Taking Flight with Sustainable Tourism: Growing Trends From the Past Decade

Whether by bus, car, plane or train, people are always gearing up for their next travelling adventure. Where will they go? What will they see? What informs their travelling decisions? Reports and surveys show that people are taking the greener route. According to a TripAdvisor survey, 60% of travellers are interested in eco-friendly travel, and 61% of them plan to make greener choices next year.

The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) reveals that overall, the growth of responsible tourism continues to outpace the growth of the tourism industry as a whole. In the past ten years sustainable tourism has taken flight and spread its wings across businesses and countries all over the world. The UN has gone so far as declaring 2017 as the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Which begs the question…

What trends have sparked the growth of sustainable tourism over the past 10 years?

Willingness to Pay for Greener Options

Consciousness is rising among travellers, to seek not only unique travel experiences, but also sustainability. The 2011 Green Economy Report looks at consumer tourism patterns from the early 2000s, revealing that in 2005 1/3 to 1/2 of international tourists (mostly from the USA) were willing to spend more on companies that benefitted local communities and conservation. More recently, the 2016 CREST report reveals that in 2014, 55% of consumers were willing to pay more for brands with social and environmental values; in 2015 this increased to 66%. The report has also shown that younger generations are more likely to spend more on sustainable tourism than baby boomers. Within 10 years the eco-values within the tourism sector have blossomed and consumers are willing to spend more of their travel dollars with green businesses.   

Promoting Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction

Tourism continues to soar as the largest global service industry and as one of the top industries for developing countries. A decade ago, a 2007 briefing by the Overseas Development Institute stated that tourism is a poverty reduction strategy for more than 80% of low-income countries. The ongoing trend of eco/sustainable tourism has pushed countries to protect their culture and environmental spaces because of the continued demand of tourists and their growing interest in cultural experiences. Now that tourism provides 1 in 11 jobs worldwide, the UN has made one of their 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to promote sustainable economic growth within the tourism job sector, sparking a global commitment to poverty reduction. With ongoing sustainable tourism governance, less-developed countries can progress both socially and environmentally.  Tourism is not only about the tourists themselves, but has grown to include the social and environmental well being of less-developed countries.

Addressing Climate Change

The issue of climate change has also been trending among businesses in the tourism industry. In 2008 the Hilton Hotels Corporation announced their business sustainability goals to reduce energy consumption, CO2 emissions, output of waste, and water consumption. In 2015, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts announced their achievement in “reducing its operational CO2 emissions by 20% below 2006 levels” through the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Climate Savers Program. Over the past decade, transparency has come to the forefront in hotel and resort operations. Through Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting, businesses show their commitment to better management practices. The 2015 ESG report reveals the increasing global trends of sustainable business reporting in the travel and tourism sector. There are ongoing movements to combat today’s global environmental problems, and tourism has become an important catalyst for change.

Acknowledgments For Going Green

How “green” is your business or tourist destination? These are the questions consumers are asking. The 2010 CREST presentation reveals that after the 1992 Earth Summit, tourism certification programs moved from measuring quality, service and price, to measuring environmental, social and economic impacts. Since then, interests have peaked in go green ideas and getting eco-certified. According to GreenStep’s research, 89% of travellers look at third party eco-certifications to help inform their travelling decisions. Websites and reports have become increasingly accessible to consumers, to inform them how green a travel company or tourist destination may be. Information and communication technologies play a large role in the ecotourism world. Travellers actively seek green initiatives and credibility within the industry, and in this day and age, it pays to be green.

Tourism has, and continues to be an outlet for environmentalism and social change. The sustainability trends over the past 10 years show that green tourism isn’t just a fad. It’s here to stay. And, if you haven’t already hopped on the ecotourism bandwagon, now is the time. We must take charge of our global citizenship and think about our environmental and social impacts. Travellers are “voting with their wings” and seek more sustainable travel experiences.

How far are you willing to fly?

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