Survey: 82 percent of American travelers prioritize sustainable travel

The survey of 31,000 people across 34 countries highlights the need for sustainability in travel

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About 82 percent of American travelers prioritize sustainable travel, but nearly half, 48 percent, consider it secondary to trip planning, according to a recent Booking.com survey. Meanwhile, roughly 32 percent express fatigue regarding discussions on climate change.

APPROXIMATELY 82 PERCENT of American travelers see sustainable travel as important, with nearly half, 48 percent, viewing it as secondary to trip planning, according to a recent survey by Booking.com. However, roughly 32 percent expressed fatigue towards discussions on climate change.

The survey conducted among 31,000 people across 34 countries and territories highlighted the need for collective action to maintain momentum toward a more sustainable travel industry, Booking.com said.

“While many travelers have retained a sense of optimism and a desire to have a more positive impact, there is a critical opportunity for the industry to accelerate efforts to make those choices easier for everyone,” said Danielle D’Silva, Booking.com’s head of sustainability. “It’s important that we continue ensuring that more sustainable options are not only readily available, but also easy to trust and understand. That’s where we believe further education, clear and consistent standards and credible third-party certification of legitimate sustainable practices across the travel experience can really help. While the signals of consumer frustration should be a concern, it’s also a reminder to maintain our focus on the impactful work we know can make a difference not only for travelers, but for communities and destinations everywhere.”

‘Moral obligation’

Around 74 percent of American travelers aim to prioritize sustainable travel in the next 12 months, with 42 percent expressing guilt over less eco-friendly choices, the survey found. Among those striving for sustainability, 39 percent cite a sense of moral obligation as their main motivator.

However, a sense of disillusionment towards sustainable travel may thwart these intentions, Booking.com said. More than a quarter, 26 percent, of respondents feel the damage is irreversible, believing their travel choices won’t alter the outcome.

Around 25 percent of travelers hold the view that climate change is less severe than commonly portrayed. The report indicated that this skepticism may affect travel plans. Moreover, 26 percent feel their travel time is too valuable to prioritize sustainability. Nearly a third, 31 percent, of travelers consider being sustainable in a destination lacking sustainability practices to be futile.

Shared responsibility 

Around 75 percent of American travelers aspire to leave destinations better than they found them, up from 68 percent last year, the report said. Further findings this year reveal that 49 percent believe they can personally mitigate the social impacts of travel.

Conversely, 32 percent view governments as having the greatest potential to mitigate economic effects, while 42 percent look to travel service providers to address environmental factors, it found. Additionally, 29 percent of American travelers see governments as responsible for educating people about travel and tourism impacts.

Nearly half of travelers, 49 percent, find accommodations labeled as more sustainable more appealing. Consistency in certification standards is key, with 65 percent agreeing that all travel booking sites should adopt the same sustainable certifications or labels.

Yet, the percentage of travelers interested in learning why accommodations received sustainability labels has decreased by 15 points to 51 percent, underscoring the importance of clear, straightforward communication to facilitate easy decision-making regardless of priorities, the survey revealed.

Silver linings

Despite growing frustrations, travelers making mindful choices find that sustainable travel experiences enhance their trips. New findings from this year’s report show that 59 percent of American travelers acknowledge feeling their best selves when traveling sustainably, carrying this positivity home.

Additionally, 67 percent are inspired to adopt more sustainable habits in their daily lives after witnessing sustainable practices while traveling, the report added.

Among those embracing sustainable behavior during travel, 97 percent viewed tours or activities for authentic, local, and cultural experiences as enhancing, while 94 percent who shopped at small, independent stores, and 89 percent who planned trips for walking, biking, or using public transport.

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s Hotel Sustainability Basics now includes more than 1,700 verified hotels across 70 countries, aiding global hoteliers in sustainability. Major hotel groups from France, China, Mexico, India, Germany, South Africa, the Philippines, and Norway have joined the initiative.