The unexpected and unprecedented slowdown – in many cases shutdown – of the travel industry in the last year has spurred an acceleration of activity by some stakeholders in the area of sustainability, in effect brought on by a “perfect storm” of pre-existing momentum around this topic coupled with pandemic-induced time for reflection and innovation.
In recent weeks there have been a flurry of announcements from brands such as CWT, Accor, Singapore Airlines and Intrepid Travel about new initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, support nature conservation, benefit local communities and more.
The latest brand to take action around sustainability is TourRadar, which today is launching a new suite of tools that includes a dedicated page and filters to help customers find tours that incorporate sustainability, for example those that are locally owned or that support community development and environmental projects. The company is also now displaying a carbon offset calculator and contribution widget in partnership with CHOOOSE and providing more content about sustainable travel.
TourRadar is also joining the Future of Tourism Coalition, a collaborative effort of six non-governmental organizations launched last year to create a more sustainable future for tourism.
Jeremy Sampson, CEO of the Travel Foundation – one of the Coalition’s founding organizations – says he expects many more travel companies will be announcing plans to address climate change and other sustainability issues in the coming months, in part related to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, in November in Glasgow.
“We are preparing for the tourism sector to have I think what will be the largest presence it has ever had at an event like this,” Sampson says.
Later this summer, the Travel Foundation in partnership with the United National World Tourism Organization, the U.N. Environmental Program, VisitScotland and Tourism Declares, will ask for signatories to its soon-to-be-released “Glasgow Declaration,” calling for “increased urgency across travel and tourism to accelerate climate action… with a goal of uniting the sector around a shared message and concrete pathways for action.”
Recent surveys support the idea that as travel resumes, consumers will be looking to choose destinations and suppliers that are addressing sustainability. Booking.com’s Sustainable Travel Report 2021, based on surveys of 30,000 people in 30 countries, finds 46% say the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future.
But notes Sampson, “It’s hard, because there isn’t so much travel happening right now, to understand if sentiment will really translate to behavior.”
For now, more and more brands are operating under the assumption that interest in communities and the environment will indeed impact consumers’ future travel decisions.
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