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Community Marketing Inc. Releases Results of Second Annual Green Traveler Survey

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SAN FRANCISCO—Community Marketing, Inc. has released the results of its CMIGreen 2nd Annual Green Traveler Survey Report. A total of 2,768 adults across the United States were surveyed from July 15, 2010 through August 31, 2010. The report focuses on the 951 respondents who consider themselves to be “extremely” or “very” eco-conscious and who took at least one overnight vacation in the past year. The survey provides a wealth of information on attitudes toward green travel, green hotel practices, marketing and green meetings. The survey included questions that appeared in the first survey in 2009 as well as new questions.

According to the survey, companies in the lodging industry have some work to do to establish their green brands. When asked which brands do the best jobs presenting themselves as environmentally friendly, more than 60 percent of respondents were unable to name a single brand. Only one chain, Marriott, registered more than a 4 percent response. When asked how they rank the green initiatives, practices and communications of hotels today, 5.2 percent rated hotels excellent, 30.9 percent rated hotels fair and 35.5 percent said “needs work.”

Just as hotel companies have some work to do to establish their greenness among travelers, so too do certification programs. When asked to name the green travel or hospitality certifications that they were aware of, most could not name a single program. Of the 678 who responded to the questions, 14 named Green Globe and 21 said “LEED.”

Green Rating is Important

When asked, when shopping for a green hotel, if a green rating would influence their purchase, 66.4 percent said it would, if the price of a stay was the same, and 25.2 percent said it would even if the prices were not the same.

Fifty-one percent of respondents, when asked what resources they use to determine if a hotel is green, said the hotel’s own website and 29.4 percent said a travel website (Travelocity or Expedia, for example). For the first time, this year’s survey asked respondents if they had used Facebook and other social networking sites as a resource, and 7.6 percent said they had.

Here are some additional highlights from the survey:

• Respondents were divided on the importance of green programs and credentials when selecting a hotel. For almost 40 percent, “green” is more important than brand. Almost 30 percent said that “green” is more important than a hotel’s star rating.

• When asked which hotel environmental initiatives are most important, 17.5 percent said the option to reuse sheets and towels and 15 percent said recycling. A total of 14.7 percent said energy efficiency and 8.2 percent said non-toxic cleaning chemicals.

• When provided with the option to participate in a hotel’s green programming, 89.5 percent said they were very likely to participate.

• When making a hotel reservation, what was the top motivator in choosing one hotel over another? A total of 25.8 percent said price and only 3.1 percent said a hotel’s environmental program.

• How much extra did respondents pay in order to decrease their ecological footprint while on their most recent trip? A total of 87.3 percent of travelers paid between 1 percent and 5 percent, which represents more than a 13 percent increase over 2009. Sixty-two percent of respondents did not pay much more than they would for conventional travel to reduce their environmental footprint. More than a third of respondents did, however, pay between 1 percent and 10 percent to offset the carbon footprint and other environmental costs of their most recent trip.

More Participating in Green Programs

• Specific green travel practices were up across the board over the previous survey. Eighty-five percent said they had turned off the lights when they left the room, and more than 75 percent said they had recycled and used their towels and sheets more than once. There was a 7.5 percent increase in the number who said they “researched and booked greener accommodations” and almost 4 percent more offset the impact of their travel. There was a more than 8 percent increase in the number of travelers saying they would most likely go on a greener vacation within the next year.

• Eighty percent of respondents said they would support green business travel policies by their employers. Ninety percent indicated that green business travel policies would very likely result in their making personal travel more sustainable.

• When asked if their company has an official policy promoting environmentally friendly business travel, 60.2 percent said no and 22.5 percent said yes; the remainder did not know.

• Last year’s results showed that most companies in the event-planning industry were working to incorporate green meeting options into events. This year, however, according to respondents, there was a nearly 20 percent drop in sustainable event planning from 2009, and 6 percent rise in the number of companies that did not plan any green meeting options. More than 86 percent of respondents this year said that it was at least somewhat important to them that organizers of business events utilize environmentally friendly practices.

• Only 5 percent said they got information from TV and radio advertising, and less than 1.5 percent used information seen on billboards. Only 21.4 percent of respondents used traditional media (print and broadcast) to gather information about green travel—a drop of 5 percent from 2009. At the same time, there was a nearly 5 percent jump in the number of respondents saying that peer reviews on travel websites and blogs were very influential in their vacation decisions this year. Nearly half of all respondents used peer reviews on LonelyPlanet.com, TripAdvisor.com and other Web 2.0 travel sites to validate claims of environmentally friendly travel services. Twenty-nine percent of respondents cited peer-review-powered third-party travel websites when evaluating a hotel’s green “cred” this year, a 7 percent jump over last year’s study.

Travelers Prefer Companies with Conscience

• When asked if they were more or less likely to purchase from companies with favorable green policies and practices, 67.6 percent said they would be very likely. Almost 90 percent of respondents were very likely or somewhat likely to choose companies that actively contributed to green projects like conservation or community development.

• When asked what they thought are the most positive contributions of travel toward the environment, more than a quarter of respondents said the most important direct benefit of travel was to destination communities and economies. Almost half of respondents also said that travel inspired awareness of environmental diversity, environmental culture and the importance of protecting endangered locations, species and cultures.

To obtain a copy of the CMIGreen 2nd Annual Green Traveler Survey Report, which includes many more findings not summarized above, e-mail report@cmigreen.com and include your name, company or organization, and e-mail address.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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