A Watershed Moment

In new research, Booking.com found that 70% of Canadian travellers believe people have to act now to save the planet.

Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel Report reveals that Canadian travellers are more committed than ever to do so in a mindful way, with almost half (47%) stating that the pandemic has influenced them to want to travel more sustainably in the future and roughly the same amount (48%) sharing that the pandemic has shifted their attitude to make positive changes in their everyday lives, with recycling (48%) and reducing food waste (43%) being the top priorities at home.

And the findings also note that travellers’ day-to-day sustainable commitments are consistent with their intentions for future trips with 84% wanting to reduce general waste, 81% wanting to reduce their energy consumption (e.g. by turning off air conditioning and lights when they are not in a room) and 77% wanting to use more environmentally friendly modes of transport such as walking, cycling or public transport over taxis or rental cars.

Respect for the local community is also high on the list as almost three quarters (72%) want to have authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture when they travel, 80% believe increasing cultural understanding and preservation of cultural heritage is crucial and 72% want to ensure the economic impact of the industry is spread equally across all levels of community. Furthermore, 67% will go as far as avoiding popular destinations and attractions to ensure they aren’t contributing to overcrowding challenges and helping do their part to disperse the positive benefits of travel to less frequently visited destinations and communities.

Fortunately, it’s not just good intentions.

Many of these sustainable pledges are coming to fruition, with travellers revealing that while on vacation in the past 12 months, 37% made a conscious decision to turn off their air conditioning/heater in their accommodation when they weren’t there, 44% took their own reusable water bottle, rather than buying bottled water while on vacation and 32% did activities to support the local community. In fact, over half (57%) have admitted that they get annoyed if somewhere they are staying stops them from being sustainable, for example by not offering recycling facilities. The positive signs are indeed there, but there is still lots of room for improvement with almost half of travellers not yet thinking about the local community during their trips or taking these small steps to minimize their impact.

While 71% of travellers say they want to stay in a sustainable accommodation in the upcoming year – which is a notable increase from 62% in 2016, when Booking.com first conducted its sustainable travel research and up 7% from 63% in 2020, just prior to the pandemic – barriers still remain.

In fact, when looking just at the 50% of Canadian travellers that said they have not stayed in a sustainable property in the past year, 34% said they didn’t even know that they existed, 29% said they couldn’t find any options where they were traveling and 27% said that they didn’t know how to find them. In fact, 48% of travellers still believe that in 2021, there simply aren’t enough sustainable travel options available.

In terms of awareness and intentions, travellers and properties do appear to be on the same page, with new research revealing that 82% of Booking.com’s accommodation partners surveyed view sustainability in the hospitality industry as being important.

This mirrors the 78% of travellers who also believe sustainable travel is an important issue. However, although 3 out of 4 accommodation partners say they have implemented sustainable steps at their property, only one-third (31%) actively communicate about their efforts proactively to potential guests, with this mostly happening at the time of check-in (59%), indicating that significant challenges remain to making sustainability information easy to access for travellers at earlier stages of the booking process.

As part of Booking.com’s mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world and as a leader in travel, the company believes they have an important responsibility to make sustainable choices easier, both for accommodation providers and travellers.

That’s why the company is currently rolling out a program for properties that will support them in taking the next steps to become more sustainable, no matter where they might be on that journey.

This includes sharing guidance, insights and best practices with properties via various educational opportunities, including handbooks and dedicated content, all available via the Booking.com Partner Hub.

In connection, Booking.com is currently displaying over 30 certifications officially approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), Green Tourism and the EU Ecolabel, as well as multiple hotel chain sustainability programs.

The company is sourcing this information directly from the certification bodies and displaying it on the property pages of partners who hold one of these established third-party certifications.

To complement this, Booking.com is also encouraging its accommodation partners to update their sustainability information, which includes 32 impactful practices across five key categories: waste, energy and greenhouse gases, water, supporting local communities and protecting nature.

From this global roll-out, hundreds of thousands of properties have already started to share at least some of their sustainability information with Booking.com, which can be viewed on the ‘Sustainability initiatives’ banner on each of their property pages.

While it’s still early days, this is an important first step in providing more sustainability information in a transparent way to consumers, ultimately making it easier for them to start making more sustainable travel choices.