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Sustainable Travel Offers Opportunity for Brands That Can Walk the Walk

August 8, 2022

What’s Going On? 

Back in February, Expedia CEO Peter Kern predicted that the summer of 2022 would be the busiest travel season ever. “We’ve been talking about pent-up demand for a long time, but until now there have been too many restrictions in place for people to do too much with it,” he explained to Bloomberg. 

Travel numbers are in fact soaring as we enter the summer months, even amid growing concerns about the economy. As COVID-induced mask mandates and border restrictions have vanished, consumers are eager to go out and explore the world again. 

And recent research shows that a great number of travelers want to help protect the planet when they plan their getaways. In fact, a Google study documented a 70% increase in the number of people searching for sustainable travel (Earth-Changers.com). 

Why Does It Matter? 

The same Google study determined that only one in three travelers knows how to search for sustainable options. For travel brands, that spells a tremendous opportunity to connect with consumers by making it as easy as possible to find options that’ll fulfill their desires for environmentally friendly travel and leisure. 

This is especially important for gaining traction with younger audiences who are beginning to establish the preferences and values that will define their behavior as consumers for decades to come. In fact, a survey from The Conference Board found that 70% of urban Gen Z respondents said a brand’s actions on climate choice would influence their purchase decisions “very much” or “quite a bit.”  

What Should Brands Be Doing About It? 

With consumers becoming more socially conscious in general – and especially aware of the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions – it’s imperative that brands find a way to put the issue front and center in their dialog with customers. That means making the information available on regular channels and articulating clear ways consumers can engage with a brand’s sustainability initiatives.  

For example, we recently launched a campaign for longtime client Visit North Carolina’s Outdoor NC program that encourages visitors and partners throughout the state to embrace its seven Leave No Trace Principles. Leave No Trace is a program that appeals to a shared ethic of care for the environment, and offers conservation Principles to preserve and protect the environment while enjoying all it offers. 

Outdoor NC aims to encourage responsible travel to North Carolina’s outdoor destinations and preserve their richness. Its “Make It Your Nature” campaign embodies the essence of the sustainability movement and appeals to those who value protecting the environment by using striking imagery that combines human forms with breathtaking nature shots. 

Visit NC’s dedication to the environment doesn’t stop with one initiative and isn’t limited to Outdoor NC.   The Leave No Trace ethics are used as guidelines for all marketing communication – for instance, never depicting someone walking off a nature trail or interacting with a wild animal, both of which would conflict with the Leave No Trace guidelines. Visit NC is investing in the promotion of less-visited destinations to reduce the environmental impact of overcrowding at more popular locales. 

That’s an important consideration: if a brand is going to champion sustainability, it should be mindful of the environmental impact of nearly everything they do. 

Intrepid Travel, one of the world’s largest B Corporations, offers “people and planet-friendly adventures” – and their commitment is pulled through multiple aspects of their business. They’re mindful of the environmental impact of the adventures they offer and the way they’re delivered. Adventures like community-based tourism to less-traveled places enable support of First Nations and Indigenous communities around the world. 

Messaging supports awareness of the ways sustainable practices can enrich the experiences of travelers and host communities alike during their stays. And, the carbon footprint of the trips is actively monitored. Intrepid has been carbon neutral since 2010 and continues to offset carbon trips. Last year, they announced a plan to cut flights under 90 minutes on top itineraries when land or rail options were available. 

When your brand values align with your consumers’ values in tangible, authentic ways, the rewards can be extremely promising. Authenticity is key, as today’s consumers are extremely savvy – if they detect greenwashing, brands risk facing backlash from a passionate and vocal constituency that could be very damaging. 

Intrepid and VNC are great examples of brands that are mindful of sustainability across all aspects of the business – from the information they share and the initiatives they support to the ways they mitigate environmental impact through their operations and practices. 


Is your brand delivering on sustainability messaging? We can help.

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