In celebration of Earth Day, Travelport has released the below trend report about the state of sustainability in the travel industry. Together with two of its partners, Virgin Atlantic and Trainline, Travelport shines a light on the sector’s current initiatives with a focus on creating a greener industry for tomorrow.
“Being an environmentalist should not be a competitive advantage, but rather something that the entire travel industry embraces and believes in,” said Jason Clarke, Chief Commercial Officer – Travel Partners at Travelport. “In order for the sector to become truly sustainable, we must first inform customers about the sustainable choices that they have and make those easy to understand. Next, end-to-end green options must be integrated together in a seamless manner. Finally, we must provide the consumer with the ability to offset every mile they travel. It is crucial that the industry works together in order to ensure a greener path forward in the future.”
While the travel industry and the world at large continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, destinations that are viewed as environmentally friendly are gaining popularity with tourists. According to a report by ESOMAR-certified market research*, the ecotourism industry is expected to grow by 15% CAGR, surpassing a valuation of $17 billion. Trend data released from Travelport highlights how the following destinations have become more popular with travelers when compared to their 2019 rankings by booking volume:
Norway: #24 (vs. #35 in 2019)
- Moving up 11 places in the ranking, Norway’s official slogan is “powered by nature”. Eight tourist destinations have been certified as sustainable by the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative, and the country has an audacious goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. Currently, they are one of Europe’s largest providers of hydropower, and they fuel 95% of Norway’s power from that source as well.
- So far in 2022, Norway has recovered more than half of its gross pre-pandemic travel activity (56%) with the top destination city, Oslo, primarily attracting solo travelers (42%) and couples (30%) with all traveler types staying 25 days, on average.
Denmark: #40 (vs. #44 in 2019)
- Moving up 4 spots, Denmark ranks #1 on the Environmental Performance Index*. The country’s capital, Copenhagen, is on track to be carbon neutral by 2025, which is impressive even in a city where 9 out of 10 people own a bike and use it to travel at least 1 mile per day.
- Denmark has recovered nearly half of its gross pre-pandemic travel activity (49%) so far this year, with the top destination city, Copenhagen, primarily attracting solo travelers (38%) and couples (36%) with all traveler types staying an average of 20 days per trip.
Ecuador: #44 (vs. #56 in 2019)
- The World Travel Awards. named Ecuador the world’s leading green destination, and when compared to its popularity in 2019, the country has climbed 12 spots. As one of the most biodiverse destinations on the planet, Ecuador offers visitors access to some of the best eco-lodges in South America.
- So far in 2022, Ecuador has recovered two-thirds of its gross pre-pandemic travel activity (67%) with the top destination city, Guayaquil, primarily attracting solo travelers (42%) and families (30%) with all traveler types staying 28 days, on average.
Iceland: #69 (vs. #79 in 2019)
- Jumping 10 places in the rankings, Iceland is almost entirely powered by geo-thermal energy, which makes it one of the greenest countries in the world. Their renewable energy program alone is said to produce the largest amount of green energy per capita. Visitors often come for incredible views of the Northern Lights or to soak in the natural heated pools of Myvatn Nature Baths.
- Iceland has recovered more than half of its gross pre-pandemic travel activity (58%) so far this year, with the top destination city, Reykjavik, primarily attracting couples (48%) who are staying 10 days per trip, on average.
Costa Rica: #46 (vs. #73 in 2019)
- With one of the biggest jumps on the list, Costa Rica’s popularity has increased 27 spots. As one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world, 93% of its electricity comes from renewable sources. This tropical and volcanic landscape is also fiercely protected to preserve the country’s diverse wildlife and ecology, which is said to hold around 5% of the planet’s total biodiversity. Tourists enjoy coast to coast cycling trips, exploring miles of rainforest, hiking volcanic craters, and relaxing on sandy beaches.
