Travel: Agoda Sustainable Travel Trends Survey reveals people’s top concerns about tourism’s impact, and measures to make travel more sustainable

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Easy identification of sustainable eco-friendly travel options, limited use of single-use plastics and financial incentives for accommodation providers who maximize energy efficiencies are the top three additional measures needed to make travel more sustainable according to Agoda’s Sustainable Travel Trends Survey. Establishing more protected areas to limit tourist numbers and removal of single-use bathroom amenities round out the top five global measures.


The findings from the Survey launched today to mark World Environment Day 2021 (5 June) also revealed globally that overtourism, and pollution of beaches and waterways are the top two concerns of the impact of tourism, with deforestation and energy inefficiencies (including overconsumption of electricity/water) ranking joint third.

Filipinos’ concerns are ranked a bit differently with polluted beaches and waterways being the top concern of 26%, followed by overtourism (24%). Single-use plastics in destination accommodations and deforestation rank third at 14% each.

Governments considered most responsible for making changes to make travel more sustainable

Globally, the public considers Governments most accountable for making positive environmental changes around travel, followed by tourism authorities and individuals themselves. When it came to holding governments most accountable, those in Indonesia and UK were most likely to do so (36%), China followed not too far behind at 33%, with Australia and Malaysia in the fourth and fifth spots (28% and 27%), respectively. The markets most likely to cite themselves or individuals as most responsible for making changes to traveling sustainably were Thailand (30%), Japan (29%) and the US (28%). Meanwhile, China (11%), the UK (13%), and Vietnam (14%) were least likely to attribute responsibility to the individual.

When asked what they would pledge to do better in a post-COVID travel scenario, the top responses globally were #1 manage their waste including using less single-use plastics; #2 switch off the air con and lights when leaving their accommodation; and #3 always look for eco-friendly accommodation. Interestingly, despite overtourism being the biggest concern, going to lesser-known destinations only ranked seventh of out of 10 as a pledge to do better.

For their part, Pinoys’ top two pledges were to patronize eco-friendly accommodations and to manage their waste such as by using less single-use plastics, at 49% each. 26% are pledging to shop local, while 25% are pledging to switch off the air conditioner and lights when they leave the room when they travel in the future.

No ‘one size fits all for’ sustainability

The top practices most associated with environmentally friendly or sustainable travel globally are #1 renewable energy and resources like solar, wind, hydroelectric, and water; #2 no single-use plastics; and jointly taking up #3, animal conservation and creating a smaller carbon footprint.

Zooming in to the Philippines, 43% of Filipinos associate sustainability with accommodations using renewable energy/water sources, while 39% see eco-friendly building design or furnishings and 36% consider buying local products from local sellers to be helpful practices to travel sustainably.

Energy saving solutions such as key cards or motion sensors and using natural cleaning products are the other key practices noted by the survey participants. Interestingly, buying locally sourced products, reusing bedding or towels during holiday stays, and visiting off-the-beaten track destinations are the bottom three practices out of 10 associated with sustainable travel globally.

“We can see from the Agoda Sustainable Travel Trends Survey that the messages of taking simple steps such as switching off lights and air conditioning when leaving the room or reducing waste by minimizing use of single-use plastics are being embraced by the public across the globe. What is also clear is that while globally the message is Governments need to take the lead on managing sustainable travel, there is recognition that some responsibility lies with people’s own behavior,” explains John Brown, Agoda CEO.

“While there are different interpretations of what practices are eco-friendly or sustainable, most of the public are keen to be able to do their part, by actively pledging to choose eco-friendly properties or make smarter environmental choices when traveling. One of the easiest ways to counter concerns about overtourism is to consider traveling to off the beaten track destinations. This past year at Agoda, we have seen a shift in travel patterns as people, limited to domestic travel, explore lesser-known areas. If managed well, not only does this help support independent hoteliers and accommodation providers that rely economically on the tourist dollar—it can help lessen the environmental burden on overcrowded areas.

“As an industry, we need to continue to find ways to help individuals achieve these goals be it making it easier to search and find sustainable properties on Agoda or supporting and encouraging more partners to use key cards for power, use renewable energy sources, or offering carbon-offsetting options for travel products.” continued Brown.

COVID negatively impacts attitudes to sustainable travel

The increase in desire to travel more sustainably was most prevalent among respondents from South Korea, India, and Taiwan—35%, 31%, and 31% respectively. However, looking at the figures globally, while 25% have an increased desire to travel more sustainably, this compares with 35% whose desire to do so decreased. The markets reporting the biggest proportional decrease were Indonesia (56%), Thailand (51%) and the Philippines (50%).

“It’s concerning that many people see sustainable travel as less important today than they did before COVID-19, but I hope that is just a short-term effect, driven by people’s thirst to get back out there and travel any way they can,” Brown concluded.

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