It’s time to get serious about sustainability – almost half of travellers now say an environmentally-friendly holiday option is important, but nine in ten travel buyers don’t believe the industry is doing enough to minimise its impact on the environment

25 February, 2020

Sustainable tourism is not new, but is a principle that underpins the whole framework of the industry. The are clear cases where its poor management has damaged its longevity: whether that is due to too few or especially too many visitors. It is simple on paper… finding a way that tourism can be maintained long-term without harming natural and cultural environments…. But, a little harder in practice.

The findings of a survey conducted by STR's Tourism Consumer Insights team have revealed the importance of sustainable tourism as well as the impact of climate change on traveller perceptions. Conducted in Jan-2020, the survey captured the views of over 1,000 international travellers from STR's proprietary Traveller Panel, a global community of engaged travellers.

The research examined how 'eco' friendly the modern traveller is and evaluated perceptions of the efforts made to implement greener and more sustainable practices in the tourism industry. It found, no doubt, at least in part, influenced by the current "Greta effect", that Generation Z and Millennial travellers had the strongest views when it came to 'greener' holidays.

Overall 48% of respondents said that choosing an environmentally-friendly holiday option was important, while 40% chose a neutral position. When considering Generation Z and Millennial travellers alone that figure creeped above the 50% figure, highlighting the stronger environmental perspective among the younger generation demographic.

The rise in the sustainability thought process is splitting travellers almost equally. Notably, one in three (35%) overall travellers stated they wouldn't want to visit a country that wasn't making efforts to fight climate change, but a similar, but slightly smaller number (32%) indicated that they would not be deterred and the final third (33%) were undecided.

There is a sense that the tourism industry lags behind the expectations of travellers as the majority considered accommodation providers and transport operators, such as airlines and train companies, to be making little or no effort to become more sustainable.

Overall, around 70% believed there is little or no effort to be sustainable among tourism providers. However, hotels/accommodation providers were the least poorly perceived when compared with other key travel and tourism sectors.

Meanwhile, other research has highlighted that the industry's reaction to sustainability concerns are failing to meet expectations with a huge majority of travel buyers saying they don't believe the industry is doing enough to minimise its impact on the environment. The findings from Traveldoo's second annual Travel Buyer Survey revealed that 95% of respondents believed the industry is somewhat lacking in its sustainability drive.

The travel and expense technology company of Expedia Group asked travel buyers across the UK to provide insight on some of the major challenges they face in 2020. With sustainability unquestionably one of the biggest topics the business travel industry has had to address in recent times, it appears change is a coming with a respectable 70% of those surveyed committed to having a sustainable travel policy in place within the next few years.