- So far in 2022, Costa Rica has recovered 90% of its gross pre-pandemic travel activity with the top destination city, San Jose, primarily attracting a mix of couples (34%), families (33%) and solo travelers (27%) staying 15 days, on average.
Aviation is recognised as one of seven hard to abate sectors and accounts for 2-3% of global emissions worldwide (as of 2019). For more than 15 years, Virgin Atlantic has been an industry leader in sustainability. To reinforce its commitment to sustainability through innovation, transparency and accountability, the airline recently announced its carbon targets to achieve net zero by 2050:
- By 2026: 15% gross reduction in CO2/RTK achieved through continued fleet transformation and operational efficiency
- By 2030: 15% net reduction in total CO2 emissions, including 10% of fuel sourced from sustainable aviation fuel
- By 2040: 40% net reduction in total CO2 emissions
Virgin Atlantic has already reduced its CO2/RTK by 17% (2019 vs 2007) as result of fleet modernisation and operational efficiencies. It operates one of the youngest and cleanest twin-engine fleets in the skies, with an average aircraft age of just under seven years and 68% next generation fleet. This increases to 100% next generation by the beginning of 2027 which will further reduce the airline’s C02/RTK to 30% of the 2007 baseline.
Beyond fleet transformation, Virgin Atlantic is committed to working with new technology innovators to seed, support and adopt the breakthrough technologies capable of delivering change. As a long-standing advocate for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), Virgin Atlantic has been partnering with LanzaTech since 2011, flying the world’s first commercial flight operated on sustainable fuels in 2018, supporting efforts to build the first U.K. SAF plant by 2025, and partnering with Neste Oyi to bring 2.5 million liters of SAF to London Heathrow in the first half of this year. It also continues to support new technology innovation, most recently working with partners Storegga Geotechnologies and Carbon Engineering to accelerate the use of direct air capture of CO2.
“We know that, as an airline, we have a pivotal role to play in protecting the planet, while connecting people across the globe and strengthening crucial trade connections,” said Luke Ervine, Head of Sustainability at Virgin Atlantic. “For more than a decade we’ve been leading the way in the decarbonisation of the aviation industry. As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, our focus on our carbon targets, paired with global collaboration across the sector and beyond, will help us reach net zero emissions by 2050. There is a long road ahead, but we’re committed to pioneering change and being transparent on our progress.”
The Rise of Rail
With a focus on shrinking the region’s carbon output, certain countries within the European Union are considering and/or implementing short-haul flight bans. Last year, France became the first to enact a national ban on short-haul domestic flights where a train journey of two and a half hours (or less) was an option. It speaks to a broader global trend which focuses on the entirety of a journey as opposed to packed, destination-centric itineraries. Rail journeys are often seen as the hero of this movement, and as the world’s leading independent rail travel platform, Trainline partners with hundreds of rail carriers to offer its customers millions of travel options across 45 countries.
- According to Trainline, the transport sector is the largest contributor to UK domestic greenhouse gas emissions, contributing 28% of UK domestic emissions in 2018. The main source of these emissions is the use of petrol and diesel in road transport. Similarly, in Europe, transport accounts for more than a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions, almost 72% of which come from road transport.
- Rail offers travelers a greener alternative, generating less than 1/20 of the CO2 emissions of air travel and approximately 1/7 of the CO2 emissions compared with car travel, per passenger*.
- On average, Trainline customers save over 1.5 megatons of CO2 emissions each year by using rail instead of road. The company also states that 60% of Britons feel a sense of pride to travel by train, knowing it’s better for the environment.
“Awareness of the carbon footprint of travel is at an all-time high, and as business travel starts to resume in high numbers again, we have the ideal opportunity to encourage a significant change in travel habits,” said Liz Emmott, Global Distribution Director for Trainline Partner Solutions. “The decision is no longer about price alone, but also how travel is contributing to companies’ net-zero commitments. By making sure rail options are readily available and attractive, we have a great opportunity to support the switch to rail.”