China's tourism industry seeks sustainable transition

Hu Min
With Chinese travelers more open to sustainable options, China's tourism industry hopes to further push toward eco-friendly travel and sustainable tourism.
Hu Min

Chinese travelers have been engaged in issues of environmental impact, and are starting to seek out sustainable alternatives. However, many are still not used to the idea of paying more for sustainable travel, a white paper revealed on Wednesday.

In total, 85 percent of Chinese travelers deem sustainable travel as important or very important, while 60 percent are concerned about climate change. However, the paper also found that many Chinese consumers are not yet used to the idea of paying extra for sustainable travel.

The paper was jointly released by Accor, a hospitality group, in partnership with Shanghai-based travel operator, and global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. The firm examines the environmental impact of China's tourism sector, analyzes Chinese traveler sentiment toward sustainability, and ultimately assesses the action required for key stakeholders in China's tourism sector to make sustainable transitions.

China's tourism industry seeks sustainable transition

A discussion regarding the white paper

Tourism represented approximately 6-8 percent of China's total carbon emissions in 2019, according to the report.

The report, entitled "The path toward eco-friendly travel in China," proposes that by adopting a set of collaborative measures across the industry value chain, from guests to major global providers, China's tourism sector could move toward a more sustainable future.

The world is facing an unprecedented sustainability challenge, and the Chinese tourism industry has a significant role in the required transformation of hospitality.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, China is expected to have the world's largest tourist market by 2032 and, prior to the pandemic, was already one of the biggest global markets.

It is important to provide travelers with guidance regarding sustainability costs, highlighting the industries' efforts to improve provisions of sustainable options.

In response to this, the report provides guidance on the actions that travelers can take to travel sustainably, and measures to empower their own consumer decisions, including booking sustainable travel options with certified service providers, spending more time in one destination, and cultivating sustainable habits such as changing towels or bed linen less frequently, and avoiding single-use plastics in their guest experience.

The report calls for action for the hospitality industry to work together hand in hand to achieve a sustainable transformation in China.

"It has to be the industry coming together and working together toward a common cause, and partnering with the government to advance that cause," said Gary Rosen, CEO of Accor China.

Meanwhile, Accor said the tourism recovery in China is stronger than other parts of the world.

"I'm really confident on the return and the rebound here, and it is recovering faster than we expected," Rosen said.

"People wanted to go back to some of their favorite places and new places, and we see that certainly in terms of our hotel stays. It's a fantastic recovery," he said.

"We've already reahed our levels of 2019," he added.

"We've recognized that there's a continuation of people, the way they were traveling during the time of COVID, as more families are still taking short staycation trips. They realize the importance of spending time together," said Rosen.

"The other is the continuation of these unique experiences, predominantly around nature and nature tourism," said Rosen. "People go especially to areas to hike and to areas in the mountains."

He said the main challenge of tourism recovery lies in the resumption of international flight capacity.

"There's still a limitation on flight capacity internationally," he said.

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