How Green Travel Will Survive the Recession


The global economy is tanking. The U.S. and the UK are in full-blown recession. Other countries are heading that way. We’re all going to have to tighten our belts, hold on hard and ride it out.

Grim economic news is never welcome and I sincerely hope the pain for you and your family is minimal. For the environment, the R-word is slightly more mixed news. On the one hand, people are sometimes less willing to pay extra for green supplies – sales of organic food are falling and farmers in the UK are lobbying for a relaxation in the rules for organic certification. On the other hand, decreased economic output is usually coupled with lower consumption and frugality measures such as growing your own food or conserving electricity also benefit the environment.

In the travel world, the good news is that people – when they can afford to take a holiday – are retaining their environmental principles. Despite fears that environmental commitments made in good times were merely pie crust promises, it seems greener travel is still a growing trend. People are even willing to support higher airfares for environmental reasons (though admittedly that last one is based on a survey taken in the good times).

Perhaps that’s why some of the big online travel sites are now trying to tap into the green travel market – though, as others have commented, from the looks of things they’re not trying very hard. Expedia has recently launched a travelers’ guide to going green – this was a rotating link from the bottom corner of the home page of the U.S. site (blink and you’ll miss it), more prominently linked to from the home page of the Canadian site, and as far as I could tell, not at all from the UK or Australian sites. There are only 288 properties worldwide on Expedia’s list of green hotels. Travelocity, another giant in the online travel world, also has recently introduced a green page, but it’s similarly tucked away with no apparent link from the home page. Hotwire has also recently introduced a modest green initiative – offering carbon offsetting at the point of purchase.

What are some of the other online companies doing? LastMinute has a link to a page on carbon offsetting under “useful links” on the home page of the site. Opodo has a ‘green stance’ link at the bottom of the site. Both pages are easily found – one hopes Expedia and Travelocity will follow suit.

It’s a step in the right direction but I’m inclined to agree with my fellow bloggers – this feels like a token effort and there should be a lot more promotion from the home pages of these sites. As Terracurve puts it: “It seems Expedia is, so far, less interested in doing the legwork and would rather pass the responsibility off solely to the traveler. If a traveler finds a green hotel or a hybrid car? Great. If not? Great.”

Meanwhile, if you are interested in sustainable travel, here are a few booking sites that do a better job of helping you find the perfect holiday to suit your conscience as well as your taste and budget:

PhotobucketResponsible Travel – UK-based site (but popular with U.S. users, too) with hundreds of handpicked holidays and an explanation of why each holiday makes a difference to the environment or local communities. It’s especially strong on activity or cultural holidays.

-PhotobucketRezhub – This site has a Green Travel Hub lets you book green hotels, low-emission or hybrid hire cars and green flights.

-PhotobucketWhole Travel – Not a booking engine but a wonderful collection of links to sustainable holidays around the world (you book directly with the hotel and they make money from advertising).

Image: Christine Salek