Case Study

Sustainable Travel Takes Off

Global tourism has experienced steady growth for over six decades, culminating in an estimated 1.2 billion international tourist arrivals in 2016, a figure that is forecast to rise to 1.8 billion by 2030.

According to the United Nations, tourism is the fourth largest polluter in Europe and accounts for approximately 8% of global carbon emissions.

Inspired by high-profile campaigns from the likes of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, travelers are beginning to take stock of their environmental impacts. While some are pledging to give up flying entirely, others are looking to make their trips more sustainable. With the Swedish-born movement of “flight shaming” gaining prominence, Sweden saw a 4% drop in the number of people flying via its airports in 2019, and UBS found that 21% of survey respondents from across the US, Germany, France and the UK had reduced the number of flights they took over the last year.

In response to this growing trend, Dutch airline KLM launched a campaign in 2019 asking people to fly less. The video and open letter from CEO Pieter Elbers asks: “Do you always have to meet face-to-face?” and “Could you take the train instead?” Meanwhile, easyJet is set to become the world’s first major airline to operate net-zero carbon flights across its entire network after announcing it would offset all jet fuel emissions.

“Consumers are finally beginning to vote with their wallet, choosing more sustainable options at the product, brand and behavior levels. Brands have an opportunity — and a need — to take action, both to mitigate risk of being left behind and to leverage opportunities created by these growing shifts.”
Douglas Sabo, Global Head of Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability, Visa Inc.

Consumers are also increasingly expecting travel companies to offer more sustainable options once they reach their destination, wanting the money they spend on tourism to go back to the local communities they visit. Led by Prince Harry, HRH The Duke of Sussex, Travalyst is a new initiative founded by Visa,, Ctrip, Skyscanner and TripAdvisor with the ambition to change the impact of travel, for good.

With the EU considering a tax on aviation fuel and France having already introduced an eco-tax on flying, we predict the coming decade will see a rapid growth in investment in sustainable flying initiatives as airlines attempt to meet the industry’s collective commitment to cut carbon emissions by 2050.

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