Going Green: The Future of Travel in a Changing Climate

Riverfront and bridges in Tennessee

For more and more vacationers, every day is Earth Day. Most travelers will go the extra mile to reduce their carbon footprint. According to a recent Expedia Group Sustainable Travel study, about 90% of consumers actively seek sustainable options when planning their travels.

From cruise lines to luxury resorts, and airlines to destinations, the travel industry is taking bold steps towards a greener future.

Sustainable Travel Options

As sustainability becomes part of trip planning for travelers, the demand for eco-friendly options is increasing. From eco-hotels to public transport and locally sourced cuisine to sustainable destinations, vacationers are looking for ways to minimize their environmental impact while still experiencing the world.

Aditi Mohapatra, VP of Global Social Impact & Sustainability at Expedia Group, says, “While travelers are increasingly interested in choosing sustainable travel options, they are finding the experience to identify those options challenging.

“…Making sustainable travel choices clear and stress-free is [our] goal. We are optimistic about our opportunities to support the industry in building a more prosperous planet for generations to come,” Mohapatra continues.

Responsible Travel is Key to the Future

Germany is rising in the world’s top 10 most popular travel destinations and has an excellent reputation for sustainability. The 2023 City Index for Mindful Travelers ranks 167 countries based on their environmentally friendly travel options. Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Berlin all score in the top 20.

The German National Tourist Board (GNTB) picked up on this trend and expanded the scope of its “Feel Good” campaign by promoting a wide range of sustainable tourism offerings. That includes places like Lübeck, the city of seven towers, known to have culture on every corner.

“Sustainable tourism has the potential to make a meaningful contribution to climate change mitigation,” says Petra Hedorfer, Chief Executive Officer of the GNTB. “Positioning Destination Germany as a sustainable, high-quality tourism brand is key to a successful future in the international market. Tourism that ignores the complex aspects of sustainability will be the architect of its own downfall in the long run.”

Protecting Places

Eco-friendly tour operators are stepping up to protect the environment. The Belize Barrier Reef is an excellent example of how tourism can harmonize with nature without causing irreparable harm.

Jenn and Ed Coleman of Coleman Concierge share, “As professional scuba influencers with hundreds of logged dives, we’ve witnessed the tangible influence of sustainable diving and its importance. As a consumer, we urge you to carefully vet the scuba company you choose to dive with to ensure they utilize sustainable practices and encourage their customers to do the same.”

Renewable Energy, Carbon Neutrality

The tourism sector contributes heavily to carbon emissions. It’s responsible for roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. Embracing renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power helps curb reliance on fossil fuels, a primary source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Not only is Sonoma County, Calif. working towards the goal of carbon neutrality by 2030, but the area also has access to locally produced, 100% renewable power.

“Located along Sonoma County’s northeast border with Lake County is ‘The Geysers’ — the largest geothermal power complex in the world,” points out Devin McConnell, Sustainability and Climate Initiatives Manager at Sonoma County Tourism.

“The power generated, and supplemented further by solar, gives most Sonoma County homes and businesses the option of 100% renewable, locally generated energy. It’s an immensely valuable resource as the County works towards its goal of carbon neutrality,” McConnell adds.

The eastern Caribbean island of Barbados is also emerging as a trailblazer in forging a sustainable future. It’s the first island in the region to chart a course towards 100% renewable energy by 2030. It also has an ambitious carbon neutrality goal of 70% by 2050. Barbados paints an aspirational vision of ecological resilience and responsibility.

Eco-Friendly Accommodations

According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s May 2023 report, 65% of travelers would feel better in a certified sustainable accommodation, and 59% filter for options with sustainable certification when booking.

There are plenty of eco-conscious accommodations in Belize. According to Anoushka De Boucherville-Brandl, Commercial Director of Matachica Resort & Spa and GAÏA Riverlodge in Belize, “Based on our own evolving view of what it means to be sustainable, we are committed to eco-friendly practices such as choosing to expand an outdoor deck at Green Globe Certified GAÏA Riverlodge for additional open space instead of air conditioning, as well as installing a solar panel at the property and initiating a composting program at Matachica Resort & Spa.

“We are hopeful that in our lifetime, our properties will not only be sustainable but create a positive impact.

“We are also passionate about equality, culture, and the power of travel. Belize is our home, and its people are our community. Through the Kind Traveler initiative, we play a part in empowering the people of Belize and helping local schools with supplies through the Pack for Purpose program. We want our guests to experience the unique Belizean offerings believing that travel can power ecosystem growth and increase well-being,” De Boucherville-Brandl concludes.

Sustainable Travel Methods

Vacationers are increasingly seeking more sustainable travel methods to minimize their impact. From battery-powered cruise ships to aviation biofuel derived from microalgae, innovation and change in the travel industry is on the rise.

Chattanooga, Tenn., is a prime example of how cities can pivot toward sustainability. The city has made great strides from being named America’s most polluted city in 1969 to opening the world’s first LEED Platinum Certified Aviation Terminal at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport. Tourists are taking advantage of the free electric shuttle ferries and the extensive bike-share transit system while exploring the great outdoors.

Another example is San Luis Obispo County along California’s Central Coast. The SLO Car Free program aims to have half of all local trips take place outside of private vehicles by 2035. They partner with Amtrak for 20% off fares and more discounts to local hotels, restaurants, and bike rental shops when going car-free.

Deutsche Bahn, one of Europe’s most significant transport companies, is dedicated to an ambitious climate protection goal to be completely climate-neutral by 2040. They plan to achieve this by building new infrastructure for battery-powered trains, supplying fuel cell trains with hydrogen, and using synthetic fuels.

Lufthansa, the second-largest airline in Europe in terms of passengers, is a pioneer in the aviation industry. The Lufthansa Group is involved in several projects to accelerate the development of the next generation of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) produced without fossil energy.

With SAF, Lufthansa will reduce 20% of flight-related CO2 emissions and offset the remaining 80% of the CO2 emissions by an equivalent contribution to high-quality climate protection projects.

A Legacy of Preservation

From the clear waters of Belize to the historic cities of Germany, destinations are weaving a narrative of responsible exploration, preservation, and appreciation. Each decision to explore with mindfulness, support eco-friendly initiatives, and tread lightly on fragile ecosystems contributes to a legacy of conservation for future generations.

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Travel Binger.

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Bella Bucchiotti is a nationally syndicated food, travel, and lifestyle writer at xoxoBella. As a social media influencer, Bella can be found on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. She has been featured in publications such as MSN, Self, Well + Good, Country Living, Women’s Day, New York Post, Salon, and more.

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