A majority of travelers in the United States spend more money per trip, travel more frequently and stay longer when destinations offer sustainable practices, according to a report released by Sustainable Travel International and Mandala Research.
The 2016 Role of Sustainability in Travel & Tourism report revealed compelling results, most notably that 60 percent of U.S. travelers (105.3 million) have taken a “sustainable” trip in the last three years and that these travelers are extremely valuable to the tourism industry. These travelers spend more (on average $600 per trip), stay longer (seven days compared to four days) and bring higher benefits to local communities including job creation, giving-back and volunteering.
Visit California, a non-profit organization that works in partnership with the state’s travel industry to develop marketing campaigns that drive tourism to the state, was a lead sponsor of the study. “The findings show that tourists, especially California tourists, value and intentionally seek sustainable tourism options,” said Visit California President & CEO Caroline Beteta. “A sustainable mindset is woven into the California brand, and travelers who come here will find California’s travel industry is leading the way in sustainable practices.”
This inaugural report on sustainable travel included responses from 2,292 leisure travelers. They answered nearly 40 questions related to their understanding of sustainable travel, perceptions, what motivates them to book travel and much more.
According to Laura Mandala, Managing Director of Mandala Research, “We looked at the key components of sustainability, specifically, environmental, social, cultural, economic and governance. The study reveals that while experiential travel by Millennials is driving a new sustainable travel mindset, the majority of the general leisure market is also emphatically behind that change.”
Sustainable Travel International Founder and CEO Brian Mullis said, “The study is a huge wake-up call for the travel industry. It shows that the market for sustainable travel is much larger than previously thought. More than half of this market, or 60 million U.S. travelers are selecting their travel company based on their sustainability practices; and 56 million make destination choices based on the sustainable practices at the destination. This is too big to ignore.”
Sustainable tourism is one of the most progressive and rapidly growing movements in the travel and tourism industry. It has become universally recognized as a vital sector of human and industrial activity, yet sustainable travel hasn’t become mainstream. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) describes sustainable tourism as “development [that] meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future.” This survey indicates that sustainable travel has an even broader meaning beyond environmental, including cultural, social and economic: A large majority say they believe sustainable tourism means respecting and enhancing local community, helping to conserve heritage, nature and wildlife, minimizing damage, waste and all types of pollution as a result of their travel.
Other key findings from the survey include:
- More than than half (53 percent) of sustainable travelers report that sustainable practices at the destination were a driver of destination choice, either being the “key factor in their decision” to visit the destination (28 percent) or helping them choose between destinations (25 percent, compared to only 8 percent of all other travelers).
- 63 percent of all travelers say they are much more likely to consider destinations where there is a strong effort to conserve and protect natural resources. The number jumps to 75 percent among sustainable travelers.
- Travelers feel a great deal of responsibility for ensuring their trip has a positive impact on the place they visit, 63 percent; 64 percent believe that responsibility also rests with local government.
- More than 60 percent of all travelers feel strongly about their obligation to leave an area the same or better than they found it.
- More than two-fifths of sustainable travelers say they have purchased from travel companies because they believe they offer fair wages to their employees and invest in employees; while 38 percent say they have done business with travel companies who have helped to reduce human trafficking.
- Over half of sustainable travelers purchased something from a travel company because they offered experiences that reflect the unique character of the destination (57 percent), educated customers about those unique features (54 percent), or provided primarily locally made or sourced products (54 percent). This compares to about a fifth of all leisure travelers who say they would make purchases based on these characteristics.
The purpose of the study was to help the travel and tourism industry better understand how travelers define sustainable tourism and how they incorporate it into their travel decisions and behaviors.
Mandala added that the study finally makes the business case for travel organizations to get involved in all facets of sustainability. “This segment of the market generates billions of dollars in spending with 105 million leisure travelers who are sustainable travelers, spending on average over $1,749 per trip compared to $1,154 for general leisure travelers.”
More details and a full copy of the 2016 Role of Sustainability in Travel & Tourism report can be found here.