Most travelers say they care about sustainability but are they really walking the talk? 

Remember Kermit the frog’s song from the Muppets—“It’s not easy being green”? At the Cayuga Collection, we agree with Kermit.  It is not always easy to be green and sustainable. It requires us to go that extra mile and move out of our comfort zone. But more importantly, we must walk the talk!

According to recent studies, there is a growing desire amongst travelers to become more like Kermit: green and sustainable.  Sixty-one percent of U.S. travelers want to vacation more sustainably and 73 percent of global travelers claim that sustainable travel is important to them.  These numbers are based on the latest monthly report released from Booking.com’s 2022 Sustainable Travel Report. “Sustainable travel is no longer the ambition of the few but of the many,” the report reads. 

For over 25 years, the Cayuga Collection has been working on finding the symbiosis between sustainability and luxury.  In the 1990s and early 2000s, we started to share our vision of sustainable hospitality. We often got a “quirky” smile or a shrug from others in the industry back then. Funny enough, most of our guests did not quite understand or value our efforts either.

Since then, things have changed a bit. Floodings, severe storms, and prolonged droughts have all made us realize that we can’t go on doing business as usual.  Every day, more people claim to care about the environment.  However, the data suggests that there is a large “say-do discrepancy” in consumer behavior.  Let me explain.

Our planet is reaching a tipping point.  The worldwide CO2 output–despite the 2020 pandemic dip– is still on the rise. The window to reach our climate goals is shrinking by the minute.  If we continue to consume plastic, as we are currently doing, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. When you mix this toxic “plastic cocktail” with the loss of biodiversity, deforestation, and overpopulation, it becomes undigestible.   

Just saying that you care about sustainability is not enough anymore.

Most travelers do not have a concise idea of what it means to travel sustainably. Information and sources may sometimes be confusing or misleading.  Cost and convenience still clearly outweigh sustainable travel decisions.

Earlier this month, MMGY (the world’s leading marketing company specializing in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry) released the updated quarterly “Portrait of the American Traveler”.  More positive sustainability intentions are revealed in this study.  Eighty-one percent of active leisure travelers say they are willing to change travel behavior in order to reduce their impact on the environment.  However, here is the “say-do discrepancy” again. 

Only 21 percent would pay a $5 per night hotel fee to fund an environmental in-destination sustainability program.  And only 20 percent are willing to pay a 1 percent restaurant tax for the same purpose. 

Air travel is another issue that is on the traveler’s mind.  According to McKinsey, more than 5,500 air travelers are placing a heightened focus on the environment. Their carbon footprint is on the top of their list. This study indicates that more than half of respondents are “very worried” about climate change and feel aviation should become carbon neutral. 

According to the same McKinsey study, almost 40 percent of travelers are willing to pay at least 2 percent more for air travel that is carbon-neutral.  In a report published by Lufthansa’s Innovation Hub and Hopper, 78 percent of consumers wanted to see sustainable travel alternatives and 73 percent said they would pay for them. In the end, only 1 percent of travelers eventually offset their emissions.

How do those numbers make you feel?  Let’s invite this upcoming Earth Day with a willingness to walk the talk.  Be the change you want to see. 

Back to Kermit from Sesame Street.  No, it is not easy being green, but Kermit finishes his song by saying “I think it is beautiful and it is what I want to be.”  If you are ready to walk the talk with us on sustainable travel, I would be happy to help you sing that last line with Kermit.

Please contact me on how to vacation more sustainably in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama.  Hans Pfister, President and Co-Founder of the Cayuga Collection: hans@cayugaonline.com

Happy Earth Day 2022 from all of us at the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges. 

One Response

  1. Great post and so true, Hans! I find myself in constant contradiction as a traveller, as a consumer, at home, with my work… Our lives are systematically constrained by past decisions, time or habits. This is why Nudging sustainable behavior is becoming so important. I leave here the link to the work of Sara Dolnicar, really inspiring in how to help tourists, teams, family or colleagues to walk the talk to sustainability. https://youtu.be/gtv4BHqEpN8

    1. Thank you Noemi for sharing the video. Very interesting. I think it would be good to see what her research says post covid.

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