Booking.com reveals the consumer trends shaping sustainable travel in 2022

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Booking.com has released new research, identifying the major consumer trends set to influence sustainable travel demand in 2022. Insights gathered from more than 30,000 travellers across 32 countries and territories, reveal a healthy and growing appetite for more sustainable travel options – but with clear needs to be met, as the industry galvanizes to make these intentions and aspirations a reality.

Over half (57%) of UK travellers expressed a desire to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months – up 30% on the company’s 2021 report – with motivations showing a collective growth in holistic awareness around making conscious choices that positively impact the entire travel experience. Almost two-thirds (63%) want to have experiences that are representative of the local culture, and a further 55% aim to leave the places they visit better than when they arrived, while almost half of all respondents (42%) cited that recent news about climate change has influenced them to make more sustainable travel choices.

An encouraging 33% of UK travellers say they have stayed in a sustainable accommodation over the past year, with motivations again showing breadth of understanding:

  • 31% said they chose it to help reduce their impact on the environment
  • Over a fifth (21%) wanted to have a more locally-relevant experience
  • 24% believe sustainable properties treat the community better

There is also consensus among travellers on wanting to avoid busy and over-visited destinations, with over a quarter (26%) saying that they chose to travel outside of peak season and almost a fifth (19%) 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 31% said they’d be willing to exclusively travel outside of peak season to avoid overcrowding, and 61% 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 quarter (22%) would even be willing to choose an alternative to their preferred destination to help avoid overcrowding.

Meeting those needs to capture demand and drive positive impact

As momentum gains on positive intent, so too does the opportunity for the industry to further efforts in building and communicating more sustainable travel experiences. While awareness and visibility of more sustainable stays are increasing – 25% of UK travellers confirm they have seen a sustainable accommodation on an online travel site over the past year and 29% indicate they actively look for information on the sustainability efforts of a property before they book – there is still more to be done to make sustainable stay options easier to find for everyone.

Of those who didn’t stay in a sustainable accommodation over the past year, 27% said they didn’t know they existed and over one in four (26%) said they still didn’t know how to find them. Nearly two thirds (62%) 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, further underlining the importance of making this sustainability information transparent and understandable for a broad audience of travellers.

With 62% of UK travellers intending to stay in a sustainable property at least once in the coming year, the potential to bridge the gap between those already in the know and those still struggling to find the right options is huge. Whatsmore, a quarter (25%) of UK travellers say that the sustainability efforts of accommodations and transport providers play a strong role in their property and transport decisions respectively, with a compelling 55% of respondents saying they would be more likely to choose a sustainable accommodation – whether they were looking specifically for one or not.

To help consumers make more sustainable choices while empowering properties already making great strides in their sustainability journey, Booking.com launched the Travel Sustainable Badge in November 2021. A first-of-its-kind solution, the badge breaks new ground by acknowledging and communicating the sustainability efforts of properties around the world – with 100,000 accommodations globally already recognized to date. Focusing on practices that have been selected for their accessibility, simplicity, and high impact potential, and verified by independent industry bodies such as global sustainable tourism initiative Travalyst, the badge has been designed as a universal tool to suit the needs of all properties – from an apartment in London or a homestay in India to a resort along the Gold Coast in Australia and beyond.

In addition to the 32 sustainable practices recorded and analysed to inform badge attainment, the company has since further expanded the number of third-party certifications and labels that automatically qualify accommodations to receive the badge. 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.

The Travel Sustainable badge is also supported by a program of educational components, designed to help properties identify and pursue measurable actions that will help lower their environmental impact and increase their social impact on the world. From tips on setting an environmental baseline through to tactical advice on topics such as reducing water and energy consumption, program resources are readily available for all Booking.com accommodation partners, whatever stage they may be at.

Danielle D’Silva, head of sustainability at Booking.com said: “Seeing global travellers further engage with sustainable travel and showing increasing intent to make a positive impact while they experience the world is hugely encouraging – but it’s just the start. We recognize the integral role our partners play in this change and investing in the right products and programs that help them communicate their efforts to an increasingly captive and mindful traveller audience is of critical importance. Together we can move forward on this journey, turning positive intent into more sustainable travel experiences that will drive meaningful change now and into the future.”

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