Sustainable travel and tourism seemed to take a back seat a few years ago. However, today global travelers are truly prioritizing the impact that their traveling is making on the environment and local communities–businesses and their employees are more environmentally conscious and they want their travels to do minimal harm.
Understanding the trends in sustainable travel will empower you to better understand the future of all types of traveling – including corporate — and make better business decisions for the well-being of your business travel program, and your employees.
In this article, we’ll look at over 30 sustainable travel statistics and trends you definitely need to know for better travel decision-making.
Editor’s Picks: the stats that you must know
From Amsterdam to New York, the sustainable development of world travel is now very much a top priority. In this article, there are many stats you need to know to better understand the sustainable travel industry. However, here are the top of the top stats & travel trends on responsible tourism demand that showcase its importance:
- The pandemic made 61% of travelers want to choose more sustainable travel options (Avantio).
- Traveling in business class has a bigger carbon footprint, since first-class seats consume four times as much as economy (Greenbiz).
- The sustainable travel market in the business travel & tourism sector is expected to grow by $235.21 billion during 2021-2025 (Research and Markets).
- Worldwide flights produced up to 915 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019 (Air transport action group).
What is sustainable travel and tourism?
With the rising concern for the environment and societies, sustainable travel and tourism comes as the next rational thing to do. Travelers and tour operators alike know that despite the positive impact that traveling has, there are some negative ones too–especially when it comes to the environment and the communities around it.
Sustainable travel and tourism is when people travel with a more conscious effort to reduce–or if possible eliminate–the negative impacts that it has. This can be efforts like:
- reducing greenhouse gas emissions
- offsetting pollution and harm to biodiversity
- reducing the negative impact on cultural heritage
- positively impacting the local economy at your destination
In short, sustainable travel is:
“Travel that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.”
Learning about new cultures, meeting new people, experiencing the amazing things that the world has to offer, and much more, are the reasons we want to continue traveling. However, we want to do all this in a sustainable way.
30+ Travel statistics and trends that tell you everything about sustainable traveling
The sustainable travel market had been slowly growing in the past years before the pandemic. However, with our time in lockdown and more conscious, younger generations finding their voice, the sustainable travel and tourism industry is booming and consumer demand is rife for it.
- In 2019, the sustainable international tourism industry worldwide was estimated at $181.1 billion (Statista).
- The sustainable travel market is expected to grow by $235.21 billion during 2021-2025, with a CAGR of 9.72% during the forecast period (Research and Markets).
- A global survey in 2020 showed that Gen Z (56%) and millennial (51%) travelers are the most concerned with sustainable travel. Gen X (49%) and Baby Boomers (46%) are the least concerned about it (Statista).
- 77% of travelers aged between 18-29 say that sustainability impacts their travel decisions, compared to 48% of travelers aged 51 and above (Travel Agent Central).
How and why do travelers approach sustainable traveling?
Not all travelers share the same reason for wanting to travel more sustainably. Some want to do it for climate change, others simply want to reduce their carbon footprint and save on resources. Whichever reason someone may have, most travelers and most travel companies are now positively contributing towards a more sustainable future.
- In 2019, 71% of travelers took the environment into consideration when making choices at least occasionally. In March 2020, 78% felt that way. In April of that same year, 83% of consumers said they considered the environment (Torrens).
- 83% of travelers want to decrease their energy usage (Booking.com).
- When traveling, 69% of people want to reduce their carbon footprint (Booking.com).
- 80% of travelers say they want to learn more about local culture when on holiday (Mintel).
- Up to 76% of travelers say they want to reconnect more with nature (Mintel).
- 42% of travelers shop at small businesses to support the local economy (Booking.com).
- Of all travelers, their sustainable travel concerns are divided like this:
- 46% are concerned about excess waste.
- 38% worry about threats to local wildlife and natural habitats.
- 30% care about overtourism.
- 29% want to reduce CO2 emissions.
What about sustainable accommodation?
Traveling encompasses many things, from the type of private and public transport you take to the places you’re staying at and buying from. The hospitality industry has a huge impact on the way we look after the environment and the communities around it–the hospitality industry is responsible for 21% of all the ecological footprint generated by tourism.
- Hotel and other rental accommodation guests are willing to pay up to 75% more for an eco-friendly option (Operto).
