Push for sustainable travel to save the planet

MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2019

AS THE world marked Earth Day yesterday (April 22), digital travel platform Booking.com released findings from its annual sustainable travel report. Research reveals that almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of travellers believe that people need to act now and make sustainable travel choices to save the planet for future generations.

While results were relatively consistent across ages, almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of 46-55 year olds believe most strongly that this is needed, followed by millennials at 71 per cent. 
The views expressed by travellers across the world are timely, considering the special report that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued in 2018. The report warned that the world has just over a decade to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, beyond which the risk of floods, droughts and extreme heat will significantly worsen.

Consistent with overall intentions to make more sustainable travel choices, sustainable stays are growing in popularity, with almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of global travellers intending to stay at least once in an “eco-friendly” or “green” accommodation when looking at the year ahead. This is the fourth consecutive year that Booking.com research has seen this figure trend up, from 62 per cent in 2016 to 65 per cent in 2017, and 68 per cent in 2018. Additionally, 70 per cent of global travellers say they would be more likely to book an accommodation knowing it was eco-friendly, whether they were looking for a sustainable stay or not.
However, when it comes to recognising a sustainable place to stay, almost three-quarters (72 per cent) reported that they were not aware of the existence of eco-labels for vacation accommodations, while well over a third (37 per cent) affirmed that an international standard for identifying eco-friendly accommodation would help encourage them to travel more sustainably. Some 62 per cent would feel better about staying in an accommodation if they knew it had an eco-label.
Sustainable struggles
Despite the best of intentions, it’s not all plain sailing for would-be green travellers. The report also exposes the common barriers travellers face when making sustainable travel choices: 37 per cent of global respondents agreed that they do not know how to make my travel more sustainable, while 34 per cent agreed that although they do see options to travel more sustainably, other options tend to appeal more. About 36 per cent of the global respondents also said that they cannot afford the extra cost of sustainable travel, and 34 per cent agreed that their agenda constrains them in the sustainable choices they can make. Also, 34 per cent of global respondents agreed that sustainable travel destinations appealed to them less than other destinations, while 50 per cent said that they understand what they can do to travel more sustainably.
Travel companies have an important role to play here in the eyes of travellers: 71 per cent of respondents think that travel companies should offer consumers more sustainable travel choices. On the other hand, almost half (46 per cent) of global travellers acknowledge that they find it harder to make sustainable choices while on vacation than in everyday life. Almost a third (31 per cent) admitted their vacation is a special time during which they do not want to think about sustainability.
Aspirations to action
Research results also indicated that travellers would be more encouraged to travel sustainably if there were economic incentives offered, such as tax breaks, when choosing eco-friendly options (46 per cent). This is closely followed by online booking sites offering a sustainable or eco-friendly filter option (45 per cent).
When it comes to in-destination experiences, over half (52 per cent) of global travellers said they now alter behaviours to be more sustainable while travelling, such as walking, riding a bike or hiking whenever possible. Plus, 68 per cent would like the money they spend on travel to go back into the local community. Likewise, almost three-quarters (72 per cent) were seeking authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture, while two in five (41 per cent) request that travel companies offer tips on how to be more sustainable while travelling. As well, 56 per cent of respondents said that if there was an option to offset the carbon footprint on their vacation accommodation, they would do it.
“This is the fourth consecutive year that Booking.com has commissioned its sustainable travel report and it’s heartening to see the sustainable travel motivations and intentions amongst travellers, though it’s clear that complex challenges continue to exist when it comes to fully realising these,” said Pepijn Rijvers, senior vice president and head of accommodation at Booking.com.
“As a global travel leader, we are continuously looking at ways we can innovate across our platform, from accommodation to experiences and transport, testing different ways to best surface information and support customers in their sustainable travel choices, as well as providing support and investment to foster innovation in the sustainable tourism space through our Booking Booster, Cares Fund and Cares Lab start-up programmes.
It’s important that all those in the travel ecosystem, from established companies to startups, destinations, accommodation, transport and attraction providers as well as travellers themselves, come together, as it’s only through collaboration that meaningful change will continue to gain momentum.”