43 Sustainable Travel Statistics and Trends

The travel industry is growing at an astronomical rate, due to improved connectivity, the expansion of the global middle class, and countless travel options. We’re seeing more and more people traveling each year, and this is a good thing. The travel industry has enabled the spread of culture and has provided significant stimulation to the economy. That being said, we’ve come to the point where we need to ask ourselves how much is too much of a good thing.

Over-tourism has led to significant ecological and cultural issues. Local communities are suffering at the hands of high visitor counts, and fragile environments are being damaged and destroyed. As the travel industry continues to expand, these problems will only be exacerbated. Now more than ever, we need to adopt and normalize sustainable travel habits.

Just as the industry is changing, so are its trends and stats. It’s important to stay up to date with your information, so I’ve put together a brief list of the most recent, most relevant studies and statistics relative to sustainable travel.

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Important Sustainable Travel Statistics

1. The large majority of global travelers (87 percent) say that they want to travel sustainably. (Booking.com)

2. 39% of global travelers confirm that they often or always manage to travel sustainably. (Booking.com)

3. 48% of global travelers indicate that they never, rarely, or only sometimes manage to travel sustainably. (Booking.com)

4. For almost half of travelers (46%), “sustainable travel” means staying in eco-friendly or green accommodations. (Booking.com)

5. The top reasons travelers give for choosing to stay in eco-friendly accommodations are to help reduce environmental impact (40%), to have a locally relevant experience (34%), and wanting to feel good about an accommodation choice (33%). (Booking.com)

6. 60% of travelers expressed that the impressive natural sights they visited on past travels – such as coral reefs, forests, and glaciers – acted as their inspiration to travel more sustainably. (Booking.com)

7. More than half of global travelers (54%) said seeing the visible impact that tourism can have on a destination serves as their inspiration to travel sustainably. (Booking.com)

8. 47% of travelers say that seeing the positive effect that sustainable tourism can have on the local people is one of their main inspirations to travel more sustainably. (Booking.com)

9. 42% of travelers indicate that seeing the detrimental effects of unsustainable tourism in their home country acts as their inspiration to travel sustainably. (Booking.com)

10. 32% of travels say that feeling guilty about the impact their vacation has had on the environment serves as their inspiration to travel more sustainably. (Booking.com)

11. It’s important to be able to grasp the implications of soaring tourism numbers. If there are 1.4 billion international trips next
year, and only one in a million of those trips is by someone who intends to climb Mount Everest, that would put 1,400 climbers on the mountain that season, which is much to many. This doesn’t even include Nepalese support teams and the crowds who simply want to visit Base Camp. It’s no surprise why Mount Everest is now considered an overtouristed destination. (Jonathan Tourtellot, Destination Stewardship Center, CREST)

12. Every year, Ethical Traveler reviews the policies and practices of hundreds of nations in the developing world, and then selects the ten countries that are doing the most impressive job of promoting human rights, preserving the environment, and supporting social welfare. The top ten countries selected in 2018 were Belize, Benin, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mongolia, Palau, St. Kitts & Nevis, Uruguay, and Vanuatu. (Ethical Traveler)

13. 46% of the 229 natural UNESCO sites – such as national parks and wildlife reserves – have no active tourism management plan. (Skift)

14. One prime example of a destination experiencing negative effects due to overtourism is the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ in Peru, better known as Machu Picchu. Although UNESCO’s recommended maximum capacity is 2,500 visitors a day, during the popular summer months daily visitation is often twice this number. With so many visitors, the site is rapidly losing its integrity. (Ethical Traveler)

15. In March 2018, in an effort to fight overwhelming overtourism, Thai authorities closed the world famous Maya Bay for four months. The cove was regularly seeing 4,000 to 5,000 visitors a day, and Experts say 77% of Maya Bay’s coral is at serious risk (mainly from damage by boat anchors). Beginning in September 2018, Maya Beach will be limited to 2,000 visitors a day, and boats will no longer be allowed to cross the shallow reef. The cove will also be closed for four months sometime in 2019. (BBC)

16. Looking ahead, more than two-thirds (68%) of travelers intend to stay in an eco accommodation in 2018, reassuringly up from 65% in 2017 and 62% in 2016. Additionally, the percentage of travelers who have not considered eco-friendly stays because they were unaware of their existence continues to decline, resting at 31% this year, compared to 39% and 38% in 2017 and 2016 respectively. (Booking.com)

