According to our recent global travel survey, consumers are still prioritising leisure travel in 2023 despite financial constraints. However, the question remains: are they willing to prioritise sustainability as well?

The pandemic reignited the sustainability debate, as the closure of the travel industry and other modes of transportation forced consumers to reflect on their environmental impact. An IBM study revealed that 93% of global respondents believed COVID-19 affected their views on sustainability, with 40% prioritising environmental impact over cost, comfort, and convenience.

But now, two years later, do these views still hold strong in the travel industry? And how do consumers' views on sustainability affect their decision-making?

Our survey indicates a disconnect between consumers wanting greater sustainability without wanting to pay a potential price premium. While 75% of respondents view sustainable travel as important, only half are willing to pay for it. Of those willing to pay extra, almost half would only pay up to 20% more for a holiday or a more sustainable mode of transportation.

Diving a little deeper, and as illustrated in the graphic above, if we consider the three factors of cost, convenience and comfort from IBM’s 2021 study, our 2023 survey would suggest that the more costly or less comfortable sustainability measures in leisure travel have yet to form a groundswell of changed behaviours.

The relative convenience of researching the sustainability policies of travel companies, hotels or airlines appears to have tipped in favour of positive action, however, with 56% stating they were somewhat or very likely to do so.

The latter point rubber-stamps the importance of clarity of communication to consumers and broader stakeholder groups from operators in promoting their progress to a more sustainable future.

And as Laura Meyer, CEO of Hotelplan, outlined in our recent panel discussion focused on our data findings, we should perhaps be optimistic when looking at these numbers rather than disappointed that they aren’t higher.

While operators have many sustainability challenges to overcome – from scaling up Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to simply wrestling down the huge impact of Scope 3 emissions within operator supply chains – there is clearly an appetite for change.

How that is harnessed, in a way that balances consumer propensity to pay alongside the huge investments required by travel industry operators to remain profitable on the path towards sustainable transition, could prove an even bigger challenge than the one that was presented by the pandemic. 

Discover more about our recent Consumer Travel Survey and watch our panel discussion on balancing growth and sustainability in the travel industry