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Is the sustainable travel dream dead?

Do we still care if our travel is sustainable?

When was the last time you thought about your carbon footprint? From printing off emails to zoom meetings over flights, do we still care if our travel choices are sustainable or has that bubble burst? 

Well, according to Booking.com, things are looking pretty bleak for sustainable travel as we know it with recent figures from the company's annual sustainable travel survey revealing that 50% of Singaporeans feel travelling more sustainably is important, but not a primary consideration when planning or booking travel and to half (42%) feel the damage already done is irreversible, and that the choices they make are not going to change that, while one-third (31%) don’t believe climate change is as severe as people make it out to be.

Positive intentions meeting new challenges

Looking ahead, 3 in 4 (75%) of Singapore travellers say that they want to travel more sustainably over the next 12 months, and close to half (44%) would feel guilty when they make less sustainable travel choices. 

However, a sense of disillusion towards making more sustainable travel choices may be counteracting these positive intentions. New areas of exploration researched for the first time this year reveal that some travellers don’t recognise the importance of being more mindful of their impact, as nearly half (42%) feel that the damage already done is irreversible and that the travel choices they make are not going to change that. In fact, more than a quarter of Singapore travellers (31%) don’t believe climate change is as severe as people make it out to be - a dismissal of the issue which may well be impacting travel plans. 

Moreover, some feel their time spent travelling is too precious to put sustainability at the top of their decision-making list (37%). Not seeing sustainability in action is also contributing to the sense of powerlessness; nearly half (46%) of Singapore travellers believe that being more sustainable in a destination that is not implementing sustainability practices itself feels pointless.

Shared responsibility and the critical opportunity for industry-wide enablement

The role travellers feel they can play in tackling the negative impacts of travel also highlights their expectations around collaboration. A noteworthy 70% of Singapore travellers say they want to leave the places they visit better than when they arrived (up from 64% last year), and this year’s additional research shows 48% think governments hold the most potential for countering the economic effects, and 44% believe travel service providers hold the key to addressing environmental factors. Furthermore, 44% of Singapore travellers believe that governments are responsible for educating people on the impacts of travel and tourism. 

Responsibilities extend to how consumers are being supported to fulfill their intentions. Coming across an accommodation labelled as more sustainable is more appealing to over one-third of Singapore travellers (33%) and consistency of certification standards is critical to identifying these options with 69% agreeing that all travel booking sites should use the same sustainable certifications or labels. However, the number of Singapore travellers who are interested to learn more about why the accommodation was given this label remains unchanged at 71% when compared with the same time last year, indicating a need for simple, clear communication that enables easy decision-making regardless of priorities.

Sustainable silver linings

Despite the emerging frustrations, Singaporean travellers who say they are making more mindful choices also feel that more sustainable travel experiences are actually adding value to their trips. New areas of research in this year’s report found that 64% of Singapore travellers recognise that they are the best version of themselves when they travel more sustainably and consequently take home this positivity, just as 72% of Singapore travellers feel that witnessing sustainable practices while travelling inspires them to be more sustainable in their everyday life. Of those who adopted sustainable behaviours on their travels, it was seen as an enhancement for 97% of Singapore travellers who did tours or activities for authentic, local, and cultural experiences, 92% who shopped at small, independent stores, and 91% who planned their trips so that they could walk, bike, or take public transport.

“While many travellers have retained a sense of optimism and a desire to have a more positive impact, there is a critical opportunity for the industry to accelerate efforts to make those choices easier for everyone,” said Danielle D’Silva, Head of Sustainability at Booking.com. “It’s important that we continue ensuring that more sustainable options are not only readily available but also easy to trust and understand. That’s where we believe further education, clear and consistent standards and credible third-party certification of legitimate sustainable practices across the travel experience can really help. While the signals of consumer frustration should be a concern, it’s also a reminder to maintain our focus on the impactful work we know can make a difference not only for travellers but for communities and destinations everywhere.”