Survey Finds Tourists Like Sustainable Travel, But Don't Understand It

August 31, 2016
Peter Evans

A new survey finds the idea of socially conscious travel is gaining ground, though many people say it's difficult to put it into practice.

A new survey finds that while most travelers think sustainability is important component of travel, many think it’s easier said than done.

According to the “Pulse Poll” survey by AIG Travel, 52% of respondents said sustainable travel is important, yet 35% indicated difficulty in actually doing so. Half of the latter group cited “not knowing how” as the major barrier in accomplishing travel sustainability.

“This Pulse Poll is one of many efforts to help us understand potential barriers to sustainable travel, so we may help travelers overcome them,” said Jeff Rutledge, CEO of AIG Travel and a Vice Chairman of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

One issue is common misconceptions about the definition of sustainable travel. The majority of respondents (71%) defined it as “minimizing environmental impact.” Yet the World Tourism Organization’s definition also speaks of social and economic responsibility.

Rutledge continued, “International travel is more accessible today than ever before, and with this access comes a responsibility to positively impact the places we visit.”

According to the Center for Responsible Travel, tourism contributed more than $7 trillion to the global economy last year, or nearly 10% of global GDP. International travel grew by 4.4%, the agency said.

A 2015 survey by Tourism Cares found 55% of travelers had volunteered or contributed financially to a destination they visited at least once in the past two years. A separate survey found 10% of American families have taken a trip built around volunteering, and nearly three-quarters of those families said they plan to do so again. Among families that had not taken a volunteer trip, the rate of people planning to do so was only 22%.