Travelers Face Dilemma: Cost Versus Conscience When It Comes to Sustainable Travel

Travelers Face Dilemma: Cost Versus Conscience When It Comes to Sustainable Travel

by Mia Taylor
on April 20, 2023
Last updated: 4:35 PM ET, Thu April 20, 2023

Global economic uncertainty continues to have an impact on many areas of daily life, including the decisions consumers make with regard to sustainable travel.

While 76 percent of travelers say they would like to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months, the same exact amount of individuals say the global energy crisis and the rising cost of living is impacting their travel spending plans.

This is according to a sweeping new report from, which the company describes as its most extensive sustainable travel research to date. The platform gathered insights from more than 33,000 travelers across 35 countries and territories.

The data showed that nearly half of respondents (49 percent) currently believe more sustainable travel options are too expensive.

“With rising inflation, nearly half of travelers are stuck in the notion that they must make a choice between sustainability and spending,” says the report. “For these respondents, sustainability and travel combined can seem non-urgent when they are worried about affording bills and the energy crisis.”

It’s not all bad news however. About 43 percent of travelers say they’re willing to pay extra for travel options with a sustainable certification. What’s more, an increasing number of travelers are incorporating eco-conscious habits from home, when they travel. 

This includes 67 percent of travelers who say they turn off their air conditioning in accommodations when they aren’t in their room (that’s a substantial increase from 29 percent who said as much in 2022). In addition, 60 percent say they reuse the same towel multiple times, also up from 2022 levels. In this case, the previous figure was just 25 percent.

Still, the analysis says the key takeaway from the report is the dilemma it uncovers, which is that people feel “potentially forced to choose between cutting costs and being more mindful about making sustainable travel choices.” 

Sustainable travel.

The report highlights some encouraging trends. (Photo Credit: smshoot / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

“At a time of general global uncertainty, traveling more sustainably continues to be front of mind for travelers, with three-quarters (74 percent) believing people need to act now and make more sustainable choices to save the planet for future generations,” says the report. “The news continues to be a key influence driver for 53 percent, who say the recent climate change news agenda has encouraged them to be more sustainable, and yet it also speaks to a quandary facing people when it comes to being more mindful about when, where and how they travel.”

Tellingly, nearly half of respondents (49 percent) think the environment will get worse in the next six months. And equally importantly, 64 percent believe the cost of living crisis will also get worse. All of which leaves people unsure of what to prioritize as they work to reconcile what’s important to them amid the demands of everyday life.

Additional highlights from the report include:

  • As an increasing number of travelers feel the pinch, they’re seeking more sustainable travel options rich in rewards—highlighting the perceived trade-off between making conscious choices and saving money and the need for incentivization. 
  • Nearly half (49 percent) want discounts and economic incentives in order to opt for eco-friendly options (up 12 percent from 2022).
  • 42 percent 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.

Barriers to change


It’s not just cost that’s a perceived hurdle to traveling more sustainably, according to the report. Travelers say there’s also a dearth of information and options available. “From limited data to a perceived lack of options, barriers to traveling more sustainably appear higher than ever, with some telling shifts in the past 12 months,” says the report.

More than half (51 percent) of travelers believe there are not enough sustainable travel options, while 74 percent want travel companies to offer more sustainable travel choices (up from 66 percent in 2022).

And despite having good intentions, 44 percent of travelers say they don’t know where to find more sustainable options. For example, 75 percent seek authentic experiences that are representative of the local culture, yet in stark contrast 40 percent don’t know how or where to find these tours and activities that will ensure they give back to the local community.

Interest in sustainable travel is on the rise

Interest in sustainable travel is on the rise. (photo via horstgerlach / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Sustainable travel micro-habits in action


The preceding data aside, says it remains clear that there is indeed a huge appetite among consumers for solutions on the sustainable travel front. For instance four in five or 80 percent of travelers confirmed that traveling more sustainably is indeed important to them. So that’s good news. What’s more, travelers say they are “converting intent into action” (good news here, too). Consumers are doing that by taking active, small steps at home, and when traveling as well, in order to help contribute to a more sustainable future for the planet.

“Encouragingly, today 68 percent use reusable shopping bags, 64 percent recycle waste and 58 percent carry their own reusable water bottle – and there’s been a significant uptake in travelers adopting everyday habits on vacation in the past year,” says the report. Here are some additional highlights on this front:

  • More than three-quarters (77 percent) say they turn off the lights and appliances at accommodations when they aren’t there.
  • Almost half (45 percent) now recycle their garbage when traveling.
  • When it comes to transportation, 43 percent now plan their sightseeing so that they can walk, bike or take public transport.
  • About 43 percent travel outside of peak season in a bid to avoid overcrowding—up 10 percent from 2022.
  • There is also consensus amongst travelers on taking the ‘buy local’ mantra on vacation, with 43 percent favoring small, independent stores. 

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