Of course, the travel industry was one of the biggest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, but consumer demand seems to be returning. In the last few weeks and months we’ve seen increased pressure on our airports and with travel restrictions around testing lifted for many destinations, consumer appetite is on the way up.

Immediately after (and during the pandemic) we saw a short-term shift. Specifically around a preference for staycations and increased fear of international travel. Yes they are still issues for the industry, but only for the short-term. A return to normalised travel patterns is expected and is already beginning to emerge. But when it comes to greener travel, things will never be the same again.

Greener travel and the power of the consumer

In our Travel DNA report, we explore the micro trend of Greener Travel within the macro trend of Travel in the Age of Universal Activism. Here we’ll look at what that means for consumer choice.

Even before Covid-19 hit, many consumers were looking critically at their travel choices. In fact, by 2020 15% of consumers claimed to have chosen an alternative means of transport to avoid flying for environmental reasons. This is predicted to rise to 27% by 2025.

And five years on by 2030, more consumers will approach travel as they do eating meat, for example. Just as many of us now do with meat, conscious decisions to abstain will be made. Alongside this, consumers will demand more responsible travel polices and modes of mobility.

This is just the start. Let’s look in more detail at what this choice means for the future of the travel industry.

Consumers will choose alternative methods of transport

Flying was for so long the go-to for many consumers. It was quick, easy and relatively cheap. Then came flying shame.

This was already an emerging sentiment pre-pandemic, with unnecessary or egregious causes of emissions being called out for their wasteful impact. Post-pandemic, travelling less often has become the norm, and what was once considered an acceptable level of emissions continues to be scrutinised more closely.

Consumers are now looking for alternative methods of transport – brands that can provide this whilst also offering an experience will rise to prominence. Take for example what was once considered one of the most romantic forms of transport – sleeper trains. It’s now set to enjoy a resurgence.

In June 2021, French start-up Midnight Trains announced plans to launch a network of overnight sleeper trains from Paris starting in 2024—positioned as an intimate, private alternative to short-haul flights and state-run SNCF sleepers. The ‘hotels on rails’ will travel from the French capital to 12 other European destinations in countries including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Scotland.

Greener, romantic and an experience in itself. Is it the future or just a fad whilst green technology plays catch-up?

Consumers will look at carbon offsetting and carbon fasting

Again, before green technology offers a real and viable alternative to flying, consumers will look at their own habits.

So, where flying is still a necessity for example – a carbon-intense one at that – consumers will begin to offset this with carbon fasting. In 2030, this is expected to go as far as some consumers taking a flexitarian approach to travel, engaging in travel free months and years. A decade ago, meat free days seemed a radical proposition. The jump to no-fly periods now feels like a natural progression.

And one that may also be enshrined in legislation, with many countries set to follow the lead of France with no-fly days.

Consumers will expect travel companies to be transparent

We’re seeing it with fashion, and we’ve seen it with Fair Trade food. Transparency is key to enable consumers to make environmental choices in their daily lives. Travel is already beginning to follow suit.  

Right now, just shy of half of UK consumers (47%) are interested in using an app to help them track their personal impact on the environment. Across Gen Z and Millennials this is almost 75%.

The onus is now on brands to act. We’re already seeing a shift in this area with Google adding eco-friendly routes to its maps and many brands adding carbon footprint tracking to their services, providing shortcuts for consumers wanting to make more sustainable travel choices.

Technology is already beginning to facilitate change, but by 2030 for many consumers this needs to be sweeping technological change.

Consumers will demand greener modes of mobility

In the next eight years, travellers will take on the role of concerned citizens and will demand more responsible travel policies and greener modes of mobility. We’re talking solutions rooted in carbon-neutral travel to developments of new vegan airplane materials.

And as we’re seeing the prominence of consumers as activists, in 2030 they will be holding brands to account even more. Green credentials will be as important a consideration as price. This requires investment in technology, a complete culture shift for many organisations and active measures that prioritise a healthy world over profit margins.

Put simply, those brands that fail to adapt in line with consumer demand will fall exponentially behind.

So, how can brands keep up with the pace of change?

In our Travel DNA report, we dive further into the changing consumer demand around ethical and sustainable travel. We also highlight the key changes brands need to make now and in the next two to five years to keep up with the pace of change. Download the Travel DNA Report now.

And in our latest webinar, we looked in detail at the opportunities for brands when it comes to tackling these changing consumer travel choices. Watch the webinar now.