Sustainable tourism in the U.S.A. has gone from being a trend to being the new norm, and figures show a majority of travelers agree.
A recent study showed that nearly 70% of travelers across the globe had implemented sustainable travel practices in a post-COVID world. Still, even more impressively, 69% of Americans already indicated in 2020 that they would be moving towards this new norm.
Travelers agree that seeing the impact of tourism while on holiday has prompted them to look into sustainable practices and almost half of the people have admitted that they have started to make changes in their everyday life too.
January 2023 kicked off with a big win for green tourism as the Global Sustainable Tourism Council announced an exciting partnership with the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance.
Together, these industry heavyweights aim to surpass previous sustainability efforts and implement the latest innovations to promote and create change on a global scale.
Glenn Mandziuk, CEO of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, explained that they would be equipping more hotels with stricter criteria to avoid green-washing and all-talk-no-action approaches.
“We’re so pleased to be working in partnership with the GSTC. Our organizations have long understood the power of the hospitality and tourism industries as a vehicle for positive lasting change. They have been working to measure and monitor this positive impact.
Now is the time to unite our expertise, embedding sustainability criteria across the industry and ensuring every hotel has the tools and guidance needed to become a more regenerative business that gives back more than it takes.”
GSTC’s CEO, Randy Durband, said he is pleased to finalize this agreement after years of cooperation.
“GSTC is increasingly supporting the development of universal measurement tools for sustainability to facilitate businesses assessing, benchmarking, and improving their performance on each of the criteria within the GSTC Criteria, and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance’s work on sustainable measurement in hospitality is critical to that effort. We have engaged with the Alliance for many years but are pleased to formalize and expand our partnership.”
Future Market Insights figures for 2022-2023 show that the US sustainable tourism market is valued at US$228 million, but this is projected to increase nearly threefold to US$608 million in the next 10 years.
This is a compound annual growth rate of more than 10%, an exciting trajectory for the global industry, considering that the US market accounts for more than 7.5% of the worldwide sector.
This positive growth is largely due to constant conversation about increased efforts, effective business plans emphasizing sustainable development and a focus on education of the public and vendors alike.
The trend has also shown that tourists in the sustainable tourism market in the USA tend to be well-educated and from average to above-average income households.
There is also a positive increase in nature education and sustainability agendas.
Where to travel sustainably in the USA
The USA is home to some of the most remarkable natural landscapes in the world, but many of these are fragile, triggering an increase in green tourism.
Here are some states that have been advocating eco-tourism and where you will be spoiled for choice for sustainable accommodation and activities.
Hawaii has no shortage of beautiful natural spaces, from land to sea and everything in between. This state is a jewel.
Locals have also been very vocal as of late, asking both US and international visitors to lay low for a while, giving the island time to recuperate after years of plundering.
But the local government has upped its efforts in the name of malama ‘aina, to care for the land.
There is a big focus on eco-friendly activities like surfing, kayaking, and snorkeling but Honolulu’s government also put an outright ban on single-use plastics back in 2022:
“No food vendor shall sell, serve, or provide prepared food in polystyrene foam food ware or disposable plastic food ware to customers. No businesses shall sell polystyrene foam food ware, disposable plastic service ware, or disposable plastic food ware.”
Alaska is the kind of off-the-grid destination that naturalists dream of, and with more than 100 national and state parks they have their eco-warrior job cut out for them.
The state has an abundance of eco-lodges, tapping into renewable energy sources and many sustainable practices.
Activities to visit the tundra, glaciers, and dramatic mountains are also environmentally focused, avoiding any natural disturbances.
It is a long-running joke that California is full of hippies and vegans, but the truth is the state has gone above and beyond to protect its natural landscapes from destructive tourism.
Yosemite National Park is leading the charge and has protected itself from as much as 95% urban activity.
Other efforts to increase that number include green concessions and hybrid shuttle busses.
An abundance of eco-friendly hotels and locations like Joshua Tree National Park and the Indian Canyons make it easy for tourists to think and act green.