Virtuoso explores sustainability as a motivator for savvy travellers

Strong support for seasonality shift and cultural heritage experiences with eco-focus

Virtuoso has released survey findings that shed light on how some of the world’s savviest travellers view and approach sustainable tourism.

The results revealed a steadily increasing demand for exploring the world alongside a heightened awareness amongst in-the-know travellers regarding their influence and impact on the destinations they visit. More than half of surveyed travellers said global developments in 2023 have encouraged them to travel more responsibly, citing geopolitical conflicts, overtourism and the effects of climate change, such as natural disasters, pollution and rising temperatures.

Additionally, 45% of respondents agree that travelling sustainably enhances their holiday experience – a nine-point increase compared to 2023’s survey.

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The following are key insights into sustainable tourism, sourced from surveys conducted among Virtuoso travel advisors and their high-net-worth clientele:

Seasonality Shifts

Travellers are choosing to steer clear of the crowds. Seventy-six percent of advisors reported their clients are adopting off-season travel more regularly, primarily to avoid crowds and lines. Consumers echoed this sentiment, with almost half expressing their willingness to visit popular destinations during off-peak times and over 30% showing readiness to explore alternative, less-touristed destinations, all to combat overtourism. Moreover, 13% were open to embracing both methods.

Cultural Appetite

Eighty-six percent of advisors said their clients are investing in the cultural heritage of the destinations they visit, demonstrated through their participation in exchange/learning programs with locals, support for local crafts and performing arts, and aiding the conservation efforts of historic landmarks and sites. This cultural commitment also extends to culinary experiences.

Sixty-eight percent of advisors report their clients’ heightened interest in hotels and restaurants that prioritise sustainable gastronomy, actively preferring local eateries over chains as well as seeking ingredients with low environmental impact (farm-to-table). And almost 20% of advisors said their clients were showing interest in zero-waste food options and plant-based menus, signalling an emerging shift towards eco-friendly dining preferences.

Amplified by AI

Over half of Virtuoso advisors believe Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a role in the future of sustainable tourism. According to responses, AI holds the potential to enhance and promote sustainable travel by crafting tailored itineraries, providing eco-conscious recommendations and analyzing data to monitor and address environmental issues. However, some advisors expressed concern regarding AI’s influence on meaningful human interaction and the reliability of AI-derived information, proving that while AI may serve as a tool, it will not replace the need for trusted advisors and genuine relationships.

Clarity Over Cost

Virtuoso clients reported that cost is less of a barrier to travelling more sustainably, but transparency is: 58% of travellers are willing to pay more to travel responsibly if they know how the funds are being used – a five-point increase from 2023. Travellers also expressed a strong desire for deeper knowledge and assistance in making more informed decisions, with more than 30% saying they would be encouraged to travel more responsibly if they had a clear understanding of their options and guidance from a trusted source, such as a professional travel advisor, to help them get started.

“Awareness amongst travellers is growing and we’re having conversations about how to travel more responsibly in a way we didn’t even a few years ago, which is encouraging,” said Javier Arredondo, Vice President of Sustainability at Virtuoso.

“An evolution has taken place, where sustainability is no longer viewed as an obligation or a forced necessity, but as an opportunity for travellers to use their purchasing power to make a positive impact while also creating lifelong memories.”

“There is a feel-good factor to it that people inherently want. Knowing where to start is half the battle, so we aim to remove barriers like feeling overwhelmed by the options or uncertainty of where to begin. A professional travel advisor can serve as a guiding force towards making informed choices while also crafting tailored experiences that exceed expectations.”

Virtuoso’s commitment to sustainability spans more than a decade and includes recognition of people and entities leading the way through awards and editorial coverage in every issue of Virtuoso, The Magazine, the establishment of a Sustainability Council featuring some of the most influential voices in responsible tourism, and related training and professional development for its travel advisors.

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