Cost vs Conscience: Booking.com Delves into the Dilemma Dividing Sustainable Travel in 2023
- 76% of travelers say they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months, while the same amount say the global energy crisis and rising cost of living is impacting their spending plans
- Nearly half (49%) of travelers believe more sustainable travel options are too expensive, in contrast to 43% willing to pay extra for travel options with a sustainable certification
- Taking conscious habits from home when traveling, 67% now turn off the air conditioning in accommodations when they aren't there (up 29% from 2022), while 60% re-use the same towel multiple times (up 25% from 2022)
- 500,000+ accommodations globally are being recognized for their sustainability efforts with a Travel Sustainable badge on Booking.com
AMSTERDAM, 17 APRIL 2023 – [Updated 20 June, 2023] Booking.com releases new research, with insights gathered from more than 33,000 travelers across 35 countries and territories, that highlights a dilemma where people feel potentially forced to choose between cutting costs and being more mindful about making more sustainable travel choices. At a time of general global uncertainty, traveling more sustainably continues to be front of mind for travelers, with three-quarters (74%) believing people need to act now and make more sustainable choices to save the planet for future generations. The news continues to be a key influence driver for 53%, who say the recent climate change news agenda has encouraged them to be more sustainable, and yet it also speaks to a quandary facing people when it comes to being more mindful about when, where and how they travel. While nearly half (49%) think the environment will get worse in the next six months, 64% believe the cost of living crisis will also get worse, leaving people unsure of what to prioritize as they work to reconcile what is important to them with the demands of everyday life.
A tale of two wallets in an unsteady global climate
The economic weather has changed drastically since last year, and the big topics at the front of people’s minds today are the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis. Over three quarters (76%) of travelers say they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months, while the same amount think the global energy crisis and rising cost of living is impacting their spending plans. For some travelers the two are mutually exclusive. With rising inflation, nearly half of travelers are stuck in the notion that they must make a choice between sustainability and spending, with 49% believing more sustainable travel options are too expensive (up 11% from Booking.com’s 2022 data). For these respondents, sustainability and travel combined can seem non-urgent when they are worried about affording bills and the energy crisis. On the flip side, with travel well and truly back for others and a more urgent focus on conscious choices, 43% of today’s travelers would be willing to pay more for travel options with a sustainable certification, dialing up their spend to feel reassured they are driving impact.
As an increasing number of travelers feel the pinch, they are seeking more sustainable travel options rich in rewards, highlighting the perceived trade-off between making conscious choices and saving money and the need for incentivization. Nearly half (49%) want discounts and economic incentives in order to opt for eco-friendly options (up 12% from 2022) while 42% would be encouraged to travel more sustainably with reward points for making more sustainable choices that they could use for free extra perks or discounts through online travel booking sites.
Breaking through barriers to drive change
It’s not just cost that is a perceived hurdle to traveling more sustainably. From limited data to a perceived lack of options, barriers to traveling more sustainably appear higher than ever, with some telling shifts in the past 12 months. Over half (51%) of travelers believe there are not enough sustainable travel options, while 74% want travel companies to offer more sustainable travel choices (up from 66% in 2022). Despite good intentions, 44% of travelers don’t know where to find more sustainable options. For example, 75% seek authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture, yet in stark contrast 40% don’t know how or where to find these tours and activities that will ensure they give back to the local community.
Adopting sustainable micro-habits on vacation
Despite existing barriers and the tightening of purse strings, it’s clear there’s a huge appetite for solutions with four in five (80%) travelers confirming that traveling more sustainably is important to them. Travelers say they are converting intent into action by taking active small steps at home, and when traveling, to drive a more sustainable future. Encouragingly, today 68% use reusable shopping bags, 64% recycle waste and 58% carry their own reusable water bottle – and there’s been a significant uptake in travelers adopting everyday habits on vacation in the past year.
- 67% turn the air conditioning off at accommodations when they aren’t there, up 29% from 2022
- 60% re-use the same towel multiple times, up 25% from 2022
- 55% use their own reusable water bottle, up 19% from 2022
More than three-quarters (77%) say they turn off the lights and appliances at accommodations when they aren’t there, while almost half (45%) now recycle their garbage when traveling. Even more promisingly, travelers are taking action to make conscious choices on vacation that go beyond these everyday micro-habits. When it comes to transportation, 43% now plan their sightseeing so that they can walk, bike or take public transport, while 43% travel outside of peak season in a bid to avoid overcrowding – both up 10% from 2022. There is also consensus amongst travelers on taking the ‘buy local’ mantra on vacation, with 43% favoring small, independent stores.
