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5 Sustainable Travel Trends That Will Shape 2023

sustainable travel trends

For most Americans, the idea of traveling is starting to feel right again. As we begin to emerge from a global pandemic that required months of isolation and limited human contact, many people are making relaxation, conscious exploration and connection to nature a top priority.

As humanity continues to face what seems to be insurmountable challenges, traveling responsibly can play a vital role in creating healthy communities and advancing environmental sustainability initiatives.

There is so much hope to be had for the future and these sustainable travel trends are paving the way for climate resilience initiatives, rebuilding healthy, self-sustaining communities and conservation efforts worldwide.

Travel That Regenerates Communities

The appeal of regenerative and impact tourism is that it gives travelers a chance to have a positive influence on the places they visit and to leave communities and the environment better than they found it.

When looking for opportunities to support these initiatives, you may not need to look further than where you are staying.

 “Hotels are becoming more socially innovative to encourage philanthropic and sustainable efforts amongst guests,” according to the 2022 Kind Traveler Global Impact Tourism Report: Hotels, Charities and Destinations.

By integrating give-back initiatives to local communities on-site, sustainable purchasing and recommending attractions and creating partnerships with charities connected to community and environmental impact, hotels are making sustainable and regenerative efforts more accessible.

Sustainable travel is either somewhat important or very important to 225 million American adults, according to a new survey from The Vacationer. Nearly 82% of travelers say they will make more sustainable or eco-friendly decisions when planning their trips and more than 78% say they would pay more to lower their carbon footprint.

By following the lead of hotels, the tourism industry at large can make a crucial impact if more avenues for regenerative and sustainable travel are made available.

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Responsible Wildlife Tourism

Protecting the planet’s wildlife is imperative if we want to ensure the health of its ecosystems. One of the ways to create awareness is through responsible wildlife tourism.

Experiencing the beauty and awe of a wild animal in its natural habitat is something that can move a person towards advocacy and activism in protecting biodiversity if the excursion is conducted in a respectful manner.

“Elephant rides, tiger selfies, walks with lions, monkey shows, swimming with dolphins – each ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity for a tourist means a lifetime for suffering for animals,” states global non-profit, World Animal Protection.

Protection of wildlife can sometimes go beyond the obvious and requires some homework on the part of travelers. When it comes to education, travelers can explore 14 Animal Attractions to Avoid, a guide written by Animal Defenders International.

Choosing Vegan Hotels

To some folks the idea of a vegan hotel may seem strange, but the idea of connecting with food and design in a way that does not harm any animal is beneficial to the soul and the planet.

“Air and water pollution can be directly attributed to the livestock sector, which is the largest contributor to global water pollution,” reports Climate Nexus. Livestock is also one of the leading drivers of global deforestation and is linked to nearly a third of biodiversity loss.

In choosing to stay at a vegan hotel, travelers actively participate in climate resilience initiatives while enjoying a bounty of healthful meals and ethical design choices. 

While not 100% vegan, don’t miss the vegan-friendly Grand Velas in Riviera Nayarit, which partnered with popular vegan chef Miguel Bautista to add vegan menus to its three restaurants and 24-hour room service.

sustainable travel trends

New Avenues to Climate-Friendly Travel

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst to inspire climate-friendly travel. People chose to spend their holiday closer to home – or chose more planet-friendly transportation options, such traveling via train (one of the most climate-friendly options), using public transport or opting for travel via electric vehicle.

The rise of electric bikes also allowed people to cruise effortlessly around cities and back roads exploring the sights and sounds of a place from a more intimate perspective.

Airlines are also investing in sustainable fuel and carbon offsetting options. For example, Southwest Airlines recently announced its plan for carbon neutrality by 2050. With increased awareness of the climate crisis, travelers have the opportunity to support – near and far – green cities and sustainable destinations, as well as travel during the off-season when there is less tourism.  

Raising the Bar for Transparency 

Greenwashing, or when companies make misleading claims about their environmental impact, isn’t a new concept, but it continues to flood the travel industry.

More than ever, travelers are looking to a future where there are high levels of transparency within every aspect of tourism. Luckily, there are reputable organizations that verify and/or certify hotels, tour operators and agencies with accreditations that ensure sustainable operations.

Green Destinations, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council), B Corp, Center for Responsible Travel and International Ecotourism Society are just a few examples that offer certifications and partnerships. 

Will you be traveling sustainably in 2023? Tell us in the comments.

AAA’s sustainable travel series is written in partnership with Kind Traveler, a women-and-veteran-owned public benefit corporation empowering travelers to make a positive impact in local communities, and contributing writer, Maria Russo.

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