The Covid-19 pandemic has been the tipping point for travellers to finally commit to sustainable journeys, with 87% of Thai travellers believing people have to act now to save the planet for future generations, according to Booking.com.
As the world of travel starts to open up again, the company's '2021 Sustainable Travel Report' reveals that travellers are more committed than ever to do so in a mindful way.
In an online survey of 29,349 travellers across 30 countries, 78% stated that the pandemic has influenced them to want to travel more sustainably in the future. Sixty-six percent admitted the pandemic has shifted their attitude to make positive changes in their everyday lives, with recycling (50%) and reducing food waste (28%) being the top priorities at home.
Travellers' day-to-day sustainability commitments are consistent with their intentions for future trips, the survey showed. Ninety-four percent of respondents said they wanted to reduce general waste, 91% want to reduce their energy consumption (turning off air-conditioning and lights when they are not in a room, for a start) and 85% want to use more environmentally friendly modes of transport such as walking, cycling or public transport over taxis or rental cars.
Respect for the local community is also high on the list as 85% want to have authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture when they travel, and 85% want to ensure the economic impact of the industry is spread equally in all levels of society.
Furthermore, 87% will go as far as avoiding popular destinations and attractions to ensure they aren't contributing to overcrowding.
Many travellers have already moved beyond good intentions to taking concrete action when they travel, says Booking.com. For example, while on vacation in the past 12 months, 47% of Thai travellers said they made a conscious decision to turn off the air-conditioning in their accommodation when they weren't there, 48% took their own reusable water bottle, rather than buying bottled water, and 51% took part in activities to support the local community.
In fact, 66% admitted they get annoyed if somewhere they are staying stops them from being sustainable, for example by not offering recycling facilities.
Looking at the 14% of Thai travellers who said they had not stayed in a sustainable property in the past year, 24% said they didn't know such properties existed, 47% said they couldn't find any options and 39% said that they didn't know how to find them. In fact, 66% of travellers still believe that in 2021, there simply aren't enough sustainable travel options available.
A total of 87% of travellers said they will go as far as avoiding popular destinations and attractions to ensure they aren't contributing to overcrowding.
CLOSING THE GAP
While 75% of the 3,390 accommodation partners surveyed by Booking.com say they have taken sustainable steps at their property, only 31% actively communicate those efforts proactively to potential guests, mostly at check-in (59%). This indicates that more must be done to make sustainability information easy to access for travellers earlier in the booking process, the company said.
Booking.com is currently introducing a programme for properties to help them become more sustainable. This includes sharing guidance, insights and best practices via handbooks and dedicated content, all available via the Booking.com Partner Hub.
The company currently displays over 30 certifications officially approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), Green Tourism and the EU Ecolabel, as well as multiple hotel chain sustainability programmes. It sources this information directly from the certification bodies and displays it on the property pages of partners who hold established third-party certifications.
As well, accommodation providers are being encouraged to update their sustainability information, which includes 32 practices across five key categories: waste, energy and greenhouse gases, water, supporting local communities and protecting nature.
"Over the six years we've been conducting this research, it's been inspiring to see awareness of the importance of sustainable travel consistently grow, both with our customers and now with our partners, too," said Marianne Gybels, director of sustainability for Booking.com.
"The good intentions are there on all sides, but there is still a lot of work to be done to make sustainable travel an easy choice for everyone. The more sustainable practices we can help our partners to identify and implement, the more we can experiment with how best to highlight this information to customers and ultimately make sustainability a transparent and easily identifiable part of their travel decision-making process."