Australians are known for their wanderlust. No matter how far flung the destination, you’re almost guaranteed to hear that familiar Aussie accent when travelling. After two years of lockdowns and travel restrictions, we’re finally able to spread our wings and travel again.
But the pandemic has changed the way we live and work, propelling a rise in climate awareness and a preference for sustainable product and service options among consumers. This shift in consumer behaviour has also influenced the travel industry, with travellers increasingly seeking eco-conscious escapes driving a growing trend towards sustainable travel.
In 2022, people are seeking travel experiences that are high on adventure but low on environmental impact. In fact, a sustainable travel report by Booking.com, 83% of travellers stated that sustainable travel is vital. Plus search data from Google shows a 70% rise in people searching for sustainable travel options – though the environmentally-conscious browsers among us are using Ecosia, of course. Even global online travel booking site Booking.com offers ‘travel sustainable properties’ as filters on their booking engine. Further cementing that sustainable travel is a trend that’s here to stay.
So what does this mean for travel companies, tourism operators, hoteliers and accommodation providers? And how can they adapt to meet the needs of this new breed of eco-conscious travellers? We’ve sought the expertise of Juliet Kinsman the founder of sustainable communications consultancy Bouteco and sustainability editor of Conde Nast Traveller, along with Life Unhurried co-founder, Celeste Mitchell. These sustainable travel experts have shared the key sustainable travel trends that are changing the way we holiday.
Plus we’ve thrown in a couple of insights we’ve uncovered through the process of developing our EcoHut collection of modular cabin accommodation – which is designed for luxury travel without compromising the natural environment.
Curiosity and a deep desire to explore seem to be baked into the human psyche, so it should come as no surprise that the World Travel and Tourism Council is forecasting an increase in travel in 2022. This uptick in travel does come at a cost for the natural environment and society if not done in a sustainable and considered manner.
One way to curb carbon emissions associated with travel, and reduce environmental impact, is to travel less frequently but slower and longer. According to Juliet Kinsman, people are definitely travelling slower and for longer. Particularly using this drawn out time off for multi-stop bucket list trips with their extended families.
The obvious sustainability benefit is fewer emissions associated with flights or road and rail travel for frequent short trips. And more broadly, Kinsman says ‘taking the extra time can create opportunities for really special positive-impact trips such as African safari epics where your money is clearly and measurably going towards conservation’.
Airlines have long pushed the responsibility for carbon emissions onto travellers offering the option to pay to offset emissions associated with flights as part of the booking process. Now, travellers are pushing for tourism operators to be accountable for their own impact – seeking carbon neutral credentials when booking stays.
Such is the demand that in 2021 accommodation booking startup Alight launched its industry-first Carbon Footprint Calculating Engine which offers guests the option to select from a list of Carbon Offset Projects at checkout.
More than just supporting guests to offset emissions associated with travel, each accommodation option listed on Alight is vetted for its high standards and awarded a sustainability rating based on seven criteria categories, including building materials and energy usage and local community support.
Unfortunately, with an increase in demand for eco-friendly accommodation and sustainable travel options, comes a rise in greenwashing and false and misleading environmental claims. Meaning it's never been more important for hoteliers, accommodation providers and tourism operators to offer transparency to guests and travellers.
Kinsman says that ‘transparency is on the rise with hotels and travel brands laying out exactly where your money is going’. According to Kinsman, Fogo Island Inn’s Economic Nutrition Certification Mark is best in class when it comes to transparency around the flow of capital from revenue generated by guest stays to the workers, communities and natural environment who benefit.
Accommodation providers can feel encouraged to create a sustainability page on their website which can be used to educate guests on the initiatives and practices in place to lessen negative environmental impacts and increase positive impact.
Influenced by mass culture and social media, over tourism is an unfortunate trend that literally means ‘too much tourism’. This type of mass tourism causes pollution, the devastation of nature and distress to local populations. Flora and fauna are usually the first to suffer in the most popular tourist destinations along with a steep increase in the accumulation of waste and negative impacts on locals.
In opposition to this is a wonderful sustainable travel trend: redistributed travel. Think of redistributed travel as getting away from the masses with an upside for community and environment. According to Kinsman, travellers are increasingly turning away from tourism hotspots and seeking out stays in less well-known destinations which is sending feet and fees where they’re needed more.
Continuing the trend of getting away from it all, Kinsman says that ‘more and more travellers are embracing ‘Friluftsliv’ in nature — the Norwegian concept of open-air living — and an appreciation of the oxygenating time in the great outdoors, whatever the weather’.
According to Kinsman, ‘travellers don’t need to head to Scandinavia to experience this health-enhancing dose of nature — just step outside, and breathe in deep. It needn’t mean full-on Arctic adventuring; a bracing hike or bike ride will do the trick to have you embracing free-loofts-leev, as it’s pronounced, in full… and people definitely seeking more meaningful connections with nature through their adventures’
Thanks to continued innovation and technological advancements, renewable energy is becoming increasingly more accessible, resulting in more people seeking out alternative living arrangements such as living off the grid. And now this trend is traversing into the travel industry too with travellers seeking remote and rural accommodation options for both environmental and wellness reasons. Mitchell has observed travellers ‘increasingly slowing down and going off-grid and booking in these types of stays a couple of times a year with mental wellness in mind’. By going off-grid, travellers can tap into renewable energy and tank water to lessen their environmental impact while at the same time unplugging and switching off to enjoy a digital detox.
Designed for off-grid living without compromising on creature comforts, our Ecoliv modular homes and cabins can be equipped with solar systems, rainwater tanks, and grey water systems making them operationally carbon neutral.
While travelling slower and for longer is an excellent way for travellers to take responsibility for their impact, another way to lessen impact while travelling is to stay local and support local communities.
According to Celeste Mitchell, ‘the onset of the pandemic meant people were forced to slow down and stay closer to home. It meant that when they did venture out, they wanted it to be somewhere special, somewhere they could recalibrate’. With travel restrictions winding back, Mitchell has observed a continuance of the trend to stay local and explore our own backyard noting that travellers are continuing to discover regional travel in Australia.
Data from a recent global survey undertaken by Expedia Travel Group matches this trend with 74% of survey participants noting they would choose a destination, lodging or transportation option that is committed to supporting the local community and culture even if it came at a higher cost.
If you’re a tourism operator or landowner thinking about building eco-accommodation for your guests, be sure to check out our EcoHut sustainable modular cabins. Masterfully built at the EcoHub – our off-grid construction facility located at The Gurdies on Victoria’s Bass Coast –our EcoHuts are operationally carbon neutral and can be transported anywhere in Australia. Explore our EcoHut sustainable accommodation designs or contact us today to learn more.