Looking ahead: what are the trends in the future of sustainable travel?

According to the World Tourism Organisation, sustainable travel refers to “travel that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.” In this article we look at the main trends in sustainable practices, consumers expectations and ways to mitigate the environmental impacts of travel in the coming years.  

1. Increased interest in sustainable practices

The demand for more sustainable practices in the travel industry has been accentuated in our post-pandemic world as people have seen the positive impact travelling less can have on our environment. Although people still want to travel, they are also increasingly calling for sustainable travel options and alternative destinations to reduce their impact on the local environment and communities they visit. A recent survey conducted by Booking.com with 33,000 travellers across 35 countries and territories revealed that global travellers are now looking beyond ‘sustainable travel’ and calling for ‘regenerative travel’ options and “regenerative experiences that positively impact destinations with benefits to wildlife, conservation and the local community”.

Recent research also shows that support for sustainable business and general environment concern is not only occurring among consumers in high-income countries, but is also strong in developing and emerging economies. A 2021 report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by the WWF, shows that an ‘eco-wakening’ is happening across the world with the most dramatic growth in engagement and awareness observed in Asia.

2. Travellers demand transparency

Travellers who are more mindful of their impact on the environment and are seeking sustainable options are also looking for more transparency from travel companies. They demand assurance that the choices they make are aligned with their convictions. Consumers are increasingly wary of greenwashing and false claims, as highlighted by the backlash some airlines have experienced in recent years when communicating on their carbon offset programmes. The negative reaction was mainly due to a lack of clarity and consistency with the calculation methodologies used by offsetting schemes which led people to lose trust in a method that could otherwise be beneficial and help achieve lower emissions goals. Methodologies used to calculate the reduction in emissions and environmental impact of travel need to be rigorous, accurate and certified by recognised organisations such as ICAO’s CORSIA.

More transparency means need for accurate data, honest communication and alignment across industry. If data varies from one provider to another this will create confusion for the end user who will end up disregarding the information altogether.

3. Balancing cost of living and climate crisis

The rising cost of living and the climate crisis are two important factors for consumers’ decision-making in today’s economic landscape. People do not want to have to make a choice between sustainability and spending. They are seeking more sustainable travel options rich in rewards, with a new demand for ‘green incentivisation’. Qantas Frequent Flyer Green Tier which sits alongside the airline’s existing Frequent Flyer programme is a great example of such green incentivisation. It enables members to access exclusive rewards and benefits through the Qantas Frequent Flyer programme for their sustainable actions. According to the airline, since the programme’s launch in 2022, over 650,000 Qantas frequent flyers have engaged in the Green Tier.

Recent trials and studies have also shown that with transparent and impactful schemes, passengers are happy to get involved in a company’s sustainable efforts and will even agree to spend more for more eco-friendly options. With Air France-KLM’s dedicated Sustainable Aviatation Fuel (SAF) programmes for example, SAF contributions have been integrated in tickets sold since January 2022 (between €1 and €8 in economy and between €1.50 and €24 in business, depending on the distance) and both individual and corporate consumers have engaged positively with the programmes. Similarly, Lufthansa Group recently announced having passed the milestone of one million passengers purchasing its Green Fares since the group launched the fare option in August 2022.  

4. Focus on key travellers profiles

Some travellers profiles will likely have a strong influence in shaping the future of sustainable travel:  

  • Corporate travel: large companies who have to report on ESG and emissions will increasingly start to look at setting carbon budgets for business travel and make decisions based on carbon emission efficiency and environmental impact. Data science makes reporting on past trends easy and companies' decision-makers will increasingly look at their staff travel data to select low-impact modes of transport, travel partners, routes etc. in order to align with new rigorous sustainability standards and lower their emissions.  
  • New Demographics: for individual travellers, it is important to note the transition from Millennials to gen Z (those born between the mid-1990s and early-2010s) as a force for change on the market. People from gen Z typically share a very strong interest in sustainability and are very mindful of their environmental impact. In a March 2023 survey of US GenZ, EMarketer found that 47% of gen Z consumers want companies they interact with and shop from to support environmental causes, including climate change and sustainability. When it comes to travel, the influence of gen Z is reflected in a shift towards authentic, immersive experiences. They are more inclined to choose less-explored destinations and to adopt sustainable travel practices. This trend is paving the way for the growth of ecotourism, voluntourism and the demand for regenerative travel.

5. Collaboration is key

Recent years have seen a rise in the number of summits and events organised to foster cooperation across the aviation industry. For example the IATA 2nd WSS coming up in September, Sustainable Skies World Summit (15-16th May in Farnborough), Sustainable Aviation Futures Congress (EU edition 21st-23rd May) etc. This trend highlights the desire of industry stakeholders to engage in crucial discussions about aviation's common sustainability objectives. It is also a recognition that the challenge of de-carbonising the industry can only be achieved through real cooperation.

Some players from other industries such as technology providers are also looking to take a part in this transition to sustainable practices and will likely help shape the future of sustainable travel. For instance, Google has recently started working with the travel industry, academics and travel providers to develop its Travel Impact Model (TIM) which is now publicly available and free to all users. The tech giant believes that this model has the potential to “estimate air travel impact globally and lead to a climate-positive change in the travel industry”.  

Collaboration is also key beyond the traditional borders of the industry. According to SITA’s 2024 "Megatrends" report, the next decade will see the emergence of seamless intermodal travel. The SITA report predicts that “there will be a push for more connected journeys with sustainable operations and new collaboration models using trusted data exchange for the broader end-to-end travel ecosystem.”


“Caring for People and Planet” is one of Branchspace’s 6 core values and we strive to incorporate this in everything we do. Conscious that our activities will impact others and the world we live in, we want to be part of the industry’s shift towards better, more sustainable travel practices. Looking at the market trends for sustainable travel is key to shape an impactful sustainability improvement plan that meets the concerns of our partners and their customers. We take these new needs into account when thinking about our product development roadmap as well as our continuous improvement plans around people and business practices and will keep brining you the latest news and figures about sustainability and social responsibility through our blog and social media in the months to come.