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Sustainable Travel Trends in 2022

Sustainable Travel

New insights gathered from more than 30,000 travelers across 32 countries and territories revealed sustainable travel trends in 2022.

The most extensive sustainable travel research from Booking.com highlighted travelers' desire to make more mindful and conscious choices across the entire travel experience.

The research says that 61% of US travelers say that they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months, which is a 15% increase over.

With 73% of travelers confirming that sustainable travel is important to them, nearly half of all respondents (44%) cited that recent news about climate change has influenced them to make more sustainable travel choices. To that end, over a third (35%) of US travelers say that the sustainability efforts of accommodations and transport providers play a strong role in their property and transport decisions respectively. In fact, 61% of Americans say they would be more likely to choose a sustainable accommodation - whether they were looking specifically for one or not.

Awareness and visibility of more sustainable stays continue, with 39% of US travelers confirming they have seen a sustainable accommodation on an online travel site over the past year and 45% indicating that they actively look for information on the sustainability efforts of a property before they book. Even more encouraging are the 47% of Americans who say they have actually stayed in a sustainable accommodation over the past year. Of those who have experienced a more sustainable stay in the past 12 months, the reasons for selecting one vary:

  • 30% said they chose it to help reduce their impact on the environment
  • Almost a third (27%) wanted to have a more locally-relevant experience
  • 25% believe sustainable properties treat the community better

While 68% of US travelers intend to stay in a sustainable property at least once in the coming year, there is still more to do to make more sustainable stay options easier to find for everyone. Of those who didn’t stay in a sustainable accommodation over the past year, 32% said they didn’t know they existed. While this is down 5% from 2021, indicating that awareness is growing, a fifth (21%) said they still didn’t know how to find them. Almost half (48%) admit that they don’t actively look for the sustainability efforts of a property before they book, but if easily accessible, they say they will review it, which further underlines the importance of making this sustainability information transparent and understandable for a broad audience of travelers.

Alternative destinations and timing

There is consensus amongst travelers on wanting to avoid busy and over-visited destinations, with a quarter (25%) saying that they chose to travel outside of peak season and 23% choosing to go to a less popular travel destination over the last 12 months to avoid overcrowding. To that end, when thinking about future trips 33% said they’d be willing to exclusively travel outside of peak season to avoid overcrowding, and 64% revealed that they would avoid popular tourist destinations and attractions to ensure a more even dispersal of the impact and benefits of their visit. Almost a third (28%) would even be willing to choose an alternative to their preferred destination to help avoid overcrowding.

On the flip side, 41% struggle to find appealing destinations that are less crowded and 39% feel like it’s not possible to find sustainable travel options in cities or other popular tourist destinations. This indicates an opportunity for travel platforms to work with accommodation providers in these destinations to help them progress on their sustainability journeys and in turn to highlight more sustainable options, as well as to help consumers discover alternate times and places to take their trips, without sacrificing on experience.

Connection to culture and local communities

A regenerative philosophy is influencing decision-making, with 57% of US travelers saying they want to leave the places they visit better than when they arrived and almost two-thirds (60%) wanting to have experiences that are representative of the local culture. In fact, almost a fifth (19%) say they have actively familiarized themselves with the local cultural values and traditions at their travel destination in advance of their trips and one in five (20%) would be willing to pay more for travel activities to ensure they are giving back to local communities. Despite the appetite to give back and connect during their travels, 40% indicate that they don't know how or where to find activities or tours that ensure they are actually having a positive impact and giving back to the local community.

Tipping point for transportation

US travelers are mindful about how far they travel, how they get there and how they get around once they’re there. Nearly a quarter (23%) say they chose to travel to a destination closer to home to reduce their carbon footprint and 14% indicated that they researched public transport and/or options to rent a bicycle in their chosen destination. Just over one in ten (11%) also chose to travel by train instead of car for longer distances and a third (33%) say they feel ashamed to fly because of its impact on the environment. When it comes to booking transportation for their trips, 45% actively look for sustainability information. While 46% reveal that they don’t actively look for more sustainable transport options, it still has an impact on booking behavior and customer satisfaction. For example, although 24% say sustainability efforts don’t play a strong role in their transport choices, they report that it can influence their final choice. And for the 20% who say that sustainability efforts play no role in their choice of transportation, knowing that the transport option booked follows sustainability best practices still makes them feel good, opening up a wide range of opportunities to grow consideration for more sustainable options across the entire trip experience.

Continuing the journey to more sustainable travel for everyone

With more than 100,000 properties globally now being recognized for their sustainability efforts with a Travel Sustainable badge on Booking.com, the company has also further expanded the number of third-party certifications and labels that automatically qualify accommodations to receive it. In addition to those officially approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), Green Tourism and the EU Ecolabel, this now also includes Green Seal, Nordic Swan Ecolabel, Green Hospitality Ecolabel, Ibex Fairstay, Fair Trade Tourism, LEED and Edge.

Booking.com remained carbon-neutral in its operations in 2021 and transitioned to 100% renewable electricity towards the end of 2021, an important step as part of the company’s contribution to Booking Holdings’ recently released Climate Action Plan. The first of its kind for any global online travel company, its Climate Action Plan functions as a strategic framework for how Booking Holdings intends to make its operations, services and the travel industry more sustainable. In line with the definitions and measurements established by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), the Climate Action Plan includes ambitious targets that aim to help the company achieve a 95% reduction in scope 1 and 2 emissions by the end of 2030, 50% reduction in scope 3 emissions by 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2040.

“With increased pressure on our natural resources and the undeniable impact our way of life is having on the environment, we are 100% committed to leading the industry in charting a more mindful and responsible course for the future of travel,” said Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking.com.

“We have ambitious goals for what we want to achieve, but together with our partners across the industry and the passion of our innovative employees, we can continue to make it easier for everyone to experience the world in a more mindful and responsible way. We believe that travel is and should remain a powerful force for good, bringing enhanced cultural understanding, socio-economic opportunities for countless communities and the potential to help rejuvenate and protect our planet for the long term.”

Read here Booking.com’s full 2022 Sustainable Travel Research Report.

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