Trust, truth and the travel industry
Unquestionably, amid rising climate anxiety, travelers are becoming more responsible consumers, from their accommodation to their transport choices. With two thirds (66%) wanting to leave the places they visit better than when they arrived, today’s travelers are increasingly adopting a regenerative approach to travel and searching for vacations with maximum positive impact, while seeking credible assurance when booking across the entire travel experience. For example, travelers can now easily filter their rental car search results to quickly find fully electric and hybrid cars across 110 countries for their next trip. Or choose one of over 500,000 more sustainable options for their next stay, no matter the accommodation type. Nearly two thirds (65%) would feel better about staying in a particular accommodation if they knew it had a sustainable certification or label, while 59% want to filter their options for those with a sustainable certification next time they book.
In response, the travel industry must adapt to meet the changing expectations of these more conscious consumers, to accommodate the third (30%) always on the lookout for brands that promote sustainability, as well as the 69% who are interested to learn more about why specific options are recognized as more sustainable, such as eco-friendly LED lighting and water-efficient toilets for a more sustainable stay. Still, with one in four (39%) travelers today not trusting that the sustainable travel options labeled are truly more sustainable, there are huge strides for the travel industry to make in gaining the trust of consumers.
Making more sustainable travel solutions easier for everyone
Since Booking.com celebrated one year of its Travel Sustainable program in November 2022, the program has since received official recognition from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council® (GSTC®), a designation made by GSTC’s independent Assurance Panel that the program has been deemed equivalent to the GSTC Criteria for sustainable tourism.
Booking.com’s Travel Sustainable program was also recently a winner in Fast Company’s 2023 World Changing Ideas Awards; out of more than 2,000 entries, the company’s Travel Sustainable program was highlighted with the title of “world-changing” for the impact it has had in making it easier for travelers to make more sustainable choices for their trips.
Other new features and developments include:
- Travelers can now also find and book greener taxi options in 95 cities worldwide, simply by looking for the ‘100% Electric’ tagging in the search results.
- For transparency on the impact of their flights, in addition to being able to compare the CO2 emissions for different options, customers will soon see tagging indicating when a certain route or carrier is offering a relatively lower emissions option.
- Public transport ticketing options are available after making an accommodation booking in 47 cities worldwide, including London, Amsterdam, Bangkok and Melbourne.
“While travel may be back, rising living costs and climate anxiety has led to greater demand for more budget and planet-friendly options,” said Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking.com. “Travel can be a force for good and travelers themselves are proving to be today’s changemakers, adopting more sustainable travel habits and seeking responsible experiences. We are listening and together with our partners across the industry, we are leading positive change and examining every part of the trip to support travelers and benefit local communities and environments. More sustainable travel is an investment for the world, and we are committed to making it easier for everyone to experience travel in a more mindful and responsible way, no matter where they are on their sustainability journey.”
Booking.com's full 2023 Sustainable Travel Research Report can be downloaded here.
Booking Holdings' 2022 Sustainability Report can be downloaded here.
Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 33,228 respondents across 35 countries and territories (1,019 from USA, 1,002 from Canada, 1,007 from Mexico, 1,005 from Colombia, 1,008 from Brazil, 1,015 from Argentina, 1,008 from Australia, 504 from New Zealand, 1,008 from Spain, 1,002 from Italy, 1,008 from France, 502 from Switzerland, 1,008 from the UK, 1,000 from Ireland, 1,008 from Germany, 1,006 from the Netherlands, 1,006 from Belgium, 1,004 from Denmark, 1,007 from Sweden, 1,016 from Croatia, 1,012 from Israel, 504 from UAE, 1,012 from India, 1,001 from China, 1,000 from Hong Kong, 1,000 from Thailand, 1,020 from Singapore, 1,001 from Taiwan, 1,000 from Vietnam, 1,002 from Indonesia, 1,007 from Philippines, 1,002 from South Korea, 1,009 from Japan, 1,005 from South Africa and 510 from Kenya). In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have traveled at least once in the past 12 months and must be planning to travel in 2023, and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place in February 2023.