Quantum Brief

How can we make sustainable travel mainstream?

It’s not just good intentions for future trips that are top of mind for travellers - many report already actively taking important steps to have a more positive impact during their recent travel.

By  Ritu MehrotraJun 8, 2022 2:16 PM
How can we make sustainable travel mainstream?
Eighty-eight percent of Indian travellers surveyed said they would be more likely to choose a sustainable accommodation - whether they were looking specifically for one or not. (Representational image: Caroline Selfers via Unsplash)

The pandemic has certainly accelerated the awakening of the traveller mindset and pushed towards more conscious, responsible travel in India. Beyond just buzzwords or jargon, the sustainable traveller should now be a keen consideration for accommodation and hospitality providers.

But does the common traveller understand what it means to travel sustainably? To put it simply, it’s about keeping destinations healthy and happy, leaving the places we visit better than how we found them. It isn’t just a buzzword but a conscientious approach in terms of how travel can positively impact local communities from a social, economic, health and cultural perspective.

With travel picking up and many starting to explore the world again, they are looking forward to making a positive impact through their actions.

Turning aspiration into reality

According to the 2022 Sustainable Travel Report, the intention to make future trips more sustainable reveal consumers’ apparent readiness to take matters into their own hands and take personal responsibility for their own travel behaviour. This suggests that travellers are starting to think more holistically about their impact and the different tweaks and shifts they deem necessary throughout their journeys. This further illuminates that making more sustainable accommodation choices is just the beginning.

We’ve seen an increased desire amongst travellers to travel more mindfully and responsibly. An astounding 94%* of Indian travellers confirm that sustainable travel is important to them, with 68% saying that recent news about climate change has influenced them to make more sustainable travel choices. More and more, travellers are assessing if the way they travel will reduce the negative economic and social impact on their destinations.

The latest insights also reveal that it’s not just good intentions for future trips that are top of mind for travellers - many report already actively taking important steps to have a more positive impact during their recent travel.

Even more encouraging are the 80% of Indian travellers who say they have actually stayed in a sustainable accommodation over the past year. While 97% of Indian travellers 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. This makes evident travellers’ desire to be more conscious in their travel choices, but translating this intent to real change on the ground necessitates a strong commitment on the part of all stakeholders, from tourists to digital travel platforms and local governments. The choices for a conscious traveller depend on what options are available, from transportation, accommodation, food and waste services, as well as a business commitment to sustainable practices.

Hence, these decisions cannot be made disparately, or in a vacuum. It is imperative for everyone to play an active role in reshaping the industry. The travel industry operates and thrives on a healthy balance of supply and demand. The new breed of eco-conscious travellers has rising expectations on the travel industry to do its part.

Making sustainable accommodation mainstream

Experts caution that sustainable travel could be limited by the lack of robust sustainable tourism infrastructure, despite the best intentions of all stakeholders such as travellers and businesses. After all, tourists can only make the decision to go sustainable if they have enough choices put before them.

Conscious travel is dependent on the availability of encouraging policies, facilities and incentives such as eco-friendly public transport, accommodation and experiences. Awareness and visibility of more sustainable stays continue, with 68% of Indian travellers confirming they have seen a sustainable accommodation on an online travel site over the past year and 69% indicating that they actively look for information on the sustainability efforts of a property before they book.

In addition to the fact that travellers say they are willing to change or have already changed themselves, they believe that there is much that the places they stay at can also do to make being more sustainable easier for them.

Providing sustainable choices is easier and more affordable than one might expect. In fact, 88% of Indian travellers say they would be more likely to choose a sustainable accommodation - whether they were looking specifically for one or not. While some properties can afford to go big with infrastructure upgrades, many others can start by taking simple initiatives like eliminating all single-use plastics, installing recycling bins and water stations, and offering locally-guided tours.

With more sustainable practices, we can help our partners to identify and implement, brands can now experiment how best to highlight this information to customers and ultimately make sustainable choices transparent and easy as travellers search and book their stays.

Minor changes such as eliminating single-use plastics or moving to energy-efficient LED light bulbs might seem negligible in isolation, but multiplied by lakhs of travellers and properties around the world, these small steps will start to add up to a much bigger positive outcome.

Creating a sustainable travel ecosystem

We’re seeing that travellers are shifting to adopt sustainable choices across the entire travel experience, from how and where they travel to what they do when they’re there.

For travellers who want to make a difference, picking a sustainable place to stay is a great place to start.

But 55% of Indian travellers still struggle to find appealing destinations that are less crowded and 44% feel like it’s not possible to find sustainable travel options in cities or other popular tourist destinations.

This presents an opportunity for travel platforms to work with accommodation providers in these destinations as they progress on their sustainability journeys and incorporate more sustainable practices, as well as help consumers discover new, likely lesser-known destinations to visit, without sacrificing on experience. Moreover, the rise of the conscious traveller in Asia provides an opportunity to rebuild tourism in a holistic, sustainable manner - be it through accommodation, transport or in-destination experiences. With more choices available to consumers and the easier these are to find; all of us - travellers, local communities and our planet - will only stand to gain in the long term.

First Published on Jun 8, 2022 2:16 PM