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Practical Techie: Google becomes an assistant to sustainable travel

The world is slowly waking up from the long pandemic lockdown and travel is fast becoming once more a trendy habit. Sustainable tourism is the new norm.

The World Tourism Organization defines sustainable travel as tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts on the environment. It is adorned with terms such as ecotourism, green tourism, soft travel, rural tourism and agrotourism, or community tourism and is in opposition to traditional mass tourism with its high carbon imprint.

Interestingly, Google has taken up the task of assisting travelers to do so in a sustainable manner by providing facts on how to have the least impact on the environment. Launched during the summer of 2021, the travel sustainability function serves key data for eco-friendlier voyaging. A user simply goes to google.com/travel, clicks on any hotel, airline, cruise ship, so an and hits the ABOUT tab to discover how the venue or service deals with sustainability.

FACTS Pre-pandemic travelers were usually worried about airfares costs, adequate lodging, security issues, and health concerns abroad. Now Google will factor in the carbon emission angle. The move comes after Google found that since 2004 many searches registered a growing interest in sustainable travel options.

For example, hotels with green practices reduced atmospheric damage by airlines, cruise ship lines that protect the ocean space, or which attractions, theme parks, and zoos were truly ecology minded.

As part of the search, independent organizations such as Green Key or Earth Check have partnered with Google to give certified organic badges to different venues and destinations.

SOURCES Travelers can click on a certain hotel to display a list of what the place is doing on sustainable practices such as waste and material reduction efforts, energy efficiency measures, or water conservation. Also available will be data on low-carbon flights of a particular flight.

Google is also partnering with the European Environment Agency to obtain accurate datasets and pass them on to the conscious traveler.

Data is also culled from the global Travalyst Coalition, which helps develop a standardized way of calculating carbon emissions from travel in airplanes. Another data source is Coalition for Shelter Sustainability Standards. As a Silicon Valley consortium, Google itself aspires to become a carbon-free company by 2030.

STATS – The numbers on travel before the COVID-19 lockdown indicated there were 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals in 2018, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNTWO). This was a 6% increase from 2017. In 2019, international tourism grew 4%, reaching 1.5 billion. Of course, all that changed in 2020 and, seemingly in the years to come as countries implement several travel restrictions to curb the spread of the disease. The stats also show that the average millennial spends $4,400 per trip, Gen-Xers spend $5,400, and Boomers some $6,600.

In perspective, global revenue for the travel and tourism industry dropped by 17% in 2020.

Now, in 2021 according to Bitlux Travel, Millennials were a whopping 80% more likely than baby boomers, and a 13% more likely than GenX to travel by spring of next year.

Author Details
Author Rafael Matos is a veteran journalist, a professor of digital narratives and university mentor. He may be contacted at cccrafael@gmail.com.
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