Is Enthusiasm for Sustainability Fading?

Earlier this month, these two headlines in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention: 

“Sales of all-electric models in the U.S. have plateaued” and “Investors pulled more than $14 billion from sustainable funds this year.”

What is going on?  Are the tough realities of today’s geopolitical situation and the government’s struggle to deal with new post-COVID challenges responsible for a decreased interest in sustainability? 

When I started my first sustainability program at a Costa Rican Hotel in 1995, the owner of the hotel was very skeptical about sustainability.  He told me that while people have economic concerns or live in political instability, they will not really care about sustainability.  Back then, I was able to prove him wrong and implement a very successful “Think Green” program, but now? 

Is the sustainability hype that took on steam during the pandemic wearing out?  Everybody was talking about how now is the time to change, but it seems that reality has hit and it is too much of a hassle to be sustainable – for governments and citizens alike.   

  • Electric vehicle sales have plateaued, even though prices have gone down significantly this year.
  • July 13, 2023, was the day with the most flights in the air ever according to Flight Radar and the next record is expected to be broken in 2024.
  • The Energy Information Administration expects fossil fuel use to reach a new record this year. 
  • Wall Street is quietly closing sustainable funds or scrubbing their names after disappointing returns that have investors cashing out billions.

Meanwhile, the climate news of hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, and flooding is more drastic and alarming every time.  Something does not seem to add up here. 

If you look at the tourism sector, we still see a lot of enthusiasm for sustainability.  At least on paper.   Every report you read these days about “Trends in Tourism 2024” mentions that travelers are looking for sustainable options and are even willing to pay more for them in comparison to traditional options. 

But many articles also mention either the “Knowledge – Action” gap or the “Say – Do” gap. 

The “Knowledge – Action” gap is the difference between wanting to be more sustainable, but not really knowing what to do about it or where to go and where to stay.  They don’t know. 

The “Say – Do” gap is about saying that you want to be more sustainable.  But when it comes to making a decision, other factors like price are more likely to impact your decision against a sustainable choice.  I wrote another blog about the Say – Do gap a few months ago.  Link to the blog here

Trends in hospitality are often a bit behind the curve.  So, I would not be surprised to see some enthusiasm for sustainable travel dying down.  That would be a real shame, but with so much else going on in the world and grabbing people’s attention, it would not be surprising. 

So, what does this mean for the Cayuga Collection where we have been involved in sustainability for well over 20 years?  Probably not much will change.  We have never done sustainability because it was a trend.  We don’t use sustainability as a marketing tool but are happy to share our stories with our guests if they are interested – either through our sustainability journal or by taking them on a back-of-the-house sustainability tour

But we do hope that we are able to inspire many of our guests to live more sustainable lives by experiencing our hotels and resorts in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama

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