Across the globe, sustainable travel as a concept and practice has moved from the back of travelers’ minds to claim a dominant position in the decision-making process. New research from travel service provider Trip.com Group sheds light on the increased acceptance of sustainable travel and its implications for the travel industry and the wider world.
The firm’s inaugural Sustainable Travel Consumer Report 2022 reveals that close to eight in 10 travelers (78.7 percent) acknowledge the importance of sustainable travel.
Sustainable travel now an increasingly accepted idea
Based on a survey of 7,705 respondents across 11 markets in Asia and Europe, the report finds that the impact of travel has topped the list of reasons why travelers are increasingly drawn to sustainable travel.
Some 50.5 percent of respondents said they care about the impact of travel on future generations, a third (26.8 percent) cited its role in improving the travel experience, another 13.2 percent perceived it as trendy, and 8.4 percent admitted people opted for sustainable travel due to societal pressure.
Perception of sustainable travel also varies among the respondents. The report indicates a growing proportion of travelers now approach the term more holistically, emphasizing the economic, cultural and biodiversity aspects in addition to the usual environmental considerations.
The more diversified understanding of sustainable travel manifests itself through several ways that travelers consider conducive to tourist destinations.
About 30 percent of respondents recognize the benefit of supporting local businesses and livelihoods, and a striking 43 percent believe respecting the culture and heritage of local destinations is also part and parcel of sustainable travel.
The rising awareness of sustainable travel
The pandemic is a key driver of a stronger desire to travel sustainably because of the shift in consumer mindset and behavior.
The report points out that over two-thirds (67.8 percent) of respondents named COVID-19 as a catalyst for their increased appetite to choose sustainable options. About 38.3 percent said travel restrictions enhanced their appreciation for nature, and another 30.4% yearned to travel closer to home. The pandemic has led many travelers to discover short-haul journeys and realizes how it can help reduce their carbon footprint.
One of the report’s highlights is that it allows a glimpse into how Asian and European travelers understand and practice sustainable travel differently.
Notably, 21.3 percent of Europe-based respondents stated that people opt for sustainable travel because “it is trendy”, while the portion of Asian travelers who took this view is much smaller, at 7.1 percent.
They also differed in their attitudes towards paying a higher price for sustainable options, with 39.1 percent of European travelers reluctant to pay extra for them, compared to 29.5 percent among their Asian counterparts.
Despite the regional disparities, however, it’s clear from the report that more and more people have practiced sustainable travel in multiple forms.
Amid heightened sustainability awareness, more than half (59.2 percent) of respondents demonstrate a tendency to pay for carbon offsetting to reduce the impact of their travel.
A significant opportunity for online travel agencies
Notwithstanding a spike in the popularity of sustainable travel, only 20 percent of respondents didn’t report any barrier to sustainable travel, while the rest encountered various obstacles.
Inadequate visibility of sustainable options poses a significant barrier to their wider adoption. Travelers blame this on the difficulty of accessing information about sustainable travel products, with 32.9 percent stating there is a lack of sustainable options and 25.4 percent saying these are not clearly marked.
Accordingly, a little over half of them (50.7 percent) believed online travel agencies (OTAs) should clearly label sustainable options, followed by 41.5 percent who called upon OTAs to make it easier to find these options, and 39.4 percent who suggested OTAs offer incentives.
While 67.7 percent of travelers are open to paying more to include sustainable options in their trips, they display varying levels of price sensitivity to the higher costs it usually entails, with only around 10 percent of them would be willing to pay over 10 percent of the total price for a sustainable option.
Against this backdrop, online travel agencies and booking platforms have a significant opportunity to tap into this by showcasing their sustainable travel credentials and endearing themselves to like-minded users. The report shows that an overwhelming 93.0 percent of respondents would consider booking via OTAs that provide sustainable options.
“The results reaffirm our vision to educate travelers better and provide a greater volume and variety of reliable, sustainable travel options. Our findings are a clarion call to ourselves as to our allies in the travel sector,” said Jane Sun, CEO of Trip.com Group, in a news release.
“In the future, we will join hands with partners, travelers and other stakeholders to venture towards a more sustainable world.”