The Asia-Paciﬁc region accounts for nearly 60% of the global population. For the sustainable travel movement to make any seismic change globally, it would be completely counterintuitive to not include Asian travelers in the conversation.
From Seoul to Singapore, Asian travelers are not only interested in traveling more consciously but also expecting companies and brands to provide more sustainability-centric options than what is currently available.
According to a recent Expedia Sustainable Travel Study, Asian travelers have a higher preference for sustainable travel at 95 percent, compared to 74 percent in the Americas and 69 percent in Europe.
Yet most Asian consumers cited top reasons that discourage them from making sustainable choices are non-price related. They are the lack of access, low variety, and hard-to-verify information and claims.
With a high demand for sustainable travel among Asian travelers, the possibilities for destinations, hospitality, and travel brands to implement innovative initiatives are endless.
1. Asian consumers drive the world’s green growth this decade. They are willing to pay a premium to travel more sustainably
The OECD estimates that by 2030 3.5 billion people in Asia or roughly 40% of the global population will be in the middle-class rank. This means that 90% of the world’s next 1 billion people entering the middle-class rank will be coming from Asia.
A 2022 Bain & Co report ﬁnds that Asian consumers of all age groups – whether 18-34 or above 60 years old, and of all income levels express a similar level of consciousness for environmental, social, and health-related issues.
In the same Expedia study, nearly all surveyed Asian consumers said they would be willing to pay more for sustainable travel. In Southeast Asia, 51% of the travelers would spend at least half of their monthly salary or more to travel more sustainably.
2. A long stay at an eco-luxury local accommodation is at the top of their wish list.
According to a recent BlackBox survey, as many as 9 in 10 Asian travelers said that they would prioritize a holiday centered on eco-consciousness and wellness.
They would choose luxury whenever possible but 8 in 10 prefer small and local businesses over bigger chains and franchises.
A Google Travel & Vertical report indicates a marked increase in searches for vacation rentals in Asia Pacific markets, prompting a sign that travelers seek longer trips and exclusive accommodations. This is in line with the global trend of long-term stays that drives Airbnb growth this summer.
In addition to choosing a hotel that aligns with their value, many Asian travelers may show heightened interest in conscious travel activities at the destination – whether related to local cuisine, culture, and community. Brands could introduce a product and outreach strategy that recognizes their target audience’s preferences for local flare and capitalizes on global operational standards.
3. What Asian destinations and travel players are doing to ‘walk the walk”
In a recent interview on The Southeast Asia Travel Show, Liz Ortiguera, CEO of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) highlighted the importance of integrating and implementing practical and responsible solutions with destination and hotel partners regionally, as evidenced in the organization’s sustainability projects.
On a national level, some Asian governments have begun transitioning away from relying on mass tourism as a recovery approach. Indonesia’s tourism ministry has set its eyes on promoting ‘quality tourism’, spotlighting the country’s natural and cultural heritages, targeting long-term visitors, and empowering local businesses and communities.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Criteria are the most widely accepted holistic standards in travel and tourism. Using the GSTC Criteria or equivalent standards recognized by GSTC accommodations allow accommodations to speak the global language of what sustainability in travel and tourism means and participate in market access programs offered by GSTC and leading OTAs.Roi Ariel, General Manager of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)
Sustainability certification organizations EarthCheck, Travelife, and Vireo work with thousands of travel and hospitality brands in Asia and around the world to assess and minimize their environmental footprint.
A number of luxury hotels in Asia have joined the Considerate Collection by Small Luxury Hotels of the World whose values were inspired by GSTC Criteria across three key pillars: Community Minded, Cultural Custodians, and Environmentally Conscious.
The Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced a few months ago the launch of the Singapore Hotel Sustainability Roadmap, which includes the goal of reaching 60% of hotel room stock equivalent to being certified by GSTC-Accredited Certification Bodies by 2025.
Demand is also coming from the business travel sector, with American Express Global Business Travel actively promoting and preferring hotels that are certified by GSTC-Accredited Certification Bodies, as they recognize the importance of independent third-party certifications.
4. Consistent and authentic consumer engagement helps get the message across and builds brand affinity
Sustainability nowadays needs to be part of a brand’s DNA, not as add-ons or something that costs extra time or money. Consumers also demand that brands are transparent about their sustainability efforts and are very cognizant about green-washing. Cancel culture is alive and well.Lynda Williams, Founder of Singapore-based PR agency Vim & Vigour
“As Australia opened up to welcome international visitors, Tourism Australia’s campaigns of the great outdoors to a built-up city like Singapore were hugely impactful,” Williams commented. “The campaign highlighted open spaces, nature, adventure, and ecotourism — many things that Singaporeans did not have access to and were deprived of for two years.”
The Seychelles surpassed its 2021 total number of visitor arrivals on 1st August 2022. Sam Yu, Senior Marketing Executive of Tourism Seychelles, explained, “throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Tourism Seychelles has remained an active presence in the APAC markets.” His agency did not shy away from highlighting the country’s nature-loving culture and environmental conservation initiatives in its consumer-facing communications.
The Seychelles was the first country in the world to include environmental conservation in its constitution, with around 60% of its land under protection. Yu said, “destinations and hospitality brands can do more to support environmental preservation, bring that principle to practice, and communicate with travelers”