Two thirds of travellers say sustainability is key in leisure tourism decision

Egypt ranked 4th for sustainability performance compared to competing destinations, report by Bain & Company finds

A felucca sails along the Nile River in Luxor, Egypt at sunset on September 23, 2008. Photo: Victoria Hazou for the National
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The market for sustainable tourism is set to boom, with two-thirds of travellers saying sustainability is an important factor when choosing leisure holidays, a new survey showed.

The focus on green travel comes as tourism is bouncing back strongly from the coronavirus pandemic, with the sector expected to reach $17 trillion by 2027, compared with $11 trillion before the pandemic that damaged the industry, a July report by Bain & Company said.

About 64 per cent of the survey respondents said that sustainability considerations influence their choices.

The report said 66 per cent are willing to pay extra for more sustainable offerings and 57 per cent would recommend a holiday destination based on sustainability considerations.

Looking ahead, 73 per cent of consumers surveyed expect sustainability to become more important over the next five years.

“The uptake in sustainable tourism is driven by an appetite to travel sustainably and make more responsible choices,” Karim Henain, partner at Bain & Company Middle East, said.

Bain has developed a framework defining the components of sustainable tourism: environmental impact (eco-friendly transport and accommodation), social responsibility (diversity, equity, and inclusion standards), and community engagement (contract with locals), he said.

The global travel and tourism industry is facing increasing pressure from environmental campaigners to reduce its carbon emissions given concerns about the impact of billions of passengers who are expected to take to the skies in the coming years.

The Bain study aimed to better understand the behaviour and preferences of travellers interested in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) as a destination. The research covered consumers from Germany, Italy, France, the UK, Saudi Arabia and China.

The research found that there is a “significant opportunity” among the “sustainability enthusiasts” segment of travellers interested in visiting the Mena region.

Bain defined sustainability enthusiasts as those who consider sustainability “extremely important,” both in their daily life and when travelling for leisure.

Sustainability enthusiasts were found in all markets surveyed, but their demographics varied by country, the report said.

For example, those from China and Saudi Arabia were mainly highly educated millennials, whereas their European peers were almost equally spread across age groups, income and education levels.

Sustainability enthusiasts represent an important market of untapped growth for the green travel and tourism industry, according to Bain.

For example, compared to other survey respondents, they are four times more likely to consider sustainability aspects as “extremely important” when choosing a holiday destination and seven times more likely to recommend a holiday destination driven by sustainability.

They are also 1.6 times more willing to pay for more sustainable choices, at a premium of 15 to 20 percentage points compared to non-enthusiasts, the Bain study showed.

“While we recognise that there is a 'say versus do' gap in terms of what consumers actually choose and how much more they are willing to pay for more sustainable choices, sustainability enthusiasts remain a significant segment that countries can tackle through different sustainability offerings,” the report said.

Egypt has launched several initiatives to improve the sustainability performance of its travel and tourism sector.

The North African tourism-dependent country aims to provide continuous support to eco-certified tourism establishments and businesses, increase sectoral awareness of sustainable operations and reduce the negative impact of harmful tourism development and practices.

Overall, Greece ranked first as the holiday destination perceived to be most sustainable, while Egypt ranked fourth.

However, the perception of Egypt significantly improved among sustainability enthusiasts, who ranked it second after Greece.

“Egypt has a significant opportunity to develop its sustainable tourism industry. If developed and positioned well, this will allow Egypt to tap into new tourist segments, expand the network of promoters for tourism in Egypt, and get a higher share of wallet,” the report said.

“A concerted effort and mobilisation from all players in the tourism ecosystem in Egypt is required to capitalise on this opportunity.”

Updated: July 23, 2023, 10:59 AM