Recent research consistently reveals travellers want sustainable tourism, and that their appetite for it is growing; 40% of travellers wanted to make more sustainable choices than they did a year ago, and 69% view sustainable tourism as a means of reducing their environmental impact. But, after two years of lockdowns, which prevented the world’s populations from enjoying the delights of travel, the behaviour of travellers post-pandemic revealed that even with the knowledge that stepping on a plane would drastically increase their annual environmental footprint – people did it anyway. The carbon emissions from their flight weren’t enough of an incentive not to travel.
In fact, a study conducted by You Gov revealed the highest percentage of people planning on taking both international and domestic flights were in the most sustainably-minded consumer segment. The study revealed this segment of ‘Planet Protectors’ had a high level of expendable income and were 92% more likely to pay more for products that are good for the environment compared to 57% of the overall population, but 67% of them prefered holidays overseas, compared to 47% of the general population. Despite their claimed intentions, the survey revealed this segment accepts that the environmental cost is a price worth paying for the opportunity to relish the sense of discovery, wonder and escape we know travel can give us. And it’s here where the problem lies; maintaining climate-friendly behaviours is very difficult for eco-conscious travellers, as the very act of travelling often involves making exceptions.
What is the intention-action gap?
In behavioural sciences, the intention-action or value-action gap is the term we use to describe the gap between what people say what they want or value, and what they actually do. According to a report by Kantar, 92% of people say they want to live more sustainably, but only 16% are actively changing their behaviour. That’s the gap. So when we’re thinking about sustainability, naturally, as behavioural change experts, we’re fascinated by the potential of tackling this disparity to increase the rate of adoption of sustainable travel behaviour. But how can we help individuals fulfil their intentions, and help them actively choose the more sustainable option without feeling that they are sacrificing any pleasures of travelling?
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Travel tech needs to step up to the challenge
The power of technology to transform travel’s sustainability track record can’t be underestimated, it is a key enabler: from providing sustainable choices to travellers to measuring and reporting on their destination impact. The potential impact of applying behaviour change techniques at scale is so significant, we need to travel tech to take responsibility for tackling the intention-action gap. After all, innovations in technology are capable of tackling the challenges many travellers face, by offering credibility, awareness, seamless booking journeys and even rewards. What’s more, by employing technology, business and destinations can not only advance their progress towards sustainability but accelerate innovation across the sector, through industry-wide collaborations and alliances. Here are five examples of tech innovations already helping travellers to uphold their values, from booking to the in-destination experience.
5 tech innovations driving sustainable travel behaviour
Helsinki’s Think Sustainably
Helsinki’s pledge to be carbon-neutral by 2030 is among the most ambitious sustainability goals of any destination. An online digital service launched in 2019, Think Sustainably is no ordinary city guide. Its design makes browsing, choosing and booking accommodation, restaurants, retailers and services easy and simple. Visitors make their choice based on their interest in the knowledge of each service’s sustainability performance, with the most eco-friendly options marked clearly with a green tag. By assessing the impact of local businesses and services, the service helps tourists gain an understanding of how they can enjoy the city responsibly and empowers them to make better choices during both the booking and travelling phases of their trip. Users can save their favourites to their My Helsinki account, making it easy for travellers to book and plan their stay in advance, or find sustainable options quickly during their time in the city. So not only is it a great consumer service but from a B2B perspective, the whole program is designed to incentivise more local businesses to align with Helsinki’s sustainability criteria, as the algorithms of the website give the most sustainable services the most visibility and exposure. In this way, the design of the service accelerates the adoption of sustainable practices; effectively supporting the city’s ambitious sustainability objectives.
Visa Eco Benefits
Travelling is a big expense, and many tourists are in the dark about the impact of their spending while their away on holiday. A new Eco Benefits package launched by the global payments technology company Visa promises to help educate cardholders on the impact of their travelling behaviours. With key features such as carbon footprint tracking, this payment technology offers travellers greater visibility and influence over their spending. This calculator feature is supported by ecolytiq’s revolutionary Sustainably-as-a-Service banking solution, which provides cardholders with precise footprint data as well as credible offsetting and financial support for environmental organisations, as well as rewards. Considering 96% of travellers say they want the money they spend to have a positive impact on the places they visit, payment technology can help tourists develop a greater awareness of the impact of their purchases abroad.
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GoGiro is micromobility app designed to grow and support tourism development, by partnering with hotel brands in major European cities to promote carbon-neutral travel. With its fleet of scooters, e-scooters, bikes and e-bikes, GoGiro offers guests of hotel partners bespoke guided digital tour experiences through which they can explore their destination. Guests benefit from experiencing the city through a seamless, low-impact mode of travel, and hotels can generate extra revenue by including their revenue partners in the tour. With options for a custom-branded fleet of e-scooters, GoGiro is not only tackling the intention-action gap by helping tourists lower their destination impact, but supporting hotel brands by boosting their sustainability credentials in the eyes of their guests; authentically and credibly.
While not specifically tourism-related, the impact of updates Google made to their Maps app in 2021 can’t be ignored. While the app still offers the quickest routes, it also began to display routes with the lowest carbon footprint, revolutionising the way travellers consider getting from A to B. And if the eco-friendly route is also the quickest, the app defaults to showing this route option first. Results have been positive, with Google reporting that people opting for eco-friendly routes over the quickest ones have reduced emissions by the equivalent of taking 100’000 cars off the road. By improving the visibility of routes and the impact of transport on their destination, Maps is helping travellers to navigate new surroundings responsibly.
Rewards-based systems are nothing new to the tourism industry, think of frequent flyer schemes, but can you imagine earning exclusive experiences through demonstrating responsible tourism behaviour? That is exactly what the island of Palau is offering their visitors through their new destination initiative, Ol’au Palau. Through recording responsible behaviour, such as wearing reef-safe sunscreen and eating sustainably-sourced food, on the Ol’au Palau app, visitors can collect points through the responsible choices they make. A symbol present in local businesses guides them, and they can also keep track of their carbon footprint in the app during their stay. After a few days of conscious travel, visitors will have enough points to redeem on exclusive local experiences, like dining with island locals or swimming in secluded caves unknown to other tourists. Not only does this initiative protect the natural beauty of the destination, but it tackles the lack of awareness and understanding many tourists have when visiting an unknown destination that is ecologically vulnerable to overtourism.
According to a report by Tech Nation, half of all travel tech innovations coming out of the UK alone are only at seed stage, meaning there are plenty of new innovations destined to aid the tourism sector in reducing its environmental impact across the world.
If you’re interested in learning more about technology solutions to help your destination or business meet sustainability goals, or you’re bringing a new travel tech product to market; we’d love to hear from you. Let’s work together to help more travellers do what they say they want to do.
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