Eco-Minded: Booking.com launches new Travel Sustainable Badge for Hotels

Last week, Booking.com, one of the world's largest booking sites, announced the launch of a first-of-its-kind Travel Sustainable badge, a sustainability measure that will provide information to travelers all over the world looking to make greener travel choices. We chatted with the woman in charge of all sustainability efforts, Booking Holdings' Director of Sustainability, Marianne Gybels. Marianne's team is responsible for researching trends in sustainability, finding innovative and engaging ways to help encourage accommodation providers to adopt more sustainable practices, and finding better ways to increase the visibility of sustainability information to customers so that they can make more informed travel decisions.

Marianne Gybels, Director of Sustainability, Booking.com
Marianne Gybels, Director of Sustainability, Booking.com
According to recent research by Booking.com, 81% of global travelers think that sustainable travel is important and more than two-thirds (67%) expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable options.

The new Travel Sustainable badge is a big step towards eco-transparency, how do hotels qualify for the badge? Our Travel Sustainable badge is a credible global measure, accessible for all kinds of properties, from apartments, B&Bs, and holiday homes to hotels, resorts, and even treehouses. A first-of-its-kind initiative in the industry, the goal of the badge is to make recognition of sustainability efforts attainable and to provide travelers with a consistent way to identify sustainable stays.

We have collaborated with industry experts, including through our leading role within the Travalyst coalition, to identify a set of the most impactful practices for a property to consider across five key areas: waste, energy and greenhouse gases, water, supporting local communities, and protecting nature. We recognize that developing plans to operate more sustainably and actually implementing them takes time, effort, and resources, so we have made it easy for properties to share up-to-date sustainability information with us, to have it displayed transparently on their listings, and to receive the recognition of the Travel Sustainable badge if they are eligible. The first step in qualifying for the badge is for a property to share their sustainability practices with us, which we then evaluate against our independently validated criteria model. You can see here how in a few simple steps this can be done. How is booking.com ensuring properties meet the qualifications? When partners list on Booking.com, they contractually agree that all information they provide for our platform will be accurate and up to date. With any of our listings, if we detect, find or receive reports that a partner is misrepresenting themselves, we take the matter seriously and will work with them to correct this information immediately and take additional steps, as necessary. We are also currently exploring various approaches for additional verification, which also include post-stay feedback from customers to verify that practices that are visible to them are indeed being maintained, for example, the usage of single-use plastics on site, recycling facilities, key-card controlled electricity in the room, etc. Will there be a search capability for consumers to look for sustainable hotels? During this first phase of the launch, the Travel Sustainable badge and an overview of individual property sustainability efforts will initially be visible to travelers on property pages across the Booking.com app and website globally. We are also delighted to announce that the Travel Sustainable icon is already appearing on property listings on the search pages, along with the Travel Sustainable filter to help travelers identify more sustainable options from the beginning of their search experience on Booking.com. Was the new badge in the works before COP26 or did it come out of it? The Travel Sustainable badge has been in the works for many years now with a very driven and dedicated team behind it. Our recent research shows that 81% of global travelers think that sustainable travel is important and more than two-thirds (67%) expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable options.

According to other recent research, 73% of travelers have indicated that they would be more likely to choose a specific accommodation on our platform if they knew it was implementing sustainable practices.

The Travel Sustainable badge and program is a concrete response to these findings and helps reward and further encourage all accommodation providers to take the next steps on their individual sustainability journeys, ultimately increasing the overall amount of sustainable accommodation options available. Any other sustainability efforts coming down the pipeline from booking.com? As a leader in travel, we believe that we have a responsibility to preserve and build a world worth experiencing, and to help promote a more sustainable travel industry. That's why sustainability is a core component of our mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world and a guiding principle for everything we do at Booking.com, from how we think about the impact of the travel we facilitate via our platform to how we engage with local communities. In addition to the Travel Sustainable program we are rolling out for our partners, we are also committed to reducing our energy consumption, and will be offsetting our residual operational carbon emissions in 2021 and beyond to remain carbon neutral. We have implemented waste-streaming and plastics-reduction measures in offices across the globe and will continue to challenge ourselves and our industry to become more sustainable. According to a new study just released by EY Parthenon and Booking.com, despite emitting 264 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions per year, representing 10% of the total annual emissions of the tourism industry, the accommodation sector has the opportunity to lead the way in making travel and tourism more sustainable. Given that this is also the core of our business, in terms of impact, this is where we are currently focusing the majority of our efforts as a company.