How eco-concerns and COP26 will affect travel in 2022 and beyond
- Published: 8th November 2021
Environmental concerns have never been higher in public consciousness.
Climate change has climbed up the news agenda, with the COP26 summit gaining more media coverage than any of its predecessors. Protests calling for action have taken place across the world. Activist Greta Thunberg has become one of the most recognisable people on the planet.
There is growing awareness that the power to enact the most significant change lies with governments and big businesses, rather than individuals. Yet, it is also true that combatting the climate crisis may mean changes to the way we live our lives.
Take travel, for example.
There was no small amount of irony in the sheer number of attendees who arrived at COP26 – described by some as humanity’s “last chance” to take action against climate change – aboard carbon-spewing private jets.
While this may be the preserve of the world’s elites, frequent business travel – such as hops across the Atlantic for a meeting, or shuttling between offices in Europe and Asia – contributes greatly to environmental harm.
However, even everyday vacations tend to rely on cheap flights and hotel package deals, with little regard given to the impact these modes of transport and resorts have on the local and global environment.
MoneyTransfers.com looked at survey data to assess how environmental concerns will impact the travel industry in the years ahead.
Survey data from Booking.com highlighted the business case for ‘greenifying’ hotels and destinations.
In 2021, 81% of people said they were planning to stay in eco-friendly accommodation within the next year; this number was only 62% in 2016.
Based on these trends, MoneyTransfers.com has used a linear regression method to predict a steady increase in this figure over the next five years, rising to 85% by 2025.
But consumers are also calling for more easily accessible options when it comes to making environmentally friendly decisions. A whopping 71% said travel companies should offer more sustainable options.
Manish Kastia, head of strategy at travel marketing firm Digital Dialog, commented on the findings: “From destinations to airlines to hotels, we are definitely seeing more travel and hospitality businesses incorporate sustainable and eco-friendly messaging into their campaigns. People want to travel more responsibly, which ranges from environmental concerns to the effect travel has on local communities.”
But he observed: “Questions do remain over how many people are willing to fork out more money to travel more sustainably, as well as how inconvenienced they are willing to be and whether we will see a real shift away from places that have experienced over-tourism.
“Many consumers feel the onus is on businesses to put these choices in front of them at little to no extra cost, while they are also sceptical of claims that seem unproven or like ‘greenwashing’. If they are going to make these choices, they need to really believe in the difference it will make.”
MoneyTransfers.com also wanted to see how the huge corporate travel market, which came to a near-halt during the pandemic, would be impacted. In a survey from Deloitte, 33% of managers said their company had pledged to reduce emissions from business travel.
Deloitte also asked companies what percentage of business travel spend they expected to have resumed in each quarter of next year. The share of companies saying it would fully return to pre-pandemic levels increased from 16.33% in the first quarter to 54% in the final quarter, a significant increase – but also one that indicates that business travel is not going to return to its previous rate for the foreseeable future.
Go your own way
A final conclusion was that countries will move at different paces, since demand will go some way to driving change.
Another Booking.com survey found there was a huge disparity in the number of travellers around the world who said the pandemic has made them want to explore more sustainable travel options in future.
Somewhat surprisingly, consumers in developing countries such as Brazil, China and India were more open to sustainable options (78%, 84% and 88% of travellers, respectively) than those in developed countries such as the US, Germany and France.
Yet for travellers in some of the developed nations that have been the historically highest contributors to emissions, that figure was lower.
In the USA, the world’s all-time top carbon emitter, 46% of people said they wanted to travel more sustainably, with the same percentage reported in France and even lower percentages in the UK (43%) and Germany (30%).
The travel industry has had a turbulent ride during the pandemic, and is now preparing – and hoping – for a roaring comeback in 2022, as country borders open and people reunite with loved ones and get back to adventuring.
Travel is not going anywhere. But the way it looks may look very different a generation from now – with those changes starting to emerge in the years ahead.