10 Trends Shaping Eco Travel: Exploration Meets Ethics

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Following covid, travellers are shifting towards ‘planet-first’ destinations and meaningful eco travel experiences.

Globally, aviation accounts for around 2.5 percent of carbon emissions and 1.9 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, reports Booking.com in its recent seventh annual Sustainable Travel Report. This might sound small, but the lack of democratic access to international travel needs to be taken into account. Previous estimates claim that up to 80 percent of the world’s population do not, or cannot, afford to fly. Therefore, flights should be considered on a personal emissions basis. This could be bad news for the frequent-flying elite.

The report used data collected online this past February from 30,314 individuals across 32 countries and territories who had travelled in the last 12 months and who had plans to travel in 2022.

Photo by PhilippKammerer at Unsplash.

As the importance of one’s personal climate impact becomes everyday discourse, consumers are looking at how they can adapt their lifestyles. Common adjustments include diet and day-to-day logistics, but global travel is a consideration too. The newly-released Sustainable Travel Report confirms this with its observations and predicted trends.

The following 10 themes are expected to reshape the travel industry in 2022 and beyond.

1. Sustainable properties will win out

78 percent of global travellers revealed that they intend to look for low-impact properties to stay in. This could include locations that feature rainwater harvesting, ground pump heating systems or were built using sustainable materials. 46 percent of participants claimed to have already stayed at such a property, in the last year. 

2. Climate impact is a consideration when booking a holiday

71 percent of travellers say they will make a concerted effort to put sustainability at the forefront of their next holiday choice. This relates to destination, travel methodology, property stayed in and experiences booked, whilst away. The figure has increased by 10 percent from 2021. 

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski at Unsplash.

3. Sustainable luxury will become an important niche

The survey shows that 27 percent of travellers assume that sustainable destinations won’t be as luxurious as they want. Comfort levels are cited as a concern. It is reasonable to expect resorts to cotton on to this stereotypical way of thinking before myth-busting. Five-star luxury sustainable accommodation is likely to become a trend, potentially via social media, with travellers looking to get involved as it takes off in popularity.

4. Off-peak will become the new peak

50 percent of travellers admit that readily available information about climate change has made them rethink when they leave their home country. An emerging trend is exploring during off-peak seasons, to avoid overcrowding and lessen the impact on host destinations. 33 percent of survey participants said they have already travelled during less popular times, to avoid crowds. 64 percent noted they are willing to avoid popular destinations and attractions, to prevent impactful tourism.

5. Cultural immersion will overtake lazy beach days

45 percent of travellers say they see learning about local cultures as key to sustainable travel. This is supported by 66 percent of people wanting to have ‘authentic’ experiences that give insight into local culture and customs, away from exaggerated tourist attractions. 

Photo by Christopher Ruel at Unsplash.

6. Stewardship of places visited will become second nature

More than half (59 percent) of people surveyed claim they want to leave a destination better than when they arrived. Injecting capital into local economies will be a key driver to making this a reality. 25 percent of respondents said they would be happy to pay more for holiday experiences if they knew that local communities would directly benefit. 

A stumbling block to community stewardship is accessibility. 34 percent of travellers say they have no idea how to find activities or tours that would positively impact local spaces. Almost the same number (32 percent) of people would enjoy travel companies making suggestions of things to do that will support native communities.

7. Responsibility and relaxation will go hand-in-hand

‘Getting away from it’ will no longer mean shirking all responsibility when in a foreign country. 29 percent of survey respondents said they feel travellers have a responsibility to reduce the negative effects of tourism. Destruction of natural habitats, overcrowding of popular hot spots and increases in waste will all be tackled by conscious exploration.

8. Travel methods will no longer be a negligible part of the holiday experience

More than half (51 percent) of travellers surveyed said they consider low or zero carbon emissions while they reach a destination as a key facet of sustainable travel. Electric rental car and public transport use are likely to increase in holiday destinations. 

Reaching foreign countries will still mostly rely on commercial flights, but attitudes to this are changing. 30 percent of people feel ashamed to fly because its impact on the environment is well documented. 40 percent actively seek out sustainability information, such as carbon offsetting initiatives. 

Photo by Atlas Green at Unsplash.

9. Far away destinations won’t be an automatic go-to

Even if domestic travel doesn’t take off quite yet, travelling a little less further afield looks set to become a trend. 23 percent of survey participants already chose to holiday closer to home and 33 percent would be willing to do so specifically for a smaller carbon footprint. 57 percent acknowledged they are happy to look at closer destinations in future, especially if travel companies showcase locations in closer proximity.

10. Sustainability will filter in as a standard consideration

So far, actively looking to include sustainable credentials during the holiday selection process remains non-unilateral. 36 percent of people say that travel platforms need to highlight sustainability information so that it can play a more active role in decision making. A filter specifically for sustainable locations would be helpful, according to 34 percent of people surveyed. This offers future scope for destinations to be labelled with carbon emission information, just as food is starting to be.

Lead photo by Wang Xi at Unsplash.

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