U.S. travelers are more familiar with sustainable travel terminology than they were two years ago but remain unwilling to pay more for eco-friendly travel options, according to the July travelhorizons, the quarterly consumer survey co-authored by the U.S. Travel Association and Ypartnership.
"Although consumers are reluctant to pay more to support green travel service suppliers, they are definitely paying attention to those who are green, even in this down economy," said Peter Yesawich, chairman and CEO of Ypartnership. "Travel service suppliers should therefore continue to adopt green practices that have a minimum impact on consumers' wallets."
The percentage of American travelers who consider themselves "environmentally conscious" has not changed since 2007 (78 percent). However, there has been a remarkable increase in the percentage who report familiarity with the term "carbon footprint" (from 12 percent in July 2007 to 54 percent in July 2009).
Awareness of the term "green travel" also improved from 9 percent in July 2007 to 22 percent in July 2009. Despite these increases, only 9 percent of consumers say they are willing to pay more to use travel service suppliers that offer eco-friendly options for travelers, and only 3 percent have purchased a carbon offset when booking travel.
Among consumers who would pay higher rates or fares for eco-friendly options, roughly four in 10 (39 percent) would pay as much as a 5 percent fare or rate premium to an environmentally responsible supplier, and an equal percentage would pay between 5 and 9 percent more.
"Consumers are looking for 'green travel' choices at the right price. The travel community has developed thousands of options and we are adding more daily," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association.
"Earlier this year, U.S. Travel and American Express launched TravelGreen.org to facilitate best practice sharing among travel companies and provide a clearinghouse on the latest research and trends in green travel."
Other key findings:
* While consumers believe travel service suppliers should be good stewards of their environment, over half (54 percent) also believe that individuals themselves have the greatest responsibility for preserving and protecting the environment.
* Six out of 10 (58 percent) travelers say they believe that environmental programs by travel service suppliers could have a positive effect on the environment.
* The majority (51 percent) of consumers will continue to patronize "green" travel service suppliers regardless of an economic downturn. In fact, nearly half (48 percent) of travelers say that continuing to support environmentally responsible travel service suppliers is a necessity, even in an economic downturn.
* Less than one-third (29 percent) say it is easy to find out about environmental policies and initiatives of travel service suppliers.
The U.S. Travel Association, in partnership with American Express, has created www.travelgreen.org as a one-stop shop for information on sustainable travel. The site features research and case studies on "green" programs from destinations and travel suppliers.
travelhorizons is a quarterly survey of American's travel intentions viewed through the lens of emerging economic, social and political developments that is co-authored by Ypartnership and the U.S. Travel Association. The most recent iteration of this nationally representative survey of 2,362 adults was conducted July 21-28, 2009.