Climate, Community and Choice: Booking.com Reveals the Trends Shaping Sustainable Travel in 2022

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Maldives Tops The Most Searched Travel Spots By Brits

17 April, 2022

The most extensive sustainable travel research from Booking.com to date highlights increasing desire to make more mindful and conscious choices across the entire travel experience.

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S. travelers confirmed that sustainable travel is important to them, with 44 percent saying that recent news about climate change has influenced them to make more sustainable travel choices. This insight comes from Booking.com’s new research, which gathered insight from more than 30,000 travelers across 32 countries and territories.

When it comes to Americans, 61 percent say that they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months, which is a 15 percent increase over what was surfaced through the company’s2021 data. In addition, about one-third (35 percent) of U.S. travelers say that the sustainability efforts of accommodations and transport providers play a strong role in their property and transport decisions respectively. In fact, 61 percent also say they would be more likely to choose a sustainable accommodation—whether they were looking specifically for one or not.

In Search of More Sustainable Stays

Awareness and visibility of more sustainable stays continues, with 39 percent of U.S. travelers confirming they have seen a sustainable accommodation on an online travel site over the past year with 45 percent indicating that they actively look for information on the sustainability efforts of a property before they book. Even more encouraging: 47 percent of Americans have actually stayed in a sustainable accommodation over the past year. Of those who have experienced a more sustainable stay in the past 12 months, the reasons for selecting one vary:

  • 30 percent said they chose it to help reduce their impact on the environment
  • 27 percent wanted to have a more locally relevant experience
  • 25 percent believe sustainable properties treat the community better

While 68 percent of U.S. travelers 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. Of those who didn’t stay in a sustainable accommodation over the past year, 32 percent said they didn’t know they existed. While this is down 5 percent from 2021, indicating that awareness is growing, a fifth (21 percent) said they still didn’t know how to find them. Almost half (48 percent) 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.

Alternative Destinations and Timing

There is consensus amongst travelers on wanting to avoid busy and over-visited destinations, with a quarter (25 percent) saying that they chose to travel outside of peak season and 23 percent 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 33 percent said they’d be willing to exclusively travel outside of peak season to avoid overcrowding, and 64 percent revealed that they would avoid popular tourist destinations and attractions to ensure a more even dispersal of the impact and benefits of their visit. Twenty-eight percent would even be willing to choose an alternative to their preferred destination to help avoid overcrowding.

On the flip side, 41 percent struggle to find appealing destinations that are less crowded, and 39 percent feel like it’s not possible to find sustainable travel options in cities or other popular tourist destinations.

Connection to Culture and Local Communities

A regenerative philosophy is influencing decision-making, with 57 percent of Americans saying they want to leave the places they visit better than when they arrived and slightly more (60 percent) saying they want to have experiences that are representative of the local culture. In fact, almost a fifth (19 percent) say they have actively familiarized themselves with the local cultural values and traditions at their travel destination in advance of their trips and one in five (20 percent) would be willing to pay more for travel activities to ensure they are giving back to local communities. Despite the appetite to give back and connect during their travels, 40 percent indicate that they don't know how or where to find activities or tours that ensure they are actually having a positive impact and giving back to the local community.

Tipping Point for Transportation

U.S. travelers are mindful about how far they travel, how they get there and how they get around once they’re there. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) say they chose to travel to a destination closer to home to reduce their carbon footprint and 14 percent indicated that they researched public transport and/or options to rent a bicycle in their chosen destination. One in ten (11 percent) also chose to travel by train instead of car for longer distances and a third (33 percent) say they feel ashamed to fly because of its impact on the environment. When it comes to booking transportation for their trips, 45 percent actively look for sustainability information. While 46 percent reveal that they don’t actively look for more sustainable transport options, it still has an impact on booking behavior and customer satisfaction. For example, although 24 percent say sustainability efforts don’t play a strong role in their transport choices, they report that it can influence their final choice. And for the 20 percent who say that sustainability efforts play no role in their choice of transportation, knowing that the transport option booked follows sustainability best practices still makes them feel good.

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