Where sustainable travel is headed in 2018

Research conducted by Booking.com reveals that awareness of eco-friendly accommodation options is growing, with global travellers seeking to book more of these greener stays than ever, while showing a willingness to absorb extra costs to ensure they are travelling more sustainably

To celebrate Earth Day on 22 April, Booking.com, the global leader in connecting travellers with the widest choice of incredible places to stay, has released the findings from its most recent global Sustainable Travel Report.*

The report indicates that the green travel trend continues to gain momentum with a large majority of global travellers (87 per cent) stating that they want to travel sustainably, and nearly four in 10 (39 per cent) confirming that they often or always manage to do so. However, 48 per cent indicate they never, rarely or only sometimes manage to travel sustainably, suggesting that while promising strides are being made for a greener future, there is still plenty of room to turn intentions into action.

Sustainability starts where you stay

‘Sustainable travel’ is a subjective term that has different connotations for different people. However, for almost half of travellers (46 per cent), ‘sustainable travel’ means staying in eco-friendly or green accommodations, topping the list of what people think of when hearing the term. The top reasons travellers give for choosing these eco-friendly places to rest their heads are to help reduce environmental impact (40 per cent), to have a locally relevant experience (34 per cent) and wanting to feel good about an accommodation choice (33 per cent).**

Looking ahead, more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of travellers intend to stay in an eco-accommodation in 2018, reassuringly up from 65 per cent in 2017 and 62 per cent in 2016. Additionally, the percentage of travellers who have not considered eco-friendly stays because they were unaware of their existence continues to decline, resting at 31 per cent this year, compared to 39 per cent and 38 per cent in 2017 and 2016 respectively.***


When it comes to what inspires people to travel more sustainably, it seems that travel itself is the biggest motivator. Six in ten (60 per cent) travellers indicated that they found the impressive natural sights visited on past travels as their inspiration to travel more sustainably, while more than half (54 per cent) said seeing the visible impact that tourism can have on destinations serves as their inspiration.

The factors that inspire sustainable travel% global travellers who found this inspiring
Being impressed by natural sights during their own travels (e.g. coral reefs, rain forest)60%
Noticing a visible impact of tourism at the destinations they have visited54%
Seeing the positive effect that sustainable tourism can have on the local people47%
Seeing the unsustainable effects of tourism in their home country42%
Feeling guilty about the impact their vacation has had on the environment32%

Overcoming eco-barriers

While perceived extra cost remains the top barrier for travellers wanting to travel more sustainably, two thirds (67 per cent) of travellers would be willing to spend at least five per cent more on their travel to ensure it was as low impact on the environment as possible. Indian travellers claim to be the most willing, with nearly a third (32 per cent) declaring that they would pay 15 per cent or more, followed by Brazilians (21 per cent) and Chinese (18 per cent).

The research also indicates that a lack of information and a lack of credible certification poses a significant obstacle to sustainable travel (32 per cent), particularly in India, China and Japan where travellers cited this as even more of a barrier than extra cost.

Top global obstacles to travelling more sustainably
Costs – not being able to afford the extra expenditure42%
Information / lack of certification – not knowing how to make my travel more sustainable32%
Time – travelling sustainably would be too time consuming22%
Destination – travelling sustainably would limit travel to less appealing destinations22%
Luxury / comfort – sustainable travel does not meet the level of luxury / comfort accustomed to20%

As sustainable travel intentions grow, travellers are still looking for ways to more easily fulfil these ambitions. Forty per cent said that online booking sites offering a sustainable or eco-friendly filter option would help, while 32 per cent continue to call for an international standard for identifying eco-friendly accommodations.

As part of its commitment to improving ways to uncover and share the sustainability efforts of its own accommodation partners, Booking.com is partnering with organizations like Green Key, an internationally recognized eco-label with strict award criteria that honors positive environmental management, to highlight Green Key awarded properties as ‘sustainable’ on its site.

It’s good to go green

Proving too that sustainability measures don’t need to come at an inconvenience, many global travellers indicated they engage in sustainable travel behavior because the activity itself adds a positive vacation experience to their trip.

Sustainable vacation activities that add to vacation enjoymentPercentage of global travellers who do this
Buying locally made products instead of mass-produced tourist souvenirs53%
Being adventurous and using public transport instead of a taxi52%
Going out of the way to find a local restaurant that only uses local ingredients41%
Skipping tourist highlights in favor of less busy and often more rewarding sights40%
Opting for a unique place to stay that also a certified eco-accommodation over a traditional hotel30%

“As travellers increasingly look to explore and experience the world in a sustainable way, we continue to look at ways that we can help make it even easier for them to do that, whether by highlighting eco-friendly properties or enabling people to filter their search results on Booking.com based on proximity to an electric vehicle charging station,” says Pepijn Rijvers, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Booking.com. “Meaningful change can only come about through collaboration on multiple fronts throughout the entire sustainable tourism ecosystem. That’s why we also look to foster innovation in the sustainable tourism space through our Booking Booster initiatives to fund and support remarkable startups and change makers in this area. Today’s research reaffirms that sustainable travel is within reach for all of us, which is encouraging as we together strive to make a positive impact for a more sustainable future.”

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