Travellyze blog

Sustainable Tourism: A Growing Trend

In recent years, sustainability has become a central theme in various industries, and tourism is no exception. As travellers become more aware of the impact of their choices, the concept of the "sustainable traveller" has gained relevance. This type of traveller not only seeks to enjoy their destination but also aims to minimise environmental impact and benefit local communities.
In Europe, and particularly in Spain, this trend is growing rapidly. Recent data from our surveys reveal a significant increase in the number of travellers prioritising sustainable practices in their adventures. In this article, we will delve into the characteristics and behaviours of the sustainable traveller, with a special focus on the Spanish market. We will explore what motivates these travellers, the opportunities and challenges this trend presents for the tourism industry, and how businesses and destinations can adapt to meet this growing demand.

What is Sustainable Tourism?

Sustainable tourism, also known as responsible tourism, refers to the practice of travelling in a way that minimises negative impacts on the environment, respects local cultures, and promotes the well-being of host communities. This type of tourism seeks to balance the enjoyment of travel with environmental and social responsibility, ensuring that future generations can enjoy the same destinations.
At Travellyze, we define the sustainable traveller as someone who places great or extreme importance on environmental and sustainability concerns in their travel decision-making. Additionally, we identify sustainable travellers by their adoption of one or more of the following six sustainable travel behaviours:
  1. Chooses a train or bus over a flight: Prefers modes of transport that generate fewer carbon emissions.
  2. Selects eco-friendly accommodation despite higher costs: Opts for lodgings that implement sustainable practices, even if it means a higher expense.
  3. Participates in a local rural/community experience: Engages in activities that allow cultural immersion and benefit local communities.
  4. Supports an environmental/biodiversity conservation project: Actively contributes to initiatives that protect the environment and biodiversity.
  5. Offsets CO2 emissions: Participates in carbon offset programmes to mitigate the impact of their travels.
  6. Supports a social conservation project: Takes part in projects aimed at improving the quality of life for local communities.
This comprehensive definition allows us to accurately identify travellers who not only have environmental awareness but also take concrete steps to reduce their ecological footprint and promote sustainability during their travels.

A Growing Trend

Sustainable tourism has shown notable growth in recent years, driven by increased environmental awareness and changing traveller preferences. Travellyze data clearly reflects this trend, showing a rise in the adoption of sustainable travel behaviours among European travellers, particularly in Spain.
Analysing the sustainable behaviour statistics collected by Travellyze from 2021 to 2024, we can observe patterns of growth and fluctuations in various travel practices:
Among these behaviours, the most notable change is seen in the use of trains or buses instead of planes, with a 66.77% increase since 2021. This significant rise reflects a strong preference for more sustainable modes of transport, likely driven by environmental concerns and the desire to reduce personal carbon footprints.
These data indicate a general trend towards more conscious and sustainable tourism, with a significant increase in several key behaviours. This pattern aligns with findings from other sources. According to Booking's 2023 "Sustainable Travel Report," 80% of travellers indicate that travelling more sustainably is important to them. Additionally, in July 2023, Statista reported that 50% of global travellers were seeking more sustainable accommodation options.

The Case of the Spanish Traveller

In recent years, Spanish travellers have shown a notable inclination towards more sustainable travel practices, with trends surpassing those observed in the rest of Europe in some aspects. Comparing Travellyze data between Spanish and European travellers, we can identify clear patterns and significant differences.
Here is a comparative chart:
Although the differences in some categories are not extremely marked, the consistency across all behaviours over the years establishes that Spanish travellers are more linked to sustainable tourism than the average European traveller. This pattern is evident in behaviour related to transport choices, where 31.53% of Spanish travellers preferred trains or buses in January 2024, compared to 29.70% of Europeans.

What is the Sustainable Traveller Like?

