Travel Sustainable Handbook

At Booking.com, we’re committed to making sustainable travel easier for everyone. And we can't do that without our partners. This sustainability guide is the first step on our collaborative journey to change the travel industry. 

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Embracing sustainable travel together

Travel does great things. It helps us discover our world, gives us new experiences, and connects us with other cultures. It makes memories. It reunites us with familiar faces, forges new friendships, and teaches us about ourselves.

But it can have consequences, too. From pollution and the destruction of natural habitats to overcrowding and strain on local infrastructure. We know that hospitality professionals, travelers, and locals alike are already feeling the impact of unsustainable travel.

This is especially troubling for those of us in the travel industry, since it’s the very things travelers love most about destinations that are at the highest risk. That makes sustainability not just an ethical priority, but a business one.

At Booking.com, we’re committed to making sustainable travel the way to experience the world. And we can’t do so without our partners. 

Demand for sustainable accommodations is growing each year. Our Sustainable Travel Report found that in 2022:

  • 71% of global travelers expressed a desire to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months
  • 70% of global travelers say they’d be more likely to choose a sustainable accommodation, regardless of whether they were looking for one or not
  • 78% of global travelers intend to stay in a sustainable property at least once in the coming year

But more needs to be done to make sustainable travel easier – and sustainable accommodations easier to find. Among the travelers who hadn’t stayed in sustainable accommodations over the past year, 31% said they didn’t know they existed and 29% said they still didn’t know how to find them.

Sustainable travel isn’t just a response to traveler preferences. There’s a strong business case for it, which we’ll lay out in each section of this handbook. We want to work with you to help you grow sustainably and create travel experiences that safeguard your destination—and business—for the future. 

How to use this handbook

Think of this guide as your sustainable hospitality handbook. It’s been written in collaboration with sustainability experts like the Global Sustainable Tourism Council to include the latest sustainability data and science, as well as practical steps that properties like yours can take to make positive changes for their businesses, local environments, and the industry as a whole.

Each section of the handbook focuses on a specific sustainability topic, with concrete actions you can implement at your property – no matter its size, type, or location. We’ve also introduced corresponding Extranet facilities that you can add to your property listing to help communicate your sustainability efforts to travelers on our platform.

We’ll keep adding to this list of facilities over time, so check back regularly for updates.

Update your Extranet settings

Our research shows it can be difficult for guests to find sustainable accommodations. To communicate your sustainability efforts and better catch the eye of discerning travelers, update your facilities to showcase the measures you’ve implemented at your property.

Update your facilities

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Setting the environmental baseline

On the journey towards sustainability, your baseline is your compass. It’s only once you measure your performance—for example, by carbon emissions or water consumption—that you can set goals and plan how to reach them.

Show me how

Reducing plastic consumption

It’s now easier than ever to run your property without plastic – and it’s never been more important. Plastic takes years to break down, harms wildlife, and damages the environment. This guide will show you how to protect both by reducing your plastic consumption.

How can I start?

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Reducing water consumption

Fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce. That’s why we need to start cutting water consumption today – and it’s going to take more than just asking guests to reuse towels. But the environmental and financial upsides are worth the investment.

Tell me more 

Getting certified

Certification shows the world your commitment to sustainability. While the Travel Sustainable badge lends credit to your efforts and helps attract more eco-conscious guests, the process itself is even more valuable, helping you set priorities and fill gaps in your sustainability plans.

Learn more

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Reducing food waste

About a third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Given that food can represent a significant cost, reducing waste has huge savings potential – and a positive impact on your environmental footprint.

Learn how

Reducing energy consumption and using green energy

The accelerated warming of the planet—and the resulting impact on ecologies and economies—makes energy sources and efficiency the top sustainability priorities. But reducing energy consumption and switching your remaining power needs to renewable sources doesn’t just benefit the planet. It can also lower your operational costs.

Find out how to start

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Animal welfare

The places we live in and visit as tourists are vital because of the other species that inhabit them. Working together to protect the wellbeing of animals isn’t just an ethical responsibility – it’s also how we’ll ensure the longevity of the environments we value.

Find out how to start

Balancing sustainability and safety

Travelers may be returning, but they’re coming back with new and different priorities. Meeting the demand for greater safety and hygiene measures while also operating more sustainably will require creative thinking. Read the guide to learn how you can strike this balance.

Find out how to start

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Local community

Engaging your local community

Your business’ social and economic context has a big impact on its success. That’s why engaging with stakeholders in your local community is an important part of any sustainability strategy, no matter what type of property you run.

How can I start?

Our Travel Sustainable Program

To support your sustainability journey and champion your efforts, we introduced our Travel Sustainable program in 2021. Travel Sustainable is an inclusive framework designed to recognize and support all accommodation partners on their sustainability journeys, at any stage. 

Together with independent bodies, such as sustainable travel nonprofit Travalyst, we’ve identified and verified accessible practices selected for their high impact potential. You’ll find these in the Extranet’s Sustainability practices section.

Booking.com has adopted the GSTC criteria and incorporated them in the system used for the Travel Sustainable Program. Organized around four main themes—effective sustainability planning, maximizing social and economic benefits for local communities, enhancing cultural heritage, and reducing negative impacts to the environment—the criteria, among other uses, serve as basic guidelines for businesses of all sizes to become more sustainable.

As Travel Sustainable evolves, we’ll continue to use the GSTC Criteria to inform program developments. Though you aren’t currently required to fulfill each of the criteria to be eligible for the Travel Sustainable badge, we endorse and encourage compliance by all hotels to 100% of the GSTC Industry Criteria for Hotels.

If you’ve already implemented all of the 32 sustainable practices offered as part of our program, you can use the GSTC Industry Criteria to further guide you on your sustainability journey.

Discover more about Travel Sustainable  Download the GSTC Industry Criteria  

Sustainability at Booking.com

As a leader in travel, we believe it’s our responsibility—and that of our industry—to make sure this planet, its people, wildlife, and habitats are able to thrive today and long into the future. This journey toward sustainability will take time, collaboration, and concerted effort. And there will be much to learn along the way.

The part we play is making sustainable travel easier for everyone. This means offering customers more sustainable travel choices by working with our partners and peers to provide a wider range of sustainable experiences. Together we can make sustainability part of every trip.

But we know we can't ask our partners to do what we haven't done ourselves. That's why we're also looking at our own environmental footprint, and working to reduce it. We’re also continuing to find new ways to make our operations more efficient and more sustainable.

To make sure our own house is in order, we committed to operating our business sustainably and building a culture of sustainability as part of our inaugural Climate Action Plan:

  • Making improvements to how we handle waste – We’re working to improve our waste-streaming processes in offices around the world. We’ve implemented waste streaming in all of our Amsterdam offices and our new Manchester campus. These facilities support up to 5,000 and 1,300 employees, respectively on a daily basis.
  • Working to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations – We’ve done extensive work to understand our baseline carbon footprint and have now set targets for reducing it, completing our transition to 100% renewable electricity in 2021. At the same time, we’re working with landlords and building owners to further understand the complexities of operating in a sustainable way.

Learn more about our sustainability commitment and efforts in our latest Sustainability Report.

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