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Travelers Say They Want Sustainable Options – But It’s Not the Top Priority

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Skift Take

The survey encapsulates a seeming dilemma for the travel industry. What proportion of their resources should they pour into promoting sustainable travel choices when a wide swath of travelers aren’t focused on the issue.

For more than a decade, travel companies have been saying sustainability would gain in importance – Tripadvisor said the “the green travel trend is gaining momentum” back in 2012.

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There’s no question travelers say they want sustainable options. But, as Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern said last September at the Skift Global Forum, travelers have yet to change their trip patterns.

A global online survey of 31,000 travelers in 34 countries and territories that Booking.com revealed Monday is consistent with Kern’s assessment.

In the survey, some 83% of traveler respondents indicated that making sustainable travel choices was important to them.

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However, Booking.com uncovered a counter-trend. “New insights show a sense of weariness could be emerging globally, fueled by the ongoing challenges that travelers experience to make more sustainable travel choices,” Booking.com said.

In fact, 45% said sustainable travel choices are important but not an overriding concern when planning or booking a trip. Indeed, 28% globally responded that they are weary of hearing about climate change. That sentiment was even higher (32%) among U.S respondents.

Some 33% of travelers said they thought climate change damage had already taken place, and that their individual travel choices would not make much of a difference.

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Looking for Government Action on Climate Change

Some 44% of those surveyed globally said governments would make the most difference – not individual travelers – and 43% thought it would be travel companies.

To qualify for the survey, individuals had to be at least 18 years old and involved as a decision maker in their trips. They had to have traveled at least once in the previous 12 months, and planned to travel again in 2024. The survey took the sentiment of travelers across 34 countries and territories in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia, including China.

What Should Travel Companies Do?

These findings leave travel companies a tough choice: Should the invest in sustainability if it doesn’t lead to more sales?

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We posed that question to a spokesperson for Travalyst, the not-for-profit organization founded by Prince Harry, which conducted its annual meeting last week in France. Coalition members include Amadeus, Booking.com, Expedia Group, Google, Mastercard, Sabre, Skyscanner, Travelport, Trip.com Group, Tripadvisor and Visa.

The spokesperson said part of Travalyst’s mission is to encourage consumers to make better travel choices from an environmental perspective.

“Travalyst is on a journey to changing behaviour and that all starts with clear, consistent and credible information which is accessible at scale,” the spokesperson said.

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Much of the discussion centered around how the travel industry needs to offer more sustainable choices, the spokesperson said, adding that businesses need to lower their Scope 3 emissions, and that governments need to support these efforts.

“The overall sentiment was that it’s not just down to the consumer; the journey towards a more sustainable travel industry is a shared one,” the Travalyst spokesperson said.

Booking.com’s Strategy

A Booking.com spokesperson said Friday it will seek to publicize “accessible, trustworthy and understandable travel options that will help increase traveler adoption.”

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That statement came a month after regulators in the Netherlands, where Booking.com is based, said its efforts to designate certain listings with Travel Sustainable and green leaves badges “was a possibly misleading sustainability claim.”

The company, though, hopes to use third-party certifications to showcase more sustainable travel choices,” the Booking.com spokesperson said Friday.

“While the data shows that sustainable travel remains important, it also shows that there is more work to be done in terms of cross-industry collaboration to accelerate efforts to make sustainable travel choices easier, which we remain committed to,” a Booking.com spokesperson said. “We are encouraged that the research shows that consumers have positive intentions and motivations to travel more sustainability.”

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