In the 1st CMIGreen Traveler Survey (2009) we asked, “what is green travel?”

The absence of consistent environmental standards has left it to suppliers to define sustainable practices. What we have found in our 2nd CMIGreen Traveler Survey, however, is that it is ultimately up to the consumer to decide what green travel is, and that they define their purchasing motivations. Hotels, restaurants, airlines, cruise lines and rental car companies are all implementing new products, services, systems and brands that they think will satisfy the green (aka sustainable, socially responsible) traveler. In the year between our first and second survey, we can see that some of those initiatives have born fruit, while others are dying on the vine. But the theme that this year’s respondents strongly suggest that it is easier for individual travelers to seek out and adopt more environmentally friendly behavior — as our respondents have this year — than it is for travel suppliers and large corporations.

Some travel companies and industries are doing a commendable job at greening their operations, of course; green travelers recognize that, and award them their business. And since environmental and resource realities virtually guarantee that green travel is anything but a passing fad, every segment of the travel industry is moving towards a goal of more sustainable products and services — if slowly.

At this early, transitional stage, the variety of “green” travel brands, claims, messages and environmental tourism certifications can be confusing. Green travelers, too, come in every shade, from business travelers looking for airport hotels that let them recycle to voluntourists eager to help scientists in the rainforest. Caveat emptor is the saying, however — buyer beware. Whatever their definition of sustainable travel, green travelers seem to understand that they must be as informed and proactive as the companies they travel with — if not more so.

The CMIGreen Green Traveler Study is a cooperative initiative among leading tourism/hospitality industry organizations and media.