Sustainable travel and the say-do gap

Posted on
May 9, 2023
Editorial Team

The emissions from travel at a global scale are estimated to be around 8% to 10% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. This includes emissions from all forms of transportation, including aviation, road transport, rail, shipping, and other modes of transportation. And it has been growing steadily over the years.

Sustainable change is underway though. Understanding the impact of our travels is now accessible for all, with emission calculations becoming more and more precise, and technology making it easier than ever to show and provide information for travelers to make better, because more informed, decisions.

Traveler’s intentions are loud and clear

No doubt, sustainability is a top priority in travel! A recent research led by Egencia showed that sustainability is even thought of as “vital” for 83% of global travelers. The phenomenon translates into new search behaviors with “90 percent of consumers claim” to indeed be looking for sustainable options when traveling per a Skift and Expedia Group Media Solutions paper.

The mindset shift is here and scaling. 24% of U.S, 48% of Chinese and 53% of Indian travelers say “sustainability is more important than before Covid” per Skift (State of Travel 2022 report).

The intention is clear, now let’s take a look at the actual behaviors. Is it turning into actual sustainable travel purchasing decisions?

The behavioral gap
TNMT / Lufthansa Innovation Hub

A graph worth a thousand words.

The above shows the misalignment between what most travelers say they want and what they actually do. What we observe here is a phenomenon called the “intention-behavior gap”. Previously observed in other fields such as leadership or charity donations, it describes the disconnect between intention and actions. Helping travelers walk the talk for sustainable travel is critical!

3 ways to help travelers reconcile their values with their actions

“70% of consumers feel overwhelmed by starting the process of being a more sustainable traveler.” A recent analysis led by the World Economic Forum and Accenture helps shade light on what could be the root cause of the say-do gap.

How to create sustainable travel product customers want — World Economic Forum

1 | Access: Provide easier access to sustainable travel knowledge and options

83% of US adults want to book their trips online. Online booking platforms therefore have a critical role to play, by adding sustainable travel information (such as green fares, promoting sustainable and eco-labels…) and options where the travelers are searching.

2 | Education: Help travelers get a better understanding of their impact

Automating the calculation and display of emissions at the booking stage is the first key step in raising awareness and influencing behavior. It is also key to put this data point into perspective, for example by comparing it with the UNFCCC recommendation of maintaining our individual footprints below a 2 tonnes per person per year threshold.

3 | Credibility: Help them build trust in their sustainable options

Travelers will only start changing their searching and booking behaviors once they truly believe the above can have a real, positive impact. This is where educating on the mechanism allowing them to compensate for the share of emissions they can’t reduce in the first place and/or in the short term comes into play. Many stereotypes are being spread in the general public space when it comes to the Voluntary Carbon Market, which makes it very hard for all to evaluate where to place one’s trust. Providing access to third-party certified compensation projects must always come with enabling the traveler to discover, learn, and get convinced of the benefits of it.

There is no quick and easy fix to fight climate change. Same as any other sector, the travel industry must come as one, governments, companies and individuals together, to create a radically more sustainable future!


SQUAKE is the industry solution for sustainable travel and logistics, today. We believe that movement is a force for good, this is why we create stellar technology to inspire and power sustainable movement for all.