Travel executives and travelers are eager to make the industry greener, but are they really making tangible progress on reducing travel's massive carbon footprint?
Travelers have increasingly prioritized sustainability, however, companies across the industry have struggled to make substantial progress in going green.
And with travel — especially by air — continuing to boom coming out of the pandemic, is the industry really becoming greener?
Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot, provided answers to the question, using information appearing in our daily news coverage and Skift Research and Airline Weekly.
Here are the responses Ask Skift produced as well as more information we’ve gathered on the subject.
Travelers’ Willingness to Go Greener
Ask Skift said:
The concept of sustainable travel has become increasingly significant in the travel industry. According to a research study by Bain & Company, there is a growing interest in sustainable tourism among leisure travelers worldwide, with travelers choosing destinations and providers based on their sustainability records and even willing to pay a premium for it.
The travel industry has also made strides in embracing sustainability, with Skift Global Forums emphasizing the importance of responsible tourism practices, reducing carbon footprints, and supporting local communities
What else you need to know:
Almost 82% of respondents in The Vacationer’s 2023 sustainable travel survey said greener travel is either very important or somewhat important to them. Furthermore, the same survey found that roughly 74% of respondents intend to make greener travel decisions.
However, a far fewer percentage of travelers seem to be spending more to do so. While Booking.com’s 2023 Sustainable Travel Report revealed 43% of travelers are willing to pay extra for certified sustainable travel options, Skift Research found in its December 2022 U.S. Travel Tracker survey that only 23% of travelers paid more for greener forms of travel in the previous 12 months.
Eric Jones, co-founder of The Vacationer, cited inflation as a major reason why more Americans weren’t willing to spend more on sustainable travel.
“While sustainable travel may still be important to them, its current level of importance is very low when they are attempting to make ends meet,” he said in April 2023.
Moves Toward Greener Travel
Moreover, as the world of travel rebuilds post-pandemic, industry leaders, local communities, and travelers are becoming more mindful of their carbon footprint and the impact their travel choices have on the planet, resulting in a global shift towards more environmentally conscious tourism (June 2023).
What else you need to know:
As the desire for greener travel has grown, companies and organizations involved in travel are increasingly taking steps to reduce the industry’s massive carbon footprint. The U.S. Travel Association launched in March an initiative called JourneyToClean.com that includes examples of more than 100 sustainable travel practices across the industry. The initiative features actions taken by brands such as Hilton, New Orleans and Company, and American Airlines.
Speaking of American, the Fort Worth Texas-based airline — as well as Lufthansa and EasyJet — is part of an advisory committee working to develop a model to assess to environmental impact of flight emissions. Executive Editor Dennis Schaal reported the collaboration could help produce more reliable data on flight emissions, which has long been a challenge for the travel industry.
Airlines, which are responsible for roughly 3% of global emissions, have long struggled to reduce their massive carbon footprint. Skift Research found in 2021 that the majority of airlines failed to hit their environmental efficiency targets.
There has been a growing push for the industry to adopt sustainable aviation fuel. The European Parliament approved its ReFuelEU Aviation standards in July 2022, which outline a substantial increase in sustainable aviation fuel adoption in five-year increments through 2050. Eighty-five percent of aviation fuel in the European Union must be sustainable by 2050.
Travel Needing to Do More
However, it is important to note that while the adoption of sustainable practices is on the rise, some travelers still feel that the travel and tourism sector needs to do more to be sustainable, indicating that there is still room for improvement in this regard.
What else you need to know:
Peter van Berkel, chair of the International Inbound Travel Association and president of tour operator Travalco, acknowledged in February 2023 that the U.S. has a sustainability perception problem with European travelers.
Still, the U.S. is making efforts. For example, the U.S. National Park Service has taken steps to transition its fleet to 100% electric vehicles as well as install charging station infrastructure within parks to assist visitors driving electric vehicles. The National Park Service also recently announced that the Grand Canyon National Park, which attracts 6 million visitors annually, received $27.5 million in federal funding to electrify its bus shuttles.
While van Berkel said those advances should be heavily promoted, Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam wrote that tourism businesses that beat the drum about their sustainability efforts won’t win over Generation Z travelers. In fact, Etienne Matichard, Ennismore’s director of sales, said those companies risk pushing members of the growing group away.
As for the need to make continuous improvement in being green, Skift reported in March 2023 that corporations aren’t taking matters of sustainability more seriously. Only 8% of 150 U.S.-based 150 travel managers said in a poll by the Global Business Travel Association that sustainability was a priority. In addition, campaign group Transport & Environment said 85% of global companies have failed to establish ambitious targets to reduce corporate travel emissions.
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Photo credit: Travelers are increasingly looking to make their trips greener. PxHere