17. According to global travelers, the main obstacles to sustainable travel are high costs (42%), lack of information (32%), time (22%), less appealing destinations (22%), and loss of luxury/comfort (20%). (Booking.com)

18. A growing number of social-impact companies and NGOs are offering consumer carbon offsets for flights. However, according to ABC News, few travelers actually purchase carbon offsets, “with Qantas (including Jetstar) and Virgin Australia reporting about 10 per cent of passengers opting in. Reasons for not buying carbon offsets vary, with climate change denialism, unwillingness to pay more money, and a mistrust of how airlines will use the money all being contributing factors. However, perhaps the biggest barrier is that travelers simply don’t have the information. (ABC)

19. Despite today’s average tourists willingness to travel sustainably, the tourist industry lags behind on delivering products that appeal to its audience. Only a mere 4% of the industry is practicing some form of sustainability, which makes it that much more difficult to travel responsibly. 35% of travelers found it difficult to do so, and half didn’t even know how. (Impact Travel Alliance)

20. A survey conducted in the Western Costa del Sol (Andalucia, Spain), showed that most tourists (97.8%) with high levels of “sustainable intelligence” (commitment, attitude, knowledge and/or behavior with regard to sustainability) are willing to pay more to visit a sustainable tourism destination. (MDPI)

21. 94% of global travelers are willing to stay in a property with energy saving light bulbs.(Green Key)

22. 89% of global travelers are willing to stay in a room with HVAC units that only run while you’re in the room. (Green Key)

23. 80% of global travelers are willing to use low flow shower-heads. (Green Key)

24. 79% of global travelers would be satisfied with less frequent toiletry replacement. (Green Key)

25. 75% of global travelers would be happy to have linen and towel changes less frequently. (Green Key)

26. 64% of global travelers would be happy to accept a higher food cost for locally produced products. (Green Key)

27. Over half (55%) of global travelers report being more determined to make sustainable travel choices than they were a year ago, but barriers include a lack of knowledge and available or appealing options when trying to put this into practice. (Booking.com)

28. 72% of travelers believe that people need to act now and make sustainable travel choices to save the planet for future generations. (Booking.com)

29. 73% of travelers intend to stay at least once in an eco-friendly or green accommodation when looking at the year ahead. (Booking.com)

30. 70% of global travelers say they would be more likely to book an accommodation knowing it was eco-friendly, whether they were looking for a sustainable stay or not. (Booking.com)

31. 72% of global travelers say that they are not aware of the existence of eco-labels for vacation accommodation. (Booking.com)

32. 37% of travelers say that an international standard for identifying eco-friendly accommodation would help encourage them to travel more sustainably. (Booking.com)

33. 62%  of travelers would feel better about staying in an accommodation if they knew it had an eco-label. (Booking.com)

34. 71% of travelers think that travel companies should offer consumers more sustainable travel choices. (Booking.com)

35. On the other hand, almost half (46%) of global travelers acknowledge that they find it harder to make sustainable choices while on vacation than they do in everyday life. (Booking.com)

36. Almost a third (31%) of global travelers admit their vacation is a special time during which they do not want to think about sustainability. (Booking.com)

37. 46% of travelers would be more encouraged to travel sustainably if there were economic incentives offered, such as tax breaks, when choosing eco-friendly options. (Booking.com)

38. 45% of travelers said they’d feel more encouraged to travel if online booking sites offered a sustainable or eco-friendly filter option. (Booking.com)

39. 52% of global travelers say they now alter behaviors to be more sustainable while traveling, such as walking, riding a bike or hiking whenever possible. (Booking.com)

40. 68% of travelers would like the money they spend on travel to go back into the local community. (Booking.com)

41. 41% of travelers request that travel companies offer tips on how to be more sustainable while traveling. (Booking.com)

42. 56% of global travelers say that if there was an option to offset the carbon footprint on their vacation accommodation, they would do it. (Booking.com)

43. 72% of Airbnb guests say the environmental benefits of home sharing were of at least some importance in their choice of Airbnb. (Airbnb)

Hi, I'm Ash!

I’m a travel blogger who loves experiencing new things and deeply connecting with people. My missions are to help others around the world realize their travel dreams, and to spread the word about sustainable travel. Feel free to send me a message here.

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