Skip to main content

Three years on from the start of the global pandemic, the tourism sector is going from strength to strength. With the push to make up for lost time, a new profile of sustainable traveler has emerged, with environmental and ethical considerations now key factors in travel decision-making. In fact, 69% of tourists plan to travel sustainably in 2023.

This evolution in mindset comes at a time when responsible travel is urgently needed. Whether that means reducing your energy consumption or preserving the culture of a local community, sustainability is no longer a choice, but an imperative that will impact our society and the vacation rental industry in the years to come.

This needn’t be a struggle for vacation rental professionals, but instead is an opportunity to future-proof your business. With the global sustainable tourism industry valued at 181.1bn USD, it’s time to take steps towards an environmentally sustainable vacation rental business.

In this article, we’ve put together some of the most important sustainable tourism statistics and trends to help professional property managers to be at the forefront of the hospitality industry.

What is ecotourism?

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) describes sustainable tourism as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities”

This type of responsible travel, also known as ecotourism, has become increasingly popular in recent years, with reports showing that 81% of travelers worldwide believe that sustainable travel is important.

For property managers seeking to align with traveler values and appeal directly to this sector – undertaking sustainable habits is a crucial step. 

Which countries are most sustainable?

According to the 2022 Sustainable Development Report, the countries with the highest overall performance on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were:

    1. Finland
    2. Denmark
    3. Sweden
    4. Norway
    5. Austria

While these results are mainly due to proactive governments that develop protective policies and regulations against climate change, they can still be used as inspiration by countries whose decision-making representatives have failed to take action.

In Finland, for example, people have a deep appreciation for nature and connect with it at a very early age. This mindset is intensified in their adult life and results in a population that fights to protect their environment and preserve natural resources.

As stakeholders of global tourism, property managers can take small steps towards promoting this mentality to guests by starting a garden or recommending a variety of nature escapes that focus on the biodiversity of the area. 

Sustainable Tourism Statistics Shaping the Travel Industry

Sustainable Tourism Statistics Shaping the Travel Industry

We’ve gathered relevant sustainable tourism statistics and trends that are quickly shaping the vacation rental industry and tourism sector.

Professional property managers around the world can use this knowledge to boost their vacation rental business. That’s because, aside from taking care of your surrounding environment, economy, and society, sustainable actions also increase your vacation rental profitability by targeting an emerging group of conscious global travelers.  

1. Guests need clarity on sustainable travel

Recent stats suggest that 61% of travelers are interested in learning more about ecotourism, whereas only 46% feel clear on how to actually arrange sustainable trips. This is where property managers can help out. By making it clear which steps have been taken to make your vacation rentals more eco-friendly, you’re helping guests to make informed decisions about their travel. 

If in doubt about where to begin, consider seeking guidance from vacation rental sustainability experts, who can offer free resources to help you go green. 

2. Guests are actively seeking eco-friendly accommodation

A survey of travelers’ plans for 2023 saw that 78% planned to stay in eco-friendly accommodation this year. 

Further, recent studies suggest that pro-sustainable tourists are prepared to pay more for green stays. This not only suggests the potential for increased revenue at sustainable vacation rentals, but also the opportunity to offset any costs associated with switching to more green practices. 

Communicating what steps have been made to make a property eco-friendly will help your vacation rental business stand out from competitors and increase bookings. Whether that be on your website or in listing descriptions, be sure to clearly highlight what efforts have gone into this sustainable experience.

 To kick-start your inspiration, here are just a few simple things you can try to reduce the carbon footprint of your rental properties. 

  • Make eco-friendly changes such as using energy-efficient appliances
  • Invest in smart home technology to reduce energy waste
  • Make recycling options clear
  • Provide bicycles and other sustainable transportation options (a big plus for any luxury vacation rental)

For more tips on how to go green, check out our article on how to guarantee a sustainable vacation rental.

3. Here’s what they expect from you:

According to’s latest Sustainable Travel Report, travelers expect more from accommodation providers and property managers than ever before: 

    • 35% believe that air conditioners and heaters should be controlled by keycards or energy-saving sensors.
    • 32% think that accommodation providers should offer information on local ecosystems, heritage, culture, and visitor etiquette.
    • 27% want to be able to opt out of daily room cleaning to reduce water usage.
    • 27% would only like to use reusable plates and cutlery for meals and room service.

While some of these adaptations can be applied immediately, such as cutting out single-use products, others may require more time, effort, and money. For the best results, work on changes that are feasible at the moment and create a long-term sustainability plan for improvements that you’d like to achieve in the future. 

4. Guests are prepared to go off-peak and off-path

40% of travelers are now prepared to travel exclusively outside of peak season, and 64% are willing to consider less-popular destinations to reduce overcrowding and adverse environmental impact. This indicates a step away from busy resort vacations, and a preference for quieter, more authentic experiences, in harmony with sustainable practices. 

However, 42% of prospective travelers state that it can be difficult to find uncrowded destinations, and 34% have struggled to find sustainable options, suggesting an opportunity for travel providers to highlight and promote sustainable properties which are worth visiting outside of standard seasons. 

Sustainable Tourism Statistics Prioritizing immersion in nature and local culture

5. Prioritizing immersion in nature and local culture

As travelers seek to avoid mass tourism and the environmental consequences that come with it, 80% are now expressing a desire to learn about the local culture when on vacation and 76% would like to feel that they’re reconnecting with nature.

Property managers could appeal to this emerging profile of guests by offering the option of:

  • A local area guide with insider tips and recommendations for authentic restaurants, hidden gems, cultural tours, and events.
  • Partnerships with local companies and responsible tour operators that offer a variety of activities such as bike tours, cooking classes, and language exchanges
  • Easy-to-follow routes and maps for approved nature trails that guests can use to explore the area on their own. 

6. Guests’ environmental concerns vary

When we think of the environmental impact of travel, CO2 emissions are usually the main concern. However, only 29% of travelers have cited this as a source of worry, compared with 30% who are concerned about overtourism, 38% who are conscious of threats to wildlife and natural habitats, and 46% worried about creating excess waste.

Vacation rental professionals can offset this biggest concern by taking steps to reduce the waste associated with a guest’s stay. Consider installing a water filter to avoid plastic bottles, provide eco-friendly and reusable shopping bags, and create a list of local produce markets in the area that guests can visit for a plastic-free experience.

7. Partnering with local businesses is the way forward

During their travels, 42% of people make a point of shopping at small businesses to support the local economy.

To further encourage this trend, you can buy toiletries, kitchen essentials, bedding, and furniture from independent, local businesses instead of ordering online or opting for mass-producing chains.

Drive extra revenue by upselling services and experiences like group yoga sessions or snorkeling tours. All it takes is a partnership with a local company to positively impact the economy and earn more money.

8. Travel companies are expected to step up

When asked about who is accountable for making positive environmental changes regarding travel, 26% responded with the government, 23% said tourism authorities, and 20% mentioned themselves, 8% said accommodation providers, and 6% said online travel agents.

Travel companies have already started taking action, which can be seen through the Future of Tourism Coalition. This coalition was formed by six non-profit organizations to create a set of principles that will enforce sustainable growth within the international tourism industry.

Sustainable tourism statistics for a greener future

Staying on top of the latest trends and keeping up to date with vacation rental statistics, is a crucial part of any successful property manager’s job, especially when it comes to sustainable tourism. With the right information based on sustainable tourism statistics, you can implement conscious changes that help your business grow and also leave a positive impact on the environment, economy, and society.