30+ Sustainable travel statistics & trends you need to know

19 Feb 2023 · 8
Sustainable tourism is becoming increasingly important to modern travelers.  Today, global travelers are truly prioritizing the impact that their traveling is making on the environment and local communities. Both businesses and their employees are more environmentally conscious and want their travels to do minimal harm.
Understanding the trends in sustainable travel will empower you to better understand the future of all types of traveling – including corporate — and make better business decisions for the well-being of your business travel program, and your employees.
In this article, we’ll look at over 30 sustainable tourism statistics and trends you definitely need to know for better travel decision-making.

Editor’s Picks: the stats you need to know

From Amsterdam to New York, increasing the sustainability  of world travel is now very much a top priority. Here are the top stats & travel trends on responsible tourism that showcase its importance:
  • Searches for “sustainable travel” have increased by 191% from 2020 to 2023.
  • Traveling in business class has a bigger carbon footprint, since first-class seats consume four times as much as economy.
  • The sustainable travel market in the business travel & tourism sector is expected to grow by $335.93 billion  during 2023 - 2027.
  • Globally, flights produced over 600  million tonnes of CO2 in 2022.

    Sources:
    Google Trends
    ,
    Greenbiz,
    Research and Markets
    ,
    Statista Research

What is sustainable travel and tourism?

As environmental, societal and economic concerns rise, sustainable travel and tourism becomes  the rational solution.  Travelers and tour operators know that despite the positive impact that traveling has, there are some negative ones too–especially when it comes to the environment and the communities around it.
For example, according to a report from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO),
the most polluting form of transport are flights
.
Sustainable travel and tourism is when people travel with a more conscious effort to reduce, mitigate, or eliminate the negative impacts that it has. This can include efforts like:
  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions by choosing more sustainable transport options
  • offsetting pollution and harm to biodiversity
  • reducing the negative impact on cultural heritage
  • positively impacting the local economy at your destination
In short, sustainable travel is:
“Travel that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.”
UNWTO
Ecotourism is about more than just physical ecosystems—it’s also about supporting local culture,  meeting new people, experiencing the amazing things that the world has to offer, and much more, are the reasons we want to continue traveling. However, we want to do all this in a sustainable way.
The sustainable travel market had been slowly growing in the past years before the pandemic. However, with the impact of the global pandemic, the rising ecological crisis,  and the more conscious, younger generations speaking up, the sustainable travel and tourism industry is booming and consumer demand is rife for it.
  • In 2022, the sustainable international tourism industry worldwide was estimated at $172.4 billion and expected to grow to $374.2 billion by 2028. 
  • A global survey in 2020 showed that Gen Z (56%) and millennial (51%) travelers are the most concerned with sustainable travel. Gen X (49%) and Baby Boomers (46%) are the least concerned about it.
  • 77% of travelers aged between 18-29 say that sustainability impacts their travel decisions, compared to 48% of travelers aged 51 and above.
  • 76% of travelers surveyed in 2023 say they want to travel more sustainably over the next 12 months. 
Sources:
Statista
,
Travel Agent Central
,
Booking

How and why do travelers approach sustainable traveling?

Not all travelers share the same reason for wanting to travel more sustainably. Some want to do it for climate change, others simply want to reduce their carbon footprint and save on resources. Whichever reason someone may have, most travelers and most travel companies are now positively contributing towards a more sustainable future.
  • 43% of travelers surveyed in
    Booking.com
    ’s 2023 Sustainable Travel Report say they would be willing to pay more for more sustainable travel options.
  • 69% of travelers want the money they spend when traveling to go back into the local economy.
  • 59% of travelers will pay to offset their carbon emissions when they travel. 
  • 50% of travelers generally choose sustainable travel options because they care about the impact of their travels. Another 26% say sustainable travel options give them a better travel experience. 
  • Of all travelers, their sustainable travel concerns are divided like this:
    • 46% are concerned about excess waste.
    • 38% worry about threats to local wildlife and natural habitats.
    • 30% care about overtourism.
    • 29% want to reduce CO2 emissions.
Sources:
Booking
,
Deloitte
,
Trip.com
,
Avantio

What about sustainable accommodation?

