The future of sustainable travel in a post COVID world

Rewind to the beginning of the year and sustainable travel was on a tidal wave. Greta Thunberg was inspiring a nation of climate change rallies, tourism businesses were seeing the green light and pledging a future of being kinder to the environment and as consumers, we were throwing sustainability into the holiday planning mix. Then came Covid-19, lockdown and a shift in focus. Suddenly the brakes had been slammed on the sustainability agenda and that tidal wave had retreated.

So, what has been left in the aftermath? Do we care as much now as we did five months ago? Will everyone now be rushing to jump on the first long-haul flight in a post-lockdown hurrah or are we kinder, wiser, more considered in our impact and a reformed nation of staycationers with a conscious about how we’re travelling? We tuned in to a sustainable travel webinar with a panel of top travel journalists to hear their predictions.

The new ways of tourism

On one hand a pause in travel has accelerated the sustainable conversation, allowing people to intensify their focus on it. As travel starts to rev up again, we have an opportunity to redesign tourism and bring sustainability to the forefront. However, counteracting this is the reality that sustainability initiatives cost money to develop and can be expensive to implement. In the short-term – after such economic loss – companies are likely to turn down the volume on sustainability and revisit it later down the line.

The year of the staycation

There’s a renewed focus on domestic tourism and the landscape is changing with huge interest and growth in the number of camping, glamping, cabin, rural and remote options. But will this flurry of interest stretch into next year and beyond? Well, yes, is the general consensus. 2020 holds a golden opportunity to open people’s eyes to the value of holidaying at home in the UK. You don’t have to hop on a plane to have an amazing time and explore somewhere new. It’s right here. And the hope is that the new norm of face masks and screens will spur people into seeking out natural options which is where alternatives such as eco-resorts will start to come in.

Choosing sustainable travel is a luxury

There’s a public desire for sustainable travel and it’s matched by businesses but it isn’t mainstream… yet. It will take a long time for rail to become cheaper than air through an increase in demand and only recently the EU agreed to allow airlines to wriggle out of paying for their emissions until 2024. We still need to be having these conversations to push sustainable travel up the agenda. Climate change isn’t going away.

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