• Carmen Lau
    Project Manager, Sustainability Consulting, CSR Asia, an ELEVATE company
  • Published: 29 July 2019

Future travelers driving the next wave of sustainable hospitality

Increasing levels of affluence are expected to fuel the growth of the global tourism industry by 4% annually, driving its share of global GDP to 10% within the next ten years. According to the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, this increase will also lead to 130% growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2035 compared with 2005 figures. For an industry responsible for 8% of all GHG emissions through travel and the consumption of related goods and services, decoupling economic growth from environmental impact is imperative. New research shows that the drivers of sustainability in the tourism industry are changing. New trends are emerging, and market opportunities are opening up for agile companies and entrepreneurs to meet the needs of ever-more socially and environmentally conscious consumers.

Over the past decade, responsible hotel companies have made a determined effort to deal with the impact their business activities have on the environment and communities, and in doing so have recognized tangible benefits including real efficiency gains and an enhanced corporate reputation. Since 2018, Hotel Yearbook, a hospitality research and publication specialist, has consulted hospitality experts to explore the associated trends and challenges for its Sustainable Hospitality edition. In 2018, cutting down on food waste, minimize water usage, eliminating plastics, conserving energy and adopting green building practices were the most prominent sustainability initiatives The 2020 report reveals that the drivers of hotels’ commitment to sustainability no longer come from economic factors, polices and regulations alone, but also by market and customers.

Young travelers and corporate clients are seeking out sustainable travel options

In a survey of 72,000 guests, Hilton found that social, environmental and ethical standards influenced buying preferences. One-third of guests reviewed a hotel’s environmental and social efforts before booking. The number jumped to 44% for those under 25. However, it was not only the younger generation of travelers indicating sustainability as a factor in travel decision making; corporate clients were also identified as more demanding in terms of sustainability. For instance, some companies would not organize a conference at a hotel if the venue does not comply with its own internal sustainability values.

Future travelers 2030

Future Traveller Tribes 2030 research examined six future traveller tribes set to reshape the travel industry in the next ten years.

Source: Amadeus and World Economic Forum

Amongst the six tribes, reward hunters, cultural purists and ethical travelers will have greater expectations of sustainable practices adopted by hotels. Understanding these travelers will not only help hotel companies to capture business opportunities, it can also guide them in strategic sustainability strategy development enabling them to be ahead of the curve in meeting customer’s expectations.

Serving future travelers

Creating transformative experiences for reward hunters

This tribe is keen to gain distinct experiences, access to special locations and places to stay that are a notch above the rest. Instead of mass-market offers, experiences encompassing the elements of self-actualization, personal transformation and growth will be more appealing to them.

In the Skift Report 2018, Fairmount shared examples of the experiences they now provide for reward hunters. In Dubai, Fairmont The Palm offer a monthly full moon yoga session on the beach. At the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Canada, which has been offering wellness retreats for years at its mountainous resort, visiting mindfulness instructors and creativity coaches are regularly invited to help inspire guests to self-reflect and renew. Fairmont Yangcheng Lake in China organizes kite flying activities on the banks of the lake or in the fields for adults to rediscover their inner child.

Immersing cultural purists into the local’s way of living

Cultural purists seek to be inspired by travel experiences that will allow them to immerse themselves into the authentic way of life. They want to remove barriers between themselves and the local experience. SALT hotels in Mauritius adopt a humanistic approach which enables their guests to discover their surroundings in the most authentic way. Each hotel design reflects local characteristic, motif and culture. Guests are provided with a bespoke guidebook written and photographed by locals, illustrated maps, a local SIM card and a choice of transport to explore independently. Besides, SALT has created a “Skill Swap” platform to offer guests the chance to exchange their knowledge and talent with the local community. These allow guests to participate in community life at a deeper level and establish relationships with the locals during their stay.

Bringing sustainable practices to the next level for ethical travelers

Ethical travelers allow their conscience to be their guide when organizing and undertaking their travel. They may make concessions to environmental concerns and have a heightened awareness of how their travel contributes to local economies.

Sleeping Around is a “pop-up” hotel that is continuously transforms by changing its location. Guests only know the city of their stay – Antwerp, Belgium. The hotel features transportable rooms and common spaces that are made of old shipping containers, recycled or locally sourced sustainable furnishing materials without compromising comfort and luxury. Saorsa Hotel, the first vegan hotel in the UK, extends the vegan philosophy to furnishings, toiletries, cleaning products, as well as all food and drinks. The chefs use ingredients either sourced from the hotel’s vegetable patch or independent local suppliers. Apart from that, the hotel is entirely powered by Ecotricity, a green energy company that’s Vegan Society-certified.

Implications for hotel companies

Travelers are increasingly aware of the environmental and social impact associated with their travel.  They are looking for travel offerings that bring transformative and cultural experiences coupled with stronger ethical elements. Companies that only comply with regulations can no longer satisfy the needs of these conscious consumers. However, beyond market demand, the tourism industry also faces an immense challenge in decarbonization.

The International Tourism Partnership has stated that for the hotel industry to align with the Paris Climate Agreement by 2050, it will need to reduce its GHG emissions per room per year by 90% compared with 2010. Considering the current growth rate of the industry, more than 80,000 hotels are expected to join the existing supply by 2050. In other words, the hotel industry needs to find ways to accommodate more guests, build more properties, and at the same time reduce the sector’s carbon footprint to achieve complete decarbonization by 2050. Achieving this will be to truly meet the expectations of its stakeholders.


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Sustainable Tourism Asia

Last year, CSR Asia announced the launch of Sustainable Tourism Asia on 29 November 2018 at the Marina Bay Sands Singapore. CSR Asia, an ELEVATE company, brought its global sustainability expertise and Asia focus to this forum that addresses gaps and challenges in the Asian sustainable tourism ecosystem.

Stay tuned for related conferences and events in 2019!


These blogs are written by ELEVATE staff members or associates and the views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of ELEVATE .




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