The concept and practise of sustainable travel has moved to the forefront of global travellers’ minds in terms of the decision-making process.
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Based on a survey of 7,705 respondents across 11 markets in Asia and Europe, the report finds that the environmental impact of travel topped the list of reasons why travellers are increasingly drawn to sustainable travel.
Of the population surveyed, more than 73 percent of Hong Kong-based respondents have acknowledged the importance of travel awareness. 47.5 percent of Hong Kong respondents said they care about the impact of travel on future generations. A third (33.9 percent) cited the importance of sustainability in improving the travel experience, while another 9.7 percent admitted people opted for sustainable travel due to societal pressure, and 8.3 percent perceived it as trendy.
Perception of sustainable travel varied among the respondents. The report indicated that a growing proportion of travellers now approach the term more holistically, emphasising the economic, cultural and biodiversity aspects in addition to the more traditional environmental considerations.
The more diversified understanding of sustainable travel manifests itself through several ways that travellers consider conducive to tourist destinations, with 30.5 percent of respondents from Hong Kong respecting the culture and heritage of local destinations. A striking 42 percent and 40.1 percent, respectively, believe that reducing food waste, and consumption of single-use products are also part and parcel of sustainable travel.
The pandemic has been a key driver of a stronger collective desire to travel sustainably resulting from shifts in consumer mindset and behaviour.
The report points out that almost eight in 10 (79.9 percent) Hong Kong respondents named COVID-19 as a catalyst for their increased appetite to choose sustainable options. Over half (51.5 percent) realised people’s behaviour dramatically impacts the environment, nature, and society. Among one-fourth (25 percent), travel restrictions enhanced their appreciation for nature and spurred demand for travelling closer to home.
One of the report’s highlights is that it allows a glimpse into how Asian and European travellers understand and practise sustainable travel differently.
Notably, 21.3 percent of Europe-based respondents stated that people opt for sustainable travel because “it is trendy”, while the proportion of Asian travellers who took this view is much smaller, at 7.1 percent .
When it comes to paying a higher price for sustainable options, 39.1 percent of European travellers were reluctant to pay extra for them. Strikingly, however, topping the chart is China (80.2 percent), followed by Hong Kong (75 percent).
Amid heightened sustainability awareness, respondents in Hong Kong (75 percent) demonstrate the most inclination to pay a higher price for carbon offsetting to reduce the impact of their travel, compared to 67.7 percent worldwide.
Notwithstanding a spike in the popularity of sustainable travel, only 20 percent of worldwide respondents did not report any barrier to sustainable travel, while the rest encountered various obstacles.
Inadequate visibility of sustainable options poses a significant barrier to their wider adoption. Travellers find it difficult to access information about sustainable travel products, with 41.3 percent and 28 percent in Hong Kong, respectively, stating there is a lack of sustainable options, and these are not clearly labelled.
Accordingly, in Hong Kong, 46 percent of respondents believe Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) should clearly label sustainable options, followed by 44.7 percent who called upon OTAs to make it easier to find these options. Over 35 percent also suggested OTAs offer options for offsetting carbon emissions.
While Hong Kong travellers (75 percent) are second only to mainland China’s (80.2 percent) as the most open to paying more to include sustainable options in their trips, they display varying levels of price sensitivity to the higher costs it usually entails, with only around 7.6 percent of Hong Kong respondents willing to pay over 10 percent of the total price for a sustainable option.
Against this backdrop, OTAs and booking platforms have a significant opportunity to tap into this by showcasing their sustainable travel credentials and endearing themselves to like-minded users. The report shows that an overwhelming 94.3 percent Hong Kong respondents, as compared to 93.0 percent globally, would consider booking via OTAs that provide sustainable options.
Jane Sun, CEO of Trip.com Group, said, “The results reaffirm our vision to educate travellers better and provide a greater volume and variety of reliable, sustainable travel options. Our findings are a clarion call to ourselves as to our allies in the travel sector.”
She continued, “In the future, we will join hands with partners, travellers and other stakeholders to venture towards a more sustainable world.”
As sustainable travel takes hold among OTAs and travellers, travel platforms are leveraging social media and other channels to engage with users, encouraging them to practise sustainable travel during their trips and in doing so, rethink and rediscover its meaning and benefits, especially in the context of the pandemic.