Sustainable Travel – are we ready?

With the increasing number of tourists opting for more sustainable and environmental friendly travel experiences, sustainability is going to be one of the most important core values for organisations across the world. It has been well established in trends, for example, a Google survey in 2021 revealed a 70 per cent rise in the number of people searching for sustainable travel options.

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 US $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. Examples include, encouraging sustainable forms of transport, promoting ethical consumption and how to engage with local communities positively, and clearly marketing to tourists’ sustainable tourism experiences such as encouraging visits to lesser known but equally important local sites rather than focusing on honeypots. Across the world there are unique examples of how different industry stakeholders have embraced sustainable approaches – Singapore’s Jewel Changi, Copenhagen’s Copenhill, and the recently completed Aile Est terminal at La Genève Internationale, Switzerland. Destination policymakers are also embracing strategies to educate stakeholders, such as local businesses, regarding the importance of sustainability. One example is the Dubai Sustainable Tourism initiative. The hospitality industry has also played a significant role in promoting sustainable and environmentally friendly travel. For example, hotels can avoid supplying mini toiletries such as creams in small plastic tubes, which go into the bin once they are over.

The travel industry is uniquely positioned to make a huge difference and support the global sustainability and net-zero agenda. As tourism has picked up after a nearly two-year gap, the sector can be a key ally through initiatives and creating practical solutions to travel activities that harm the environment and have a negative impact on local communities.

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