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Filipinos are most concerned about pollution of beaches, prefer sustainable hotels—study

By Tanya Lara Published Jun 04, 2021 4:42 pm

Twenty years ago, we didn’t think twice about using hotel toiletries in small, single-use plastic containers; we didn’t really care about how everyday products were being manufactured or whether our clothes were produced ethically.

We’ve come a long way since.

Today, when Filipinos travelers are choosing accommodations, they take into account whether a hotel or resort has sustainable practices built into their operations, they use their towels more than once, and don’t demand housekeeping services every day.

Marine animals like turtles often mistake trash—like plastics and facemasks—for food. 

In time for World Environment Day (June 5), the travel booking platform Agoda has released the results of a study on Sustainable Travel Trends and what people are most concerned with. The study was done with YouGov, a global provider of analysis and data generated in more than 55 markets.

The theme for this year’s World Environment Day is “Ecosystem Restoration” and Pakistan is the global host for the big day. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration will also be launched tomorrow.

Overall, Agoda’s survey reveals that people are concerned about overtourism and are taking measures to make travel more sustainable. Filipinos, meanwhile, are most concerned about pollution of beaches and waterways, and associate sustainability with accommodations that use renewable energy and water sources.

According to the study, travelers see these measures are needed to make travel more sustainable: easy identification of sustainable eco-friendly travel options, limited use of single-use plastics, and financial incentives for hotels that maximize energy efficiencies.

Addressing overtourism—a big problem in small towns and islands around the world that host large cruise ships—by limiting the tourist numbers, and removing single-use bathroom amenities round out the top five global measures.

For Filipinos, polluted beaches and waterways is the top concern of 26%, followed by overtourism (24%). Single-use plastics in destination accommodations and deforestation rank third at 14% each.

Where should change start?

Many hotels and resorts are no longer using single-use plastics in their toiletries. 

Governments are considered most responsible for making changes to make travel more sustainable.  ”Globally, the public considers governments most accountable for making positive environmental changes around travel, followed by tourism authorities and individuals themselves.”

When asked what they would pledge to do better in a post-COVID travel scenario, the top responses globally were #1 manage their waste including using less single-use plastics; #2 switch off the air con and lights when leaving their accommodation; and #3 always look for eco-friendly accommodation.

“Interestingly, despite overtourism being the biggest concern, going to lesser-known destinations only ranked 7th of out of 10 as a pledge to do better.”

Pinoys’ top two pledges were to patronize eco-friendly accommodations and to manage their waste such as by using less single-use plastics, at 49% each; 26% are pledging to shop local; 25% are pledging to switch off the air conditioner and lights when they leave the room during their travels in the future.

Exploring lesser-known areas

An overcrowded Acropolis in pre-pandemic Athens, Greece.

The top practices most associated with environmentally friendly or sustainable travel globally are #1 renewable energy and resources like solar, wind, hydroelectric, and water; #2 no single-use plastics; and jointly taking up #3, animal conservation and creating a smaller carbon footprint. 

In the Philippines, 43% of Filipinos associate sustainability with accommodations using renewable energy/water sources, while 39% see eco-friendly building design or furnishings, and 36% consider buying local products from local sellers to be helpful practices to travel sustainably.

Energy saving solutions such as key cards or motion sensors and using natural cleaning products are the other key practices noted by the survey participants. Interestingly, buying locally sourced products, reusing bedding or towels during holiday stays, and visiting off-the-beaten track destinations are the bottom three practices out of 10 associated with sustainable travel globally. 

“We can see from the Agoda Sustainable Travel Trends Survey that the messages of taking simple steps such as switching off lights and air conditioning when leaving the room or reducing waste by minimizing use of single-use plastics are being embraced by the public across the globe. What is also clear is that while globally the message is governments need to take the lead on managing sustainable travel, there is recognition that some responsibility lies with people’s own behavior,” explains John Brown, Agoda CEO. 

“One of the easiest ways to counter overtourism is to consider traveling to off the beaten track destinations. This past year at Agoda, we have seen a shift in travel patterns as people, limited to domestic travel, explore lesser-known areas. If managed well, not only does this help support independent hoteliers and accommodation providers that rely economically on the tourist dollar—it can help lessen the environmental burden on overcrowded areas.”   

Beach clean-up can be part of your itinerary.

“As an industry, we need to continue to find ways to help individuals achieve these goals be it making it easier to search and find sustainable properties on Agoda or supporting and encouraging more partners to use key cards for power, use renewable energy sources, or offering carbon-offsetting options for travel products,” continued Brown. 

COVID negatively impacts attitudes to sustainable travel  

Simpy turning off teh AC when you leave your room can help the environment.

The increase in desire to travel more sustainably was most prevalent among respondents from South Korea, India, and Taiwan—35%, 31%, and 31% respectively. However, looking at the figures globally, while 25% have an increased desire to travel more sustainably, this compares with 35% whose desire to do so decreased. 

The markets reporting the biggest proportional decrease were Indonesia (56%), Thailand (51%) and the Philippines (50%).

“It’s concerning that many people see sustainable travel as less important today than they did before COVID-19, but I hope that is just a short-term effect, driven by people’s thirst to get back out there and travel any way they can,” Brown concluded.