Booking.com reveals the trends shaping sustainable travel in 2022

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

Booking.com has released new research, with insights gathered from more than 30,000 travellers across 32 countries and territories, highlighting that the impact of their trips remains top of mind, with almost two thirds (63 per cent) of Kiwi travellers saying that they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months. 

Most New Zealand travellers (72 per cent) confirmed that sustainable travel is important to them, with almost half (42 per cent) sharing that recent news about climate change has influenced them to make more sustainable travel choices this year.

To that end, one in four (25 per cent) Kiwi travellers say that the sustainability efforts of accommodations and transport providers play a strong role in their property and transport travel decisions.

In fact, 62 per cent of New Zealand holidaymakers say they would be more likely to choose a sustainable accommodation – whether they were looking specifically for one or not. 

“Kiwis continue to be conscientious travellers who, in the past year, have largely selected more sustainable travel choices when they can. More encouragingly, the intentions New Zealanders have for future travel show a genuine and increased commitment to taking greater strides towards being more sustainable while exploring the world,” said Todd Lacey, Booking.com New Zealand Area Manager. 

“With increasing pressure on the environment making our choices all the more important, it’s imperative that, together with our partners across the industry, we continue to make it easier for travellers to access information on sustainable travel, share the sustainability journeys our accommodation partners are on and offer more choice for all.” 

In search of more sustainable stays 

With an increased interest in and importance placed on sustainable travelling, overall awareness and visibility of more sustainable stays continues, with a third (31 per cent) of Kiwi travellers confirming they have seen a sustainable accommodation on an online travel site over the past year.

One in four (27 per cent) say they actively look for information on the sustainability efforts of a property before they book. 

Even more encouraging are the 39 per cent of Kiwi travellers who say they have 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:

  • One in three (34 per cent) said their chose it to help reduce their impact on the environment
  • A third (29 per cent) wanted to have a more locally relevant experience
  • A quarter (24 per cent) believe sustainable properties treat the community better

While three quarters (72 per cent) of Kiwi travellers 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, over a quarter (27 per cent) said they didn’t know they existed.

While this is down 4 per cent from 2021, indicating that awareness is growing, a similar number (28 per cent) said they still didn’t know how to find them.

Two thirds (66 per cent) 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, which means making sustainability information transparent and understandable for a broad audience of travellers more important than ever. 

Alternative destinations and timing 

There is consensus amongst global travellers on wanting to avoid busy and over-visited destinations, with a third (34 per cent) of Kiwi travellers, in particular, saying that they chose to travel outside of peak season and a quarter (24 per cent) 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, one in three (34 per cent) said they’d be willing to exclusively travel outside of peak season to avoid overcrowding, and 60 per cent revealed that they would avoid popular tourist destinations and attractions to ensure more even dispersal of the impact and benefits of their visit.

Over a quarter (27 per cent) would even be willing to choose an alternative to their preferred destination to help avoid overcrowding. 

On the flip side, one in three (33 per cent) claim they struggle to find appealing destinations that are less crowded and a third (32 per cent) feel like it’s not possible to find sustainable travel options in cities or other popular tourist destinations.

This indicates an opportunity for travel platforms to work with accommodation providers in these destinations to help them progress on their sustainability journeys and in turn to highlight more sustainable options, as well as to help consumers discover alternate times and places to take their trips, without sacrificing on experience. 

Connection to culture and local communities 

A regenerative philosophy is influencing decision-making, with three in five (59 per cent) Kiwi travellers saying they want to leave the places they visit better than when they arrived and 60 per cent wanting to have experiences that are representative of the local culture.

In fact, almost a quarter (22 per cent) say they have actively familiarised themselves with the local cultural values and traditions at their travel destination in advance of their trips and one in five (22 per cent) 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, a third (33 per cent) indicate that they don’t know how or where to find activities or tours that ensure they are having a positive impact and giving back to the local community. 

Tipping point for transportation 

Kiwi travellers are mindful about how far they travel, how they get there and how they get around once they’re there.

A quarter (26 per cent) of Kiwi travellers say they chose to travel to a destination closer to home to reduce their carbon footprint and 17 per cent indicated that they researched public transport and/or options to rent a bicycle in their chosen destination.

One in ten (10 per cent) also chose to travel by train instead of car for longer distances and a quarter (24 per cent) say they feel ashamed to fly because of its impact on the environment. 

While 63 per cent of Kiwis reveal that they don’t actively look for more sustainable transport options, it still has an impact on booking behaviour and customer satisfaction.

For example, although almost a third (29 per cent) say sustainability efforts don’t play a strong role in their transport choices, they report that it can influence their final choice.

And a quarter (26 per cent) of Kiwis say knowing that the transport option booked follows sustainability best practices still makes them feel good, opening a wide range of opportunities to grow consideration for more sustainable options across the entire trip experience. 

Continuing the journey to more sustainable travel for everyone 

With more than 100,000 properties globally now being recognised for their sustainability efforts with a Travel Sustainable badge on Booking.com, the company has also further expanded the number of third-party certifications and labels that automatically qualify accommodations to receive it.

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. 

Beyond supporting partners, Booking.com remained carbon-neutral in its own operations in 2021 and transitioned to 100 per cent renewable electricity towards the end of 2021, an important step as part of the company’s contribution to Booking Holdings’ recently released Climate Action Plan.

The first of its kind for any global online travel company, its Climate Action Plan functions as a strategic framework for how Booking Holdings intends to make its operations, services and the travel industry more sustainable.

In line with the definitions and measurements established by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), the Climate Action Plan includes ambitious targets that aim to help the company achieve a 95 per cent reduction in scope 1 and 2 emissions by the end of 2030, 50 per cent reduction in scope 3 emissions by 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2040. 

“With increased pressure on our natural resources and the undeniable impact our way of life is having on the environment, we are 100% committed to leading the industry in charting a more mindful and responsible course for the future of travel.

“We believe that travel is and should remain a powerful force for good, bringing enhanced cultural understanding, socio-economic opportunities for countless communities and the potential to help rejuvenate and protect our planet for the long term,” said Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking.com. 

To download Booking.com’s full 2022 Sustainable Travel Research Report, click here. 

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