While travel companies should be responsible for paving the way for sustainable development in the travel and tourism sector, it is necessary for travelers at an individual level to assume some responsibility as well in order to enact any sort of meaningful change.

Tourists need to have the desire to engage with sustainable travel

According to GlobalData’s Q3 2021 consumer survey, while only 5% of the Silent Generation and 11% of Boomers said they were interested in taking eco-holidays, 20% and 23% of iGen (Gen Z) and Millennials showed interest this type of holiday. The survey also saw that, on average, 22% of global respondents stated that they “completely agree” with the statement, “I will buy more products from a brand if it aligns with my personal beliefs/values” and a further 32% responding that they “somewhat agree.” Further to this, the younger generations agree with this sentiment most, with 54% and 60% of Gen Z and Millennials respectively responding that they “completely agree” and “somewhat agree”. All of this shows that travelers and consumers are gearing their spending habits more towards ethical products and holidays, but even so this suggests that there is still a vast amount of work to be done with sustainable development in the travel and tourism sector. Ultimately, the reception of sustainable travel is trending in the right direction with younger demographics showing more interest in going on holidays of this type.

Companies need to avoid greenwashing

The reality is that there is a sliding scale of green across the travel sector. There is no defined or set global standard, making it increasingly difficult for consumers to make the ‘right’ choice when it comes to booking a sustainable holiday, which in turn makes it more difficult for travelers wanting to book eco-trips to identify which trips are genuinely sustainable. An eco-tourism initiative should have a clear benefit for the environment as well. Part of the profit generated by the eco-tourism company should go into nature conservation efforts. The activities, structures, and accommodations made by the eco-tourism company should leave a minimal carbon footprint. Without a credible labeling system, there’s a very real danger that there will be a backlash and that tourists will become skeptical when it comes to believing claims made by real eco-travel companies and initiatives. This shows that ultimately greenwashing doesn’t just impact the customers of the organization undertaking it.

With more environmentally friendly and sustainable travel options emerging as a priority for many travelers in recent years, trips offered by eco-tourism destinations are as varied as the travelers taking them. This means that the growth potential for the sector is strong, as long as individual travelers take the initiative to interact with those companies in the sector that are working to enact positive change.