The 2019 Booking.com Annual Sustainable Travel Survey is out and shows that almost two-thirds of U.S. travelers believe that given the critical threats facing our planet, people should act now and make sustainable trip choices.
A whopping 73% of travelers also said they plan to stay in an eco-friendly accommodation at least once over the coming year, up from 62% in 2016. Nearly 70% want their travel dollars to go into the local communities they visit, and 72% seek “authentic” cultural experiences.
This is consistent with an earlier study by OnePoll on behalf of Exodus Travels, showing that 78% of U.S. travelers considered themselves more conscious travelers than they were ten years ago.
This rising trend towards experiencing the world while making sure to reduce one’s negative impact on the environment and on local populations is the most encouraging change I’ve seen in the industry over the last 15 years.
I’ve been pushing for and promoting sustainable travel since I started actively exploring the Caribbean over a decade ago. The Caribbean is one of the most fragile and vulnerable regions in the world — the most susceptible to climate change and climate-related disasters, even though it is the least responsible for global greenhouse gas emissions. This, in turn, affects tourism and the Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. It’s also a region where nature has suffered at the expense of mass development.
It’s just as well then, that travelers are more conscious now to the alarming effects of climate change, deforestation and a current record rate of wildlife extinction.
The most interesting part of the Booking.com sustainable study is that despite good intentions, 40% said they didn’t know how to make their travel more sustainable, 41% said they found other options more appealing, and 41 percent indicated they cannot afford the extra expense of sustainable travel.
Given this rising consciousness and demand, how do we then help people make that transition and help them understand that there are fun, green things to do in all destinations — not just the ones certified as eco-friendly? That green doesn’t equate boring?
How do we help people plan a green and culture-conscious trip without spending huge amounts of money on group expeditions, and without hours spent on the Internet?
And is a green vacation possible if we just want to relax on the beach? What about those who don’t have much experience booking trips independently, away from “all inclusive packages,” yet want to make responsible vacation choices?
There are a lot of questions to be answered and a lot of room for guidance, especially for the Caribbean.