Lonely Planet Writer

Almost half of Americans consider themselves to be a sustainable traveller according to survey

Almost half of Americans consider themselves to be sustainable travellers, according to a survey from travel site Booking.com.

Aerial view of Heart Reef on Great Barrier Reef near Whitsunday Islands.
Aerial view of Heart Reef on Great Barrier Reef near Whitsunday Islands. Image by Matt Munro

In celebration of Earth Day, the site revealed findings from its global sustainable travel report, which found that 72% of Chinese respondents believe they travel sustainably, while 25% of Japanese respondents thought the same. However, Booking.com notes that there is a fairly wide spectrum of what people think “sustainable travel” actually means.

Fifty-eight percent of Americans surveyed believe staying in eco-friendly accommodation is sustainable travel and 68% are more likely to pick a specific place if it’s eco-friendly. But one-third of American respondents said they have no plans to stay in an eco-friendly place in the next year and of those people, 38% had no idea sustainable accommodation existed. Not knowing about sustainable accommodation rose to 43% among Japanese respondents and 46% among German respondents.

To 31% of Americans, buying local products and supporting local artisans is considered sustainable travel, while 22% believe staying in a place like a nature reserve or national park is sustainable. Camping (21%) and going to a destination where you can interact with local wildlife (15%) are perceived to be sustainable travel. Others thought sustainable activities include volunteering (16%) and staying in a community and learning about their culture (13%).

The stunning scenery of Norway's mountains.
The stunning scenery of Norway’s mountains. Image by Tobiasvde / CC BY-SA 2.0

But many people remain sceptical of sustainable accommodation, according to Booking.com.  For Americans who say they won’t stay in eco-friendly accommodation this year, they cite reasons such as they are more expensive (26%), less luxurious (11%) or can’t be trusted to be truly “green” (11%). For Brits and Australians, 30% will not book an eco-friendly stay because they believe it will be more expensive, and 14% of Japanese sceptics say it is because they can’t believe a property’s claim that it is eco-friendly.

But Booking.com found that 26% of accommodations surveyed said they have initiatives to protect the environment. For places with more than 36 rooms, that rate rises to 33%. Gillian Tans, chief operating officer at Booking.com, said that “the more clarity, understanding and visibility around sustainable travel that can be brought to travellers to help them make informed choices around their accommodations and destination, the better”. Want to learn more about sustainable travel? Read Lonely Planet’s articles on eco-tourism and responsible travel here.