Cost vs Conscience: Delves into the Dilemma Dividing Sustainable Travel in 2023

  • 76% of travellers express a desire to travel more sustainably
  • Environmentally-conscious habits are growing in popularity
  • 67% turn off air conditioning when not in use, driven in part by cost reduction needs
  • 60% reuse towels for similar reasons
  • 500,000+ accommodations globally are being recognized for their sustainability efforts with a Travel Sustainable badge on’s Sustainable Travel Report 2023 contains insights gathered from more than 33,000 travelers across 35 countries and territories, that highlights a dilemma where people feel potentially forced to choose between cutting costs and being more mindful about making more sustainable travel choices with 76% of global travelers saying that they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months, which is a 16% increase over the company’s 2021 data and a 5% increase over the company’s 2022 data.

  • Nearly half (49%) of travelers believe more sustainable travel options are too expensive, in contrast to 43% willing to pay extra for travel options with a sustainable certification.
  • Taking conscious habits from home when traveling, 67% now turn off the air conditioning in accommodations when they aren’t there (up 29% from 2022), while 60% re-use the same towel multiple times (up 25% from 2022)

At a time of general global uncertainty, traveling more sustainably continues to be front of mind for travelers, with three-quarters (74%) believing people need to act now and make more sustainable choices to save the planet for future generations. The news continues to be a key influence driver for 53%, who say the recent climate change news agenda has encouraged them to be more sustainable, and yet it also speaks to a quandary facing people when it comes to being more mindful about when, where and how they travel. While nearly half (49%) think the environment will get worse in the next six months, 64% believe the cost of living crisis will also get worse, leaving people unsure of what to prioritize as they work to reconcile what is important to them with the demands of everyday life.

A tale of two wallets in an unsteady global climate


© Photo from

The economic weather has changed drastically since last year, and the big topics at the front of people’s minds today are the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis. Over three quarters (76%) of travelers say they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months, while the same amount think the global energy crisis and rising cost of living is impacting their spending plans. For some travelers the two are mutually exclusive.

With rising inflation, nearly half of travelers are stuck in the notion that they must make a choice between sustainability and spending, with 49% believing more sustainable travel options are too expensive (up 11% from’s 2022 data). For these respondents, sustainability and travel combined can seem non-urgent when they are worried about affording bills and the energy crisis.

On the flip side, with travel well and truly back for others and a more urgent focus on conscious choices, 43% of today’s travelers would be willing to pay more for travel options with a sustainable certification, dialing up their spend to feel reassured they are driving impact. As an increasing number of travelers feel the pinch, they are seeking more sustainable travel options rich in rewards, highlighting the perceived trade-off between making conscious choices and saving money and the need for incentivization. Nearly half (49%) want discounts and economic incentives in order to opt for eco-friendly options (up 12% from 2022) while 42% would be encouraged to travel more sustainably with reward points for making more sustainable choices that they could use for free extra perks or discounts through online travel booking sites.

More sustainable travel for everyone

As part of’s mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, the company believes they have an important responsibility to make sustainable choices easier, both for accommodation providers and travelers. The company’s Travel Sustainable badge provides travelers with an easy-to-understand way to identify a wider range of more sustainable stays. The initiative launched in 2021 and is available to any kind of property from apartments to hotels and even treehouses that have implemented a combination of sustainable practices that meet the requisite impact threshold for their destination. With more than 500,000 properties globally now being highlighted for their sustainability efforts with a Travel Sustainable badge on, the company has also further expanded the number of third-party certifications and labels that automatically qualify accommodations to receive it. [this includes accommodations certified by GSTC-Accredited Certification Bodies and accommodations that are verified to a GSTC-Recognized Standard].

“While travel may be back, rising living costs and climate anxiety has led to greater demand for more budget and planet-friendly options,” said Glenn Fogel, CEO of “Travel can be a force for good and travelers themselves are proving to be today’s changemakers, adopting more sustainable travel habits and seeking responsible experiences. We are listening and together with our partners across the industry, we are leading positive change and examining every part of the trip to support travelers and benefit local communities and environments. More sustainable travel is an investment for the world, and we are committed to making it easier for everyone to experience travel in a more mindful and responsible way, no matter where they are on their sustainability journey.”

Read the full report

Press Release: Cost vs Conscience Delves into the Dilemma Dividing Sustainable Travel in 2023 (April 17, 2023) 2023 Sustainable Travel Report (full report in pdf)

Make your accommodation sustainable now!

As the report suggests, travelers and fellow travel provider clients are seeking confirmation that sustainability practices are in place.

Sustainability certification for accommodations is a voluntary, third-party assessment through an audit to ensure compliance with sustainable tourism standards. GSTC does not certify directly. Certification is conducted by Certification Bodies (CB) while GSTC provides an accreditation program through its partner Assurance Services International to accredit Certification Bodies.

Accommodations certified by a GSTC-Accredited CB can use the GSTC logo along with the CB’s mark. The logos are also shared with OTAs and other buyers of hotel space.

Learn more about how to become certified as a sustainable accommodation.

GSTC Sustainable Tourism Training

You can also join one of the regular GSTC courses:

✓ Gain in-depth knowledge of the GSTC Criteria, the global standard for sustainability in travel and tourism.
✓ Make informed decisions on how to implement sustainability practices for your company or destination.
✓ Get ready for developing viable and actionable sustainable tourism policies and practices for your organization.

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