Are we ready for Sustainable Travel?

Sustainability has many layers to be addressed, it is no longer a word to be utilized and passed on as a mere CSR activity. It is a commitment to ensure that everyone has a part to play on Mother Earth, says Dr Sean Lochrie, Assistant Professor at School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Dubai.

Sustainability is one of the most important core values for organisations across industries worldwide. The travel and tourism industry is no different, with the increasing number of tourists opting for more sustainable and environmentally friendly travel experiences.

For example, a 2021 Google survey revealed a 70 per cent rise in the number of people searching for sustainable travel options. Additionally, a recent Booking.com study showed that 61 per cent travellers state that the COVID-19 pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future. The sustainable tourism market is also expected to grow considerably over the next decade. Recent research by Future Market Insights indicted that the sustainable tourism market is expected to reach a global value of USD 8.4 trillion by 2032.

Sustainable travel embraces a sense of responsibility towards local communities’ environmental and socioeconomic well-being. A recent report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that human-induced climate change is causing disruptions in Nature and affecting the lives of billions of people globally. Furthermore, the travel industry is also known to be one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions as well as an extensive energy user. The industry’s negative impact has been a concern for years and consumers are now becoming more aware of how their travel choices affect the sustainability of the places they visit and the wider world. Understanding has grown around the enormous emissions from air travel, the social harm from over-tourism, and the environmental destruction caused by the development of tourist infrastructure, including airports, hotels, and shopping destinations – especially in ecologically sensitive areas.

With heightened concern for the challenges associated with tourism, the question ‘Are we ready for Sustainable Travel?’ is often asked. There is no question that sustainable travel, or the motivation for sustainable travel, is at the forefront of many travellers’ minds. Much of this originates from the actions by the industry stakeholders and wider influences impacting tourists’ perceptions.

While the onus of travelling sustainably does fall on the shoulders of vacationers, the industry plays an important role in supporting these choices. For example, destinations and travel providers can play a key role in making sustainable travel more accessible. The travel industry is uniquely positioned to make a huge difference and support the global sustainability and net-zero agenda. .

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