We All Want to Travel More Sustainably, But How Much More Expensive Is It?

does sustainable travel cost more

Our wanderlust is meeting a world awakening to environmental realities. It’s a fact. The allure of sustainable travel is undeniable. Although with this ecological awakening, if you will, come questions of costs. We all want to travel, and that’s not going to change, but a shift in travellers’ conscience is making way for a kinder way of travelling. We are, of course, referring to sustainable travel.

When you think of sustainable travel, you might start picturing yourself trekking with Gorillas in Uganda or sleeping in eco-resorts on the sapphire coasts of Australia. You wouldn’t be wrong in conjuring up these scenes, but sustainable travel isn’t just about the high-end, almost exclusive experiences reserved for those who can spend a few thousand a night on accommodation. Sustainable travel is tied to the choices you make.

does sustainable travel cost more

Breaking Down the Cost Barrier

Toni Amber, Managing Director of TTC Touring Brands Australia, highlights cost as a significant hurdle for consumers considering sustainable travel. She shares, “Our research shows that 53% of Australians prioritise affordability while planning a vacation, with almost 70% assuming sustainable travel incurs extra costs.

“However, doing the right thing doesn’t have to be more expensive for travellers.”

Certain travel companies curate itineraries focused on regeneration. Contiki, for instance, went carbon-neutral in 2022 and has since undertaken a four-point Climate Action Plan with its parent company, The Travel Corporation. This ambitious initiative, validated by emissions reduction specialists, aims to achieve a 90% emissions reduction by 2050.

Amber adds, “We’ve seamlessly integrated sustainable practices and experiences across our brands, such as Contiki, Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, Costsaver, and Luxury Gold, without imposing any additional costs on our guests. The Travel Corporation’s Carbon Fund internally finances these efforts.”

This commitment to decarbonisation involves Uniworld ships minimising fuel emissions, procurement of zero-emission vehicles for tours, a 50% reduction in food waste across accommodations and ships, and the lowering of carbon footprints on trips.

“We also launched our Carbon Fund—a first for the industry—which sees us invest in initiatives, such as regenerative experiences, that lower the overall carbon footprint of our brands and the environmental impact of our operations,” says Amber.

“Our goal is to make sustainable travel options more accessible to the everyday traveller.”

Presently, TTC offers 571 Make Travel Matter experiences worldwide, meticulously chosen for their positive impact on the planet, its inhabitants, and wildlife.

does sustainable travel cost more
Kiwi sanctuary.

According to the Booking.com 2023 Sustainable Travel Report, 49% believe sustainable travel options are too expensive, which is up 11% from the previous year’s report. This comes as no surprise given the cost of living crisis. We’re all watching our wallets. However, on the flip side, 43% of travellers said they would be willing to pay more for travel options with a sustainable certification. So people want to see the proof, which is fair enough.

As an increasing number of travellers feel the pinch, they seek more sustainable travel options rich in rewards, highlighting the perceived trade-off between making conscious choices and saving money and the need for incentivisation.

The report states nearly half (49%) want discounts and economic incentives to opt for eco-friendly options (up 12% from 2022), while 42% would be encouraged to travel more sustainably with reward points for making more sustainable choices that they could use for free extra perks or discounts through online travel booking sites.

“While travel may be back, rising living costs and climate anxiety has led to greater demand for more budget and planet-friendly options,” said Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking.com, in a statement.

“Travel can be a force for good, and travellers themselves are proving to be today’s changemakers, adopting more sustainable travel habits and seeking responsible experiences.”

does sustainable travel cost more
Marula Water Tower Project

Travelling Sustainably

So how do we travel more consciously? Amber says a third of Australians state they’ll travel in the next 12 months and seek out the most sustainable option. Yet if a sustainable international experience wasn’t possible, over a third (34%) would consider exploring more locally.

“Travellers can book tours in lesser-known destinations and travel in the shoulder, and low seasons, to take advantage of lower prices,” says Amber.

Engaging in sustainable activities like nature hikes, wildlife conservation projects, or cultural experiences are unique and more enriching experience than traditional tourist activities.

Amber refers to an interpretive plant walk experience with indigenous warrior women from the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation in Canada as just one way of choosing an activity that is not only lighter on the planet but culturally enriching for travellers.

Although, that’s not to say there aren’t imposters out there, who claim to be sustainable experiences, yet are anything but. This is called greenwashing, a term that has popped up in the last five or so years and refers to organisations that make sustainability claims without the evidence to back them up.

Booking.com has made it easier for travellers to choose sustainable options with the company’s Travel Sustainable Badge. The badge is featured on accommodations that are certified, allowing potential bookers to choose eco-friendly options. The badge is also available to any property on the platform that has implemented a combination of sustainable practices that meet the requisite impact threshold for their destination.

does sustainable travel cost more

According to Amber, it is important when travellers are looking to be more sustainable that they know what to look for when assessing which options are truly sustainable.

“Unfortunately, more and more operators are looking to jump on this new trend, so it is important that consumers are able to recognise travel partners that have certified sustainable credentials,” says Amber.

To sift out the bad eggs, Amber suggests looking at the transparency of an organisation’s data, details, and progress. “Being able to see how an organisation is assessing its progress is a great sign they are working to deliver more sustainable options for their customers.”

The TTC has an incredible resource to help travellers find sustainable global travel operators, experiences, and communities. There’s even a tool to find ethical wildlife experiences that adhere to the strict Animal Welfare Policy through TreadRight.

“Travel is an incredible gift, one that humans have enjoyed for centuries, but this gift comes with responsibility—to protect the world as we know it. It’s important for businesses, our own included, to be open and honest about how they intend to do their bit for the environment.”

Related: How to Choose Ethical Wildlife Experiences While Travelling

Related: Are We Finally Over Instagram Travel and Moving Into Soulful Sojourns?

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