Trends & Insights

Seamless sustainability – closing the gap between intention and action

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Sustainability is no longer a fence for the travel industry to sit on. Booking.com’s annual sustainability research shows just how serious travelers are about reducing their travel footprint and choosing businesses that help them travel sustainably

Sustainability has been steadily growing in importance. In 2019, our research found more than half (55%) of global travelers were more determined to make more sustainable travel choices than they were the previous year. While COVID-19 changed everyone’s travel plans for 2020, data from Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel Report reveals a new kind of commitment to sustainability as the world emerges from lockdown. 

The unexpected “pandemic effect”

Just as lockdown showed us how important travel is, it also showed us how big an impact it has on the planet and local communities. That said, it’s no surprise that 61% of people say the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably going forward. That compounds the 83% who already felt that sustainable travel is vital. 

What’s surprising is how intention has now turned into action. 49% of people say the pandemic has spurred them into making changes in their everyday lives, with recycling and reducing food waste being the top priorities at home. While on vacation in the past 12 months, 43% of travelers brought their own reusable bottles instead of buying bottled water, 45% made a conscious decision to turn off their air conditioning or heating when they weren’t in their accommodations, and 33% engaged in activities to support the local community.

The sustainable traveler

The landscape of travelers’ desires is changing, and partners can expect a shift in behavior post-pandemic. 84% of global travelers want to cut down the waste they produce while traveling, particularly single-use plastics, 83% want to reduce their energy consumption, 76% want to ensure the economic impact of travel is spread equally across all levels of society, and 69% say they plan to avoid popular destinations and attractions to help reduce overcrowding and distribute the benefits of travel to less-visited destinations and communities.

As the nature of demand changes, supply is starting to respond. The 83% of travelers who believe sustainable travel is important is mirrored by the 82% of our partners who see sustainability in the hospitality industry as an important issue. Still, a gap remains. 49% of travelers believe that in 2021 there still aren’t enough sustainable travel options available. 

Of the 40% of travelers who said they hadn’t stayed in a sustainable property in the last 12 months, 32% said they couldn’t find any options where they were traveling. These numbers make sense given the small number of certified properties and that only 31% of partners actively communicate their sustainability efforts to travelers. To close the gap between supply and demand, Booking.com is making it easier for partners to display the sustainable practices currently in place at their properties via the hotel page. This is just a first step in improving customer awareness and aims to help partners reach the growing number of consumers who want to travel more consciously. 

Making sustainability a seamless part of the travel experience

Whether your property currently doesn’t have any sustainable efforts in place or you would like to expand the practices you do offer, the Sustainability Handbook can help you on your sustainability journey. As part of our Travel Sustainable Program, the resource was created in collaboration with experts from different fields of sustainability. It introduces different sustainability topics—from waste reduction and water consumption to animal welfare—with data-driven insights and practical tips on how to leverage those insights at different property types. “A small change like eliminating single-use plastics or switching to energy-efficient LED lightbulbs might seem insignificant in isolation, but multiplied by millions of travelers and properties around the world, these small steps all start to add up to a much bigger potential positive impact,” says Marianne Gybels, Director of Sustainability at Booking.com.

As more and more partners invest in sustainability efforts, we’re continuously working to make sure they’re visible on our platform. You can now display 32 different sustainability practices on your property page. We also display third-party sustainability certifications for those who have already made great strides, including sustainability programs for eligible hotel chains. “The more sustainable practices we can help our partners to identify and implement, the more we can experiment with how best to highlight this information to customers and ultimately make sustainability a transparent and easily identifiable part of their travel decision-making process,” says Gybels.

“While there is much, much more to be done, we are optimistic about the passion and commitment we are seeing from all sides,” Gybels continues. “No matter where travelers or our accommodation partners might be on their individual sustainability journey, we want to encourage them to take the next step, so that together we can create a truly regenerative and responsible future for all travel.”   

 

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Takeaway
  • 49% of people say the pandemic has spurred them into making changes in their everyday lives, with recycling and reducing food waste being the top priorities
  • 61% of travelers say the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future, with 70% saying they’re more likely to book at a property that follows sustainable practices
  • Among travelers who didn’t stay in sustainable accommodation in the past year, 32% said they couldn’t find any options and 31% said they didn’t even know how to find them – two issues we’re addressing by making your sustainability practices easier to find and see
  • To capture the demand we’re seeing for sustainable travel, make sure you update your sustainability practices on the Extranet.