Travelers Care Deeply About Sustainability – Until It Inconveniences Them – CNBC

Surveys indicate a silver lining to the pandemic is a heightened commitment to “sustainable” travel by consumers. But as vaccinations lift travel prospects, hopes for a “green” recovery may have been overblown.

Sustainable travel has grown in popularity in recent years as people have tried to mitigate the negative effects of tourism, either by avoiding damaging practices or offsetting them.

The pandemic appeared to accelerate that trend.

According to a recent study by travel company Virtuoso, four in five people (82%) said the pandemic has made them want to travel more responsibly in the future. Almost three-quarters (72%) said travel should support local communities and economies, preserve destinations’ cultural heritage and protect the planet.

Sustainable travel will have to cost more if it must reduce its carbon footprint.

Dr. Srikanth Beldona

professor, University of Delaware

But a further probe tells a different story.

In a separate study by travel site The Vacationer, a similar majority (83%) said sustainable travel was somewhat or very important to them. Yet, almost half (48%) of respondents said they would opt for such trips only if it did not inconvenience them.

And convenience isn’t the only limitation.

Travel that costs the earth

Good intentions aside, cost remains the primary consideration for most travelers (62%) when planning a holiday, the study from The Vacationer found. Sustainability and carbon footprint, on the other hand, pales at 4%.

Seven in 10 (71%) said they would pay more to lower their carbon footprint, but the extent to which they’re willing — or able — to do so varies greatly.

Just over a quarter (27%) of respondents said they would pay less than $50 to counter their emissions, while one-third (33%) said they would contribute $50 to $250. Only 3% said they would be willing to pay over $500, and 29% would pay nothing.

Over-tourism and the resulting environmental damage are among factors hastening calls for sustainability in the travel industry.

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