As travelers emerge from the pandemic lull ready to set their sights on distant destinations, many are now keeping the environment in mind when planning trips.
In fact, four in five travelers said sustainability was important to them, according to a new report from Booking Holdings (BKNG) that surveyed more than 30,000 travelers from 32 countries and territories. Additionally, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed indicated that they would make an effort to reduce their carbon footprint when traveling in the next year.
“People do say in a survey how they are very interested in sustainable travel, and they say they want to look for sustainable travel,” Glen Fogel, CEO of Booking Holdings, told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “And we’re making it easier because one of the problems in the past has been somebody says, ‘Look, I want to travel sustainably, but I don’t know what to do and how to do it.'”
The increasingly visible effects of climate change have played an important role in increasing awareness of environmental issues. Half of respondents noted that news about climate change influenced their decision to seek out eco-friendly options.
But those looking to lower their carbon emissions will find some activities are easier to swap out than others.
Jet setters face the biggest challenge, given that aviation accounts for 3.5% of global warming and there aren’t really any low carbon alternatives.
Some people are even forgoing flights altogether due to their impact on the climate. The survey found that 30% felt ashamed of flying due to its environmental impact, illustrating that “flygskam,” the Swedish word that describes shame around flying, is real.
“There’s definitely an issue with the airline industry and how are they going to become more sustainable,” Fogel said. “As you know, they do use fuels now that are better for the environment than the old jet fuel, but there’s a relatively small amount of that available right now.”
Until electric planes become a viable and scalable option — which Fogel said “will take some time” yet — travelers have limited options.
“It’s not easy,” Fogel added, explaining that essentially the only tools flyers have to reduce their impact is by choosing marginally less emitting flights and paying to offset emissions through carbon capture projects.
One of Booking Holding’s sites Kayak has rolled out a feature that allows users to sort flights by emissions. The idea behind the tool is that by providing additional information about the environmental impact of flights, travelers can select slightly more sustainable options if they wish to. Google Flights has also incorporated a similar feature.
Booking Holdings has expanded that approach through the rest of its sites as well. The company has applied a sustainability badge to over 100,000 accommodation listings, including hotels, B&Bs, and even treehouses, that inform users that a property has been vetted, often through a third party, for its sustainable practices.
In order to qualify for the badge, Fogel told Yahoo Finance previously that properties are evaluated on five categories: waste, energy, water use, support for local communities, and protecting nature.
Booking Holdings is also working with its suppliers in the travel industry to find ways of improving sustainability. According to Fogel, making changes now not only helps hotels meet the demand for sustainable accommodations but can also help them lower their operating margins.
“Working together, we’ll get there eventually,” Fogel said. “I know right now, it’s not as much as we’d like it to be, but it’s a long journey, and we’re on that path.”
Grace is an assistant editor for Yahoo Finance.
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