The sustainable European traveller in 2024 presents a diverse profile committed to responsible tourism. Based on data collected by Travellyze, we can outline a detailed profile of this traveller segment:
  • Balanced Demographics: 53% of sustainable European travellers are women, reflecting an equitable gender distribution. The majority age group is between 55 to 64 years, representing 22.9% of the sample. This suggests that sustainability in tourism attracts a wide range of ages.
  • Lifestyle: Over half of sustainable European travellers are married or living with partners, and 57% do not have children living at home. This dynamic can influence their travel preferences and their willingness to explore less conventional destinations.
  • Budget and Travel Preferences: The most common travel budget segment is "Between 1000 and 2999 Euros," indicating that these travellers are willing to invest in sustainable experiences. Their main sources of inspiration are family and friends, followed by search engines and online review sites.
  • Interests and Activities: Sustainable European travellers show a strong interest in authentic and cultural experiences. 75% are interested in visiting small, unique villages, while 70.9% seek cultural and historical experiences. These data suggest a desire to connect with local authenticity and support local communities in their travels.
  • Booking Behaviour: The majority of these travellers prefer to book independently, directly on provider websites. This independence in planning may reflect a greater awareness of sustainable practices and a preference for supporting environmentally committed businesses.
  • Future Perspectives: A significant percentage of these travellers intend to travel outside Europe in the near future, indicating a desire to explore farther destinations and diversify their travel experiences. This interest in long-distance travel presents opportunities for destinations outside Europe that promote sustainable practices and offer unique experiences.

Challenges and Opportunities for the Industry

  • Economic Barriers: One of the main barriers to sustainable tourism is the associated costs. Sustainable travel options, such as eco-friendly transport and eco-hotels, are often more expensive than traditional alternatives. This can limit accessibility for travellers with tighter budgets and be a significant obstacle to the growth of this segment. Tourism companies must find ways to reduce these costs or justify the added value these sustainable options offer.
  • Infrastructure: The current infrastructure in many destinations is not designed to support sustainable tourism. This includes the lack of efficient and eco-friendly transport networks and adequate facilities for waste management and resource conservation. Improving this infrastructure requires significant investments and long-term planning, which can be challenging for destinations lacking resources or financial support.
  • Awareness and Education: Although awareness of the importance of sustainable tourism is growing, there is still a gap in understanding and commitment among many travellers and industry professionals. Educating both tourists and industry professionals about the benefits of sustainable tourism and how they can contribute is crucial. Without a concerted effort to raise awareness and provide continuous education, progress towards more sustainable tourism will be slow.
  • Market Growth: The growing interest in sustainable tourism represents a significant market opportunity. More and more travellers are seeking experiences that are respectful of the environment and local communities. Companies that can adapt their offerings to meet this demand have the potential to attract a rapidly growing market segment. This includes tour operators offering sustainable travel packages and accommodations incorporating eco-friendly practices.
  • Innovation and Technology: Innovation and technology play a crucial role in the evolution of sustainable tourism. From apps that help travellers find eco-friendly transport options to technologies that reduce energy consumption in hotels, adopting new technologies can facilitate the transition to more sustainable practices. Additionally, investment in research and development can lead to innovative solutions that make sustainable tourism more accessible and attractive.
  • Government Policies and Support: Government policy support can significantly accelerate the adoption of sustainable tourism. Tax incentives, subsidies for eco-friendly infrastructure, and regulations promoting sustainable practices can provide the necessary framework for the industry to advance. Governments recognising the benefits of sustainable tourism, not only for the environment but also for the local economy, can implement policies that encourage these practices and support companies leading the change.
In summary, while the path to fully sustainable tourism is filled with challenges, the opportunities it presents are equally promising. The tourism industry has the capacity to innovate and adapt, turning these challenges into drivers of growth and sustainable development. These obstacles can become more accessible if addressed collaboratively and through strategic partnerships. With this spirit, Travellyze organised a Meetup in Madrid, in collaboration with Turtech and Interface Tourism Group. The aim of this event was to convene various actors in the Spanish tourism ecosystem to discuss this topic and develop a collaborative agenda. Click here to learn more about the event.

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