- 73% of travelers are more likely to choose accommodation that advertises its sustainability practices (Avantio).
- Up to 32% of travelers say that accommodation providers should offer information about local ecosystems, heritage, culture, and tourist etiquette (Booking.com).
- 27% of travelers say they would like the choice to opt out of daily room cleaning in order to reduce water usage (Booking.com).
- 27% of travelers would like to be able to use reusable plates and cutlery for meals and room service to reduce single-use plastics (Booking.com).
- Up to 40% of those traveling would like booking sites to say which properties are sustainable (Avantio).
- 37% of travelers would like a filter option to make the decision of staying in sustainable accommodation easier (Avantio).
- Research has found that the hotel industry would need to reduce its carbon emissions by 66% per room by 2030, and by 90% per room by 2050, to make sure that the growth forecasted for the industry does not cause an increase in its carbon emissions (Sustainable Hospitality Alliance).
Who should be accountable for sustainable travel?
Not everyone agrees on which organization should be responsible for a greener way to travel. However, most agree it’s an interplay between self-accountability, as well as corporations, governments and other organizations like the United Nations that need to act together to ensure sustainability.
- From a 2021 survey, 26% of respondents say the government is accountable for making travel and tourism more sustainable, 23% said it was tourism authorities, 20% say it’s themselves as travelers, 8% said accommodation providers, and 6% said it was up to online travel agents (Agonda).
- In this same survey, the country that takes the most accountability is the US, with 28% of respondents claiming they themselves are responsible for making changes around sustainable traveling, and they put both tourism authorities and governments at 16% (Agonda).
- Employees agree that corporations need to take responsibility for making corporate travel more sustainable (Greenbiz).
What stops travelers from traveling sustainably?
Even if people wish to travel more sustainably, it’s not always possible. Costs, limited options, lack of available information, among other reasons, are quoted by travelers as obstacles stopping them from traveling greener.
- By 2019, the following are the reasons that people say impede them from traveling more greenly:
- “I do not know how to make my travel more sustainable” (37%)
- “I cannot afford the extra expenditure of sustainable travel” (36%)
- “Sustainable travel destinations appeal to me less than other destinations” (34%)
- “My agenda constrains me in the sustainable choices I can make” (34%)
- “Although I do see options to travel more sustainably, other options tend to appeal more” (34%)
How do business travelers care about sustainability?
Corporate travel is one of the world’s largest contributors to carbon emissions–for example, business travel contributes to 53% of the total carbon footprint of PwC and this is similar with most Fortune 500 companies.
This is mainly due to the amount of corporate travelers there are and the length of their trips. There’s also a bigger carbon footprint on business seats–they consume four times as much as the economy seats.
Corporations and corporate travelers are aware of these challenges and they’re doing the best they can to support the sustainable travel movement–after all, they’re one of the major players.
- In a 2021 survey, employees claimed that their companies had changed their overall carbon reduction targets–those include traveling–in the following ways:
- 36% increased their environmentally friendly commitments
- 20% didn’t have reduction targets but have now start considering them
- 15% kept the same commitments they had
- 15% didn’t have targets, and don’t expect to implement new ones
- 12% are unsure of their companies’ targets
- 2% decreased the commitments they had
(JBT Business Travel)
- 48% of businesses have said they’ll put more focus on the social and environmental impact of travel after the pandemic (Greenbiz).
- At corporations with sustainability programs, 92% of executives report that sustainability investment is already increasing (Gartner).
- In a 2020 survey, 63% of executives at companies with sustainability programs say the customer is their most important catalyst for action (Gartner).
- In a report done in 2021, it was found that 44% of respondents saw their companies as leaders in sustainability, with it being fully integrated into business core practices. Another 34% reported sustainability efforts were helping optimize processes, boost innovation, increase productivity, improve value chain efficiency, and build brand value (sphera).
Final thoughts on sustainable travel
Sustainable travel has been given a higher priority after the pandemic, and according to these stats, we can see it’s a growing trend. However, when it comes to making a lasting change in the environment there’s still a lot we can do to travel more sustainably.
If you’re looking to create a more sustainable business travel program, TMCs like TravelPerk offer carbon footprint reduction options and so much more, so you’ll be able to do your part to continue traveling while minimizing the effect of it on the environment.