Sustainable travel – consumer attitudes, roadblocks, and opportunities

Pressure is growing from climate-conscious consumers for more transparency. According to Oncarbon's latest consumer survey, 78% of travelers want to travel in a sustainable way, and 67% of travelers want environmental information about the travel products they buy.
Written by Team Oncarbon
Carbon management platform for air travel, API-first
July 26, 2022

Download the full version of the report as a PDF

We love to travel. More than 1.46 billion people – one fifth of the world’s population – took at least one tourist trip in 20191. But while travel brings numerous benefits to us and to local economies, it also comes at a cost – especially to the environment.

Tourism accounts for about 8% of global carbon emissions: 49% of that comes from transportation, with air travel having the largest carbon footprint2. The number of people who can afford to travel is growing, and it is estimated that the demand for air travel could exceed 10 billion passenger trips in 20503. Against the backdrop of climate change, traveling for pleasure may seem like an unnecessary luxury: weekend city breaks abroad are not a basic human need and we can definitely survive without exotic vacations in faraway resorts.

How, then, can we still enjoy the benefits of travel without harming the environment? The latest IPCC report shows that we can mitigate climate change if we act now by promoting practices like car-free mobility and limiting air travel. But if we continue to emit current levels of greenhouse gasses, we will exceed the global warming limit of 1.5 °C. The consequences will be catastrophic for the planet and for the travel and tourism industries. .

The good news is that the number of conscious consumers who want to travel more responsibly is increasing. And the future of travel lies in responsible tourism – tourism that respects the environment, community, and local cultures, and seeks to correct the adverse effects of irresponsible mass tourism.

The results of the survey in this report clearly show that as travelers, we want to travel more sustainably: stay in greener places, book more sustainable flight options, travel by train instead of plane, and travel with the smallest possible climate footprint. But to do this, we need two things: transparent information about emissions and reasonable costs of more sustainable travel and accommodation options.

Sustainable travel options could soon be required by legislation. In the EU, there is a discussion about the minimum amount of sustainable aviation fuel airlines must use and the carbon labeling of flights. On the other hand, sustainable tourism is a bottom-up trend that starts from the real needs of travelers. We are seeing movements and trends that promote flight-free travel and local tourism (reinforced by the pandemic), as well as growing awareness of the climate footprint of travel. As consumers, we believe that we can influence the travel industry with our choices and push for more transparency. We believe that these changes can ultimately lead to a reduction in emissions and mitigation of climate change.

Giving consumers the ability to vote with their wallets for the lowest-emission options on the market is a powerful tool to increase demand and supply for even better options in the future. Providing them with information and giving them a choice can – and will – promote responsible tourism, which we believe is the future of travel.

Executive summary

This report includes the findings of an online survey conducted in May 2022 in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the Netherlands on a representative sample of respondents.

The survey’s goal was also to investigate whether the consumers would welcome information about emissions caused by travel products, such as flights. The report outlines consumers’ attitudes towards sustainable travel, what factors are important for consumers when booking travel, and what kind of sustainable travel decisions consumers have made or are willing to make.

The report has been divided into four sections:

  1. 1.
    Consumers' attitudes towards more sustainable travel – Addresses how important sustainable travel is for the consumers, how likely the consumers are to buy more environmentally friendly travel products, and what sustainable decisions travelers would be willing to make when deciding on their travel plans.
  2. 2.
    Blockers and obstacles for more sustainable tourism – Details the main barriers that stop consumers from making more sustainable travel decisions and the main factors that they take into consideration while booking travel.
  3. 3.
    Push for transparency and information – Explores consumers’ need for information about sustainable travel options.
  4. 4.
    Belief in change – Examines consumers’ belief in their power to influence the travel industry.

Key findings and conclusions:

  • The vast majority of travelers find it important to travel in a sustainable way.

  • Most travelers would be willing to make more environmentally friendly choices, if they had the option, despite the inconvenience it can cause.

  • Cost is the key factor travelers take into consideration while choosing a travel product.

  • Environmental footprint is important to over 40% of travelers.

  • Travelers often lack the information about “green” travel options.

  • Travelers find sustainable travel options too expensive.

  • The majority of respondents would like to receive environmental information about their travel choices, and the majority of respondents think it should be mandatory.

  • The majority of consumers believe their travel choices can impact climate change and  travel industry policies.


The survey uses data collected in May 2022 as part of Oncarbon Travel Choices Consumer Survey. The fieldwork was conducted by CINT™ using an online survey developed by Oncarbon. It took place from May 16-26 in three countries: the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands. It was prepared in three languages (English, Swedish, Dutch) and distributed in the official language of each country. CINT™ disseminated the online survey to a panel of registered users using a stratified sample methodology, which imposed quotas on age, gender, and region. After data collection, two quality checks were applied. The survey was conducted on a representative sample of respondents (N=641).

About Oncarbon

Oncarbon is a startup founded in 2021 in Tampere, Finland. We help airlines and forward-thinking travel companies calculate and communicate the carbon footprint of their travel products.

The Oncarbon model for calculating flight emissions analyzes a wide variety of aspects of a flight: plane models, engine models, the number of seats in the aircraft, an estimation of the amount of cargo on the flight, airport busyness factors, and the great-circle distances between the origin, destination, and any stops on the way.

It assigns numbers aligned to the warming effect attributable to each seat of a flight. The warming effect is presented as kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Travel companies can receive the emissions data through Oncarbon’s APIs and display it to consumers at the point of purchase.

We believe that we need – and we can – travel more consciously. We educate our audience about carbon footprint, sustainable travel and aviation, and transparency in emissions reporting.

Download the full version of the report as a PDF

Team Oncarbon
We’re on the mission to show you that we need – and we can – travel more consciously. We bring closer to you the topics of carbon footprint, sustainable travel and aviation, and transparency in emissions reporting.