Millennials Demand Sustainable Travel Options, But Will Industry Respond?

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While more than half of Millennials say that cost is a barrier to leisure travel, an increasing number of young people see the lack of sustainable travel and lodging options as a major obstacle, too. As a result of increasing demand for green travel, some luxury businesses are responding to fulfill their clients’ needs — but whether the travel and hospitality industries as a whole will follow suit remains to be seen.

Luxury Thai resort Soneva Kiri, for example, has taken pains to reduce its carbon footprint and promote sustainability by implementing a farm-to-table menu. Rather than importing blueberries from other countries, their restaurant, Benz, serves only local ingredients that have been known to please even the most discerning of celebrity palates. Gwyneth Paltrow has even raved to the New York Times about the delicious, spicy cuisine at Benz.

But it’s not only the Hollywood elite that are able to enjoy green luxury. According to Credit Suisse’s 2017 Global Investor report, millennials are behind the push for sustainability across all kinds of industries — and they don’t even have to travel with a camping hammock to do it. And according to lifestyle brand experts, they’re also gaining spending power.

Diana Verde Vieto, co-founder and CEO of Positive Luxury, says in a piece published by South China Morning Post, “Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues, and expect brands to not only manage their impact but communicate it, they study and believe in things to know if does the law of attraction really work for them and for others.”

That said, sustainable luxury travel is still, by definition, an exclusive option that not everyone can afford. And although the UN has declared 2017 the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development,” making travel more sustainable is easier said than done — especially because many consumers know they want green options but aren’t quite sure how to tell for themselves whether lodgings are actually environmentally responsible.

According to a 2016 survey, 68% of global travelers were likely to choose travel accommodations if they knew they were eco-friendly. But 65% of respondents said they had not stayed in an eco-friendly lodging or did not know whether they had. Of those respondents who didn’t plan to stay somewhere sustainable, 39% said they made that decision simply because they didn’t know eco-friendly accommodations existed.

That means that green hotels need to make themselves known to consumers. In an survey, 58% of hotel guests said they preferred booking stays at environmentally friendly properties and 40% said they are willing to spend an extra $10 per night to stay in sustainable lodgings. A Mandala Research study found that 60% of U.S. travelers took a sustainable trip within the past three years and, on average, spend $600 per trip and stay three days longer than the typical guest. By failing to promote green accommodations properly, these hoteliers are missing out on a ton of potential revenue.

Currently, sustainable travel is still a bit of a niche market, especially when it comes to luxury options. But for those who have some extra time, patience, and money at their disposal, it’s possible to see the world while helping to preserve it. It just takes a little digging.

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