Sustainable travel to become more important? Really?

Sustainable travel to become more important? Really? 910 607 thecloudkeys

Most travel trends research in 2019 and during January and February 2020 already indicated sustainability as a major trend. But as many in the tourism industry do, we take such research with a pinch of salt. Working in the hospitality industry and interacting with international guests daily can definitely make you wonder where on earth they reached this conclusion from.

Our team has witnessed more environment destruction than anything in the short accommodation time span of travelers in Athens (Greece that is, not Georgia USA). Athens is what is called a transit destination for many travelers, especially those on holidays. Most stay in Athens for up to 2-3 days or less and then visit the iconic Aegean or Ionian Greek islands. As we are tasked to clean after our guests, we get a full picture of what guests consume and unfortunately their respect for the environment.

Of course there are bright exceptions and very environment considerate guests, but these represent a tiny minority of the thousands of guests we have hosted over the past two years. We also hear this from colleagues providing accommodation in some of Europe’s most pristine natural habitats of wildlife, in the Greek islands and on the Greek mainland. Tourism is littering beaches, the sea, forests, sea turtle refuge spots and many other picturesque destination selfie hotspots.

I would not want to list here all the crazy stuff that has happened to our cleaning and concierge staff. Maybe we should write a book one day. But I can definitely summarize a few key conclusions:

  • No water conservation respect
  • No electricity consumption respect
  • No recycling
  • No sustainable city transport considerations

These are just a few. How on earth sustainability is a major trend in travelers is really beyond me. I will definitely refrain form mentioning which guest nationalities are the most unsustainable ones. I can definitely congratulate the majority of British and French travelers who are truly environment conscious. They are also very conscious and respectful of our staff and business efforts in terms of hospitality.

Behavior changes when a traveler pays to use an accommodation. Most have a feeling that since they pay they have a superior right to be disrespectful of the property that accommodates them, the destination they spend their holidays in and ultimately the impact of their trip on the planet. What strikes me is that people behave differently when they have reached their travel destination than when they reply to research questionnaires at the comfort of their living room sofa while watching BBC or National Geographic documentaries about planet earth and conservation. This is evident also in guest communications before they arrive at one of our short term rental properties in Athens and right at the moment they check in (and of course during their entire stay).

In order for travel sustainability to become a reality, great effort needs to be consumed by governments at their home countries. Sustainability needs to become a strong cultural element of each nation. Not just wishful thinking or a positive ending of an Oscar winning Hollywood movie.