Sustainable Travel in 2016: What Does Sustainable Travel Mean to Consumers Today? Booking.com Shares Findings From Recent Report
In celebration of Earth Day 2016, Booking.com, the global leader in connecting travelers with the widest choice of incredible places to stay, has revealed findings from its global Sustainable Travel Report[i] , identifying what the term “sustainable travel” means to consumers, how sustainable accommodations are viewed, and what the future holds for eco-conscious travelers.
What does green mean?
Nearly half (47%) of American respondents said they consider themselves to be sustainable travelers, rising to 72% amongst Chinese respondents and dropping to 25% amongst the Japanese, with findings showing a wide spectrum when it comes to what people understand “sustainable travel” to mean. More than half (58%) of Americans consider the act of staying in eco-friendly accommodations to be sustainable travel with just over two thirds (68%) confirmed they would be more likely to choose accommodations if they knew they were eco-friendly. A third (33%) of Americans said they don’t plan to stay in an eco-friendly accommodation in the year ahead, and of these travelers, 38% said it was because they did not even know sustainable accommodations existed. This reason was even higher amongst Japanese (43%) and German (46%) respondents in particular.
Buying locally-made products and supporting local artisans was identified by 31% of Americans as sustainable travel, while 22% said they felt it involves staying in a natural environment such as a nature reserve or national park. 21% consider camping to be sustainable travel and just over one in ten (15%) deem it going to a destination where you can interact with local wildlife.
Beyond nature, altruistic activities are also regarded as “sustainable” including helping local communities by volunteering (16%), and staying with an indigenous community and learning about their culture (13%).
Sustainable stay skepticism
While the report highlights that sustainable travel means many things to many people, it also reveals how the term “sustainable accommodations” is often met with confusion and, at times, skepticism. For instance, Americans who confirmed they will not book an eco-friendly stay in the upcoming year cited reasons such as they are expensive (26%), less luxurious (11%) or simply can’t be trusted to be truly “green” (11%). Thirty percent of both Brits and Australians will not book an eco-friendly stay because of perceived expense, while 14% of Japanese detractors say it’s because they can’t trust a property’s “eco” claims.
Gillian Tans, Chief Operating Officer, Booking.com comments: “Sustainable accommodations are a world away from dim lighting, low water pressure and no air conditioning. Guests may not realize that as they sleep on organic cotton sheets, washed with water heated by energy generated from the hotel itself, they are staying sustainably. Or that when eating a meal made from ingredients sourced within 20 miles of their accommodations, they are a sustainable traveler supporting local business.”
In fact, according to Booking.com research[ii] over a quarter (26%) of the accommodations surveyed confirmed they have initiatives in place to protect the environment while almost a fifth (19%) support the local community. This rises to a third (33%) and nearly a quarter (24%) respectively for larger properties (36+ rooms). In addition, over half (51%) of properties are currently credited as following official sustainability criteria from a recognized organization in sustainability such as the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
Tans continues: “The more clarity, understanding and visibility around sustainable travel that can be brought to travelers to help them make informed choices around their accommodations and destination, the better. Our research and ongoing discussions with the accommodations we offer is uncovering a range of sustainability efforts that we’d ultimately love to be able to share with travelers searching and selecting on our site.”
The findings show a strong consensus that more needs to be done to aid sustainable travel; in fact, only 6% of American travelers said they thought it was already easy. But when it comes to a solution to the problem, there are many converging ideas. The dominant two are economic incentives, such as tax breaks for eco travelers (38% of respondents were in favor) and an international standard for sustainable accommodations (37%). Even though there’s no clear agreement, online booking sites have an important role to play, with 33% of respondents wanting them to make it easier to understand and compare eco-friendly accommodations and transportation options.
A greener future?
68% of Americans surveyed confirmed they intend to stay in sustainable accommodations within the year and nearly half (47%) say they have considered, or will be considering, a destination they would not have otherwise been interested in because of sustainable practices. These include protected natural environment and wildlife, animals being treated fairly and initiatives in place to help the local community.
As more people look to experience a sustainable stay, Booking.com is considering ways to evolve its popular Passion Search platform to include eco-based interests and destination intelligence to make searching for the best destinations tied to specific sustainable initiatives and practices easier.
Tans concludes: “It’s heartening to see the great intent of people to travel sustainably. With more and more people wanting to select sustainable accommodations in the future, we are looking at ways to harness the power of over 26 million recommendations courtesy of our extensive customer base to assist fellow travelers seeking to embrace and discover sustainable travel.”