By AAA Travel Editor Sherry Mims
April 07, 2022
Renting a bicycle at a local bike shop. Participating in a park cleanup. Buying traditional sweetgrass baskets from Gullah Geechee basket weavers in South Carolina. All these activities are examples of sustainable travel, a concept that focuses on how to maintain travel and tourism without hurting or exploiting natural or cultural environments in the process.
Sustainable travel and tourism includes harnessing the revenue generated by travelers to benefit destinations and the people that live there in a sustainable way, such as ensuring local earnings go back to benefit the community. It means being conscientious of the resources you use and how your behavior can impact the places you visit. Tourism, one of the world’s largest industries, has a huge impact.
That’s where AAA Travel and Tourism Cares come in. AAA Travel is joining Tourism Cares, a non-profit organization focused on the sustainability of the travel and tourism industry, in the latter organization’s mission to unite the travel industry to be “a catalyst for positive social, environmental and economic impact for the people and places of travel.” With that goal in mind, Tourism Cares works to "create opportunities, empower communities, amplify culture and protect the environment while building inclusivity and understanding,” with an aim to work together to “change individuals, communities and, sometimes, even the world.”
Sustainability is no longer a niche topic but a core business practice in the travel industry. Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel Report found that 83 percent of travelers surveyed believe “sustainable travel is a vital issue.”
Keeping this in mind, AAA Travel and Tourism Cares are working together to recognize that some travel experiences are more sustainable and meaningful than others. By understanding the needs and expectations of travelers, the two organizations can implement new systems and work toward a sustainable future.
After all, the demand will only increase. In the Expedia Group Travel Outlook report from April 2021, Generation Z leads the way as the cohort with the most interest in considering sustainable travel options, at 67 percent, followed by millennials at 64 percent, Generation X at 43 percent and baby boomers at 32 percent.
“Every generation is defined by a signature issue: For Gen Z, that is climate,” according to J. Walker Smith, Knowledge Lead, Consulting Division Canta. “As other generations hand the reins to Gen Z, climate will be the biggest challenge for society and the marketplace. … Gen Z will lean into this issue in far-reaching ways across every category and every business model. The future of sustainability is no less than the future of Gen Z.”
So what does sustainable, eco-friendly tourism look like? Namely, ensuring business practices prioritize the environment and empower communities, like responsible travel tours and attractions. At an individual level, that could include trip-planning with the Meaningful Map of North America and working with a travel advisor to find more eco-friendly modes of transportation.