percent of respondents said they’d already chosen a nearer destination in order to reduce their carbon footprint, and 57% said they’d consider this strategy.
Other aspirations included 75% of people surveyed saying they want to walk, cycle and use public transit at their destinations more in the future. Twenty-eight percent said they’d be willing to reduce emissions by using slower modes of transportation, such as trains, while 18% said they’d pay extra for an electric rental car.
Getting closer to local cultures
Travelers also expressed a desire to connect to local communities, with 45% saying they believe that protecting and learning about a culture is part of sustainable travel. But travelers don’t always know how to do this. Thirty-two percent of travelers polled said they’d like travel companies to suggest vacation activities that ensure they’re giving back to the community they’re visiting. This opens up doors to people wanting to create their own unique little tourism businesses that showcase the flavor of the community. It will also keep tourist dollars local rather than feeding a big corporate chain.
Drawbacks to sustainability
Of course, every good thing has a backlash. Not everybody wants to contemplate sustainability while on vacation. Of those polled, 32% found sustainable travel options less appealing than other vacation ideas, and 27% found sustainable travel came up short on luxury and comfort.
Travel Sustainable badge
To highlight more eco-friendly options, travelers can look for Booking.com’s Travel Sustainable badge. More than 95,000 properties around the world have met the criteria so far. The online travel company worked with industry experts to look at how properties handled five key areas: waste, protecting nature, supporting local communities, water and energy and greenhouse gases. Then, they further broke things down into 32 sustainability practices, from eliminating single-use plastic toiletries to investing a percentage of profits in conservation projects. Other third-party certifications can also qualify accommodations for the Travel Sustainable badge, including those issued by Nordic Swan Ecolabel, Green Hospitality Ecolabel, Green Seal and Ibex Fairstay.
“Displaying the practices they have in place makes it easier for everyone to make a more informed and hopefully more sustainable choice for their next trip, no matter where they want to go,” said Marianne Gybels, director of sustainability at Booking.com, as reported by Global News. “Thus also inspiring even more of our partners to take the next step to operate more sustainably.”
And if there’s one thing the survey makes clear, it’s that travelers support sustainability. If it’s convenient.