Each year Booking.com undertakes a very large scale survey of consumers in multiple source markets, 29,000+ travellers across 30 countries and territories. Their 2021 Sustainable Travel Report affirms a potential watershed moment for industry and consumer. The question is how tourism businesses and destinations will respond to this clear consumer demand trend. Travellers and holidaymakers aspire to travel more responsibly, just as they aspire to holiday in particular destinations or to enjoy a particular activity or experience.
The travel and tourism industry is about enabling people to realise their aspiration, realise their bucket list, and have a guilt-free experience. Consider how quickly much of the industry stopped selling elephant riding and swimming with dolphins.
These are Booking.com’s headlines for this year’s survey
- 83% of global travellers think sustainable travel is vital, with 61% saying the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future
- Almost half (49%) still believe that in 2021, there aren’t enough sustainable travel options available, with 53% admitting they get annoyed if somewhere they are staying stops them from being sustainable, for example, by not providing recycling facilities.
- 79% report wanting to use more environmentally friendly modes of transport such as walking, cycling or public transport over taxis or rental cars
- almost three quarters (73%) want to have authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture when they travel
- 84% believe increasing cultural understanding and preservation of cultural heritage is crucial
- 76% want to ensure the economic impact of the industry is spread equally in all levels of society.
- 69% will go as far as avoiding popular destinations and attractions to ensure they aren’t contributing to overcrowding (they probably don’t want their holiday spoilt by it either)
The demand has been growing year on year, revealed in Booking.com’s annual surveys and those of others over the last few years. This is a consistent consumer trend; demand is changing in many, the majority, of significant source markets.
The problem is the supply-side. Consumers cannot find out what businesses are doing to take responsibility for making their product more sustainable. While 3 out of 4 accommodation providers say they have implemented at least some kind of sustainability practices at their property, only one-third actively communicate about their efforts proactively to potential guests. Booking.com are now encouraging businesses to tell consumers, on their website, what they are doing to make their product and the experience they offer more sustainable.
As I have argued elsewhere, certification fails to communicate to travellers and holidaymakers what businesses and destinations are doing to reduce negative impacts and increase the positive. In Cape Town in the drought, it was not possible to find out which hotels were using water most efficiently. As Booking.com points out, it is time for businesses to be much more transparent about what they are doing.
One of the ways to stand out from the crowd and deliver for this large and growing group of travellers and holidaymakers is to be recognised in the Global Responsible Tourism Awards
Glynn O’Leary explains why his company enters the Responsible Tourism Awards
Nominations for the Responsible Tourism Awards are now open, and this time they’re global. They’re free to enter, and the deadline is August 31st 2021. Categories are:
- Decarbonising Travel & Tourism,
- Sustaining Employees and Communities through the Pandemic,
- Destinations Building Back Better Post-COVID,
- Increasing Diversity in Tourism: How inclusive is our industry?
- Reducing Plastic Waste in the Environment and
- Growing the Local Economic Benefit.