Traveling encompasses many things, from the type of private and public transport you take to the places you’re staying at and buying from. The hospitality industry has a huge impact on the way we look after the environment and the communities around it–the travel  industry is responsible for
21% of all the ecological footprint
generated by tourism.
  • Hotel and other rental accommodation guests are willing to pay up to 75% more for an eco-friendly option.
  • 73% of travelers are more likely to choose accommodation providers that advertise their sustainability practices.
  • 65% of travelers would feel better about staying in a particular hotel or accommodation if they knew it had a sustainable certification or met certain sustainability requirements.
  • 27% of travelers say they would like the choice to opt out of daily room cleaning in order to reduce water usage.
  • 48% of travelers said the hardest part of traveling sustainably was choosing a sustainable accommodation option.
  • 59% of travelers would like a filter option to make the decision of staying in sustainable accommodation easier.
  • Research has found that the hotel industry would need to reduce its carbon emissions by 66% per room by 2030, and by 90% per room by 2050, to make sure that the growth forecasted for the industry does not cause an increase in its carbon emissions.
Sources:
Operto
,
Avantio
,
Booking
,
Statista
,
Sustainable Hospitality Alliance
 

Who should be accountable for sustainable travel?

Not everyone agrees on which organization should be responsible for a greener way to travel. However, most agree it’s an interplay between self-accountability, as well as corporations, governments and other organizations like the United Nations that need to act together to ensure sustainability.
  • Employees agree that corporations need to take responsibility for making corporate travel more sustainable.
  • 51% of travelers feel there aren’t enough sustainable travel options available.
  • 48% of travelers say it’s important to them to choose travel companies that have strong sustainability policies.
Sources:
Greenbiz
,
Booking
,
Deloitte

What stops travelers from traveling sustainably?

Even if people wish to travel more sustainably, it’s not always possible. Costs, limited options, lack of available information, among other reasons, are quoted by travelers as obstacles stopping them from traveling greener.
  • By 2023, the following are the reasons that people say impede them from traveling more greenly:
    • “There aren’t enough sustainable travel options available.” (51%) 
    • “I want economic incentives to choose more sustainable options.” (49%) 
    • “I don’t know where to find such options.” (44%) 
    • “I don’t trust that the options I find are truly sustainable.” (39%) 
  • In addition, 53% of travelers said that sustainable travel options are too expensive.
Sources:
Statista
,
OnCarbon

How do business travelers care about sustainability?

Corporate travel is one of the world’s largest contributors to carbon emissions–for example, business travel contributes to
53% of the total carbon footprint
of PwC and this is similar with most Fortune 500 companies.
This is mainly due to the number  of corporate travelers and the length of their trips. 
Corporations and corporate travelers are aware of these challenges and they’re doing the best they can to support the sustainable travel movement–after all, they’re one of the major players.
  • In a 2021 survey, respondents  claimed that their companies had changed their overall carbon reduction targets–those include traveling–in the following ways:
    • 36% increased their environmentally friendly commitments
    • 20% didn’t have reduction targets but have now start considering them
    • 15% kept the same commitments they had
    • 15% didn’t have targets, and don’t expect to implement new ones
    • 12% are unsure of their companies’ targets
    • 2% decreased the commitments they had
  • ​​At corporations with sustainability programs, 92% of executives report that sustainability investment is already increasing.
  • 44% of corporate travel managers in North America said that travel sustainability was an increased priority for them in 2023 and beyond.
  • Business travelers are thinking sustainably as well. In a 2022 survey, 53% of business travelers said they made a conscious effort to adopt more sustainable travel habits during their trips. 
  • According to a 2023 survey, 19% of corporate organizations had changed travel policies to reduce carbon emissions goals, and 35% of companies were reducing future business travel for sustainability reasons.
Sources:
JBT Business Travel
,
Gartner
,
Business Travel News
,
Deloitte

Final thoughts on sustainable travel

Sustainable travel has become  a higher priority after the pandemic, and according to these stats, we can see it’s a growing trend. However, when it comes to making a lasting change in the environment there’s still a lot we can do to travel more sustainably.
If you’re looking to create a more sustainable business travel program, TMCs like
TravelPerk
offer
carbon footprint reduction options
and so much more, so you’ll be able to do your part to continue traveling while minimizing the effect of it on the environment.
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