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Virtuoso survey suggests pandemic will spark more responsible travel

Luxury travel network Virtuoso forecasts a 'conscious comeback' for discerning clients based on new survey findings in advance of Earth Day (April 22).

The results indicate travelers are cognizant of their place and impact in the world, and this has led to what Virtuoso Vice Chair and sustainability strategist Jessica Hall Upchurch dubbed the 'conscious comeback' as travel reopens in innovative ways.

Given the biggest concern regarding travel and sustainability before the pandemic was overtourism, Virtuoso considers it encouraging that the overwhelming majority of respondents are willing to visit a popular destination during off-peak seasons or opt for an alternative, less-frequented destination.

Some 70% of consumers surveyed agreed that traveling sustainably enhances the vacation experience. And the desire to explore the planet in a way that protects the places they love for future generations is strong, particularly among affluent consumers.

A transformation, not a trend

'This past year has led to travel’s great reset and one of the positive outcomes has been an awakening in terms of our greater responsibility to each other and to the planet,' Hall Upchurch said. 'We’ve always felt that sustainability isn’t a trend — it’s a transformation — and there is a natural evolution that occurs in any movement that has a groundswell of support.

'We’ve seen the consumer mindset move from basic awareness and a general sentiment of "someone should do something," to the notion of "I can and should do something,"' she continued. 'This renewed purpose coincides with the recognition of oneness that the pandemic has created, and it’s driving people to make different choices on their future travels than perhaps they did just over a year ago.'

Survey highlights

Eight-two percent of respondents indicated the pandemic has made them want to travel more responsibly.

Asked which of the three pillars of sustainable travel they feel most connected to — support of local communities and economies, preservation of a destination's cultural heritage and protection of the planet — 72% answered 'all of the above,' while individual items tallied 10%, 10% and 5% respectively and 3% answered 'none of the above.'

When making vacation plans, asked if it’s important to choose a hotel, cruise line or travel company that has a strong sustainability policy, 50% said that's 'very important' and 28% 'somewhat important,' while for 13% it hasn't factored into their decision-making. And 9% said they need more education on the topic first.

Asked what they'd be willing to do to help curb overtourism, 76% of respondents would visit a popular destination during an off-peak time of year, 69% would be OK with traveling to an alternative, less-touristed destination and 13% would pay more to access a popular destination. Just 5% would do none of these.

Seventy percent believe that traveling sustainably enhances their vacation experience, while 23% don't know and 7% disagree.