Bridging the Say-Do Gap: Encouraging Sustainable Holiday Choices

The modern consumer is increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their actions, including their travel habits. Sustainable tourism has garnered significant attention, yet a substantial gap remains between consumers’ expressed intentions and their actual behaviours—a phenomenon known as the say-do gap. Addressing this discrepancy is critical to fostering a genuinely sustainable travel culture. But how can we close this gap? Let’s explore the multifaceted approach needed to encourage more sustainable holiday choices.

Understanding the Say-Do Gap

Firstly, it is essential to grasp the underlying reasons for the say-do gap. Consumers often express a desire to engage in more sustainable practices, but various barriers prevent them from following through. These include:

  1. Lack of Awareness: While general awareness about sustainability is rising, specific knowledge about sustainable travel options remains limited. Many travellers are simply unaware of the choices available to them or the impact of their decisions.
  2. Perceived Inconvenience: Sustainable options are often perceived as less convenient or more expensive compared to conventional alternatives. This perception deters many from opting for greener choices.
  3. Trust Issues: There is scepticism about the authenticity of sustainable claims made by travel companies. Greenwashing—where companies exaggerate their environmental efforts—has led to distrust among consumers.
  4. Habitual Behaviour: Travelling, for many, involves ingrained habits and preferences. Changing these habits requires significant effort and motivation.

Strategies to Reduce the Say-Do Gap

To bridge the say-do gap, a comprehensive strategy that addresses these barriers is essential. Here are some key approaches:

1. Education and Awareness

Increasing consumer awareness about sustainable travel options is foundational. This involves:

  • Information Campaigns: Governments, NGOs, and travel companies can collaborate on campaigns that highlight the benefits and availability of sustainable travel options.
  • Transparency: Clear, accessible information about the environmental impact of various travel choices can empower consumers to make informed decisions.

2. Enhancing Convenience and Affordability

Making sustainable options as convenient and affordable as traditional ones is crucial:

  • Incentives and Discounts: Financial incentives, such as discounts on eco-friendly accommodations or travel packages, can make sustainable choices more attractive.
  • Improved Accessibility: Ensuring that sustainable travel options are easily accessible and bookable through popular platforms can streamline the decision-making process.

3. Building Trust

Restoring consumer trust in sustainable travel claims involves:

  • Certifications and Standards: Implementing robust certification systems for sustainable tourism can help validate genuine efforts. Labels from trusted organisations can guide consumers towards authentic options.
  • Transparency in Reporting: Travel companies should provide transparent reports on their sustainability practices and impacts, fostering a culture of accountability.

4. Behavioural Nudges

Small nudges can encourage sustainable choices without requiring drastic changes:

  • Default Options: Setting sustainable options as the default choice in booking systems can subtly encourage consumers to opt for greener alternatives.
  • Social Norms: Highlighting the growing trend of sustainable travel among peers can leverage social influence to drive behaviour change.

5. Engaging the Travel Industry

The travel industry plays a pivotal role in promoting sustainable practices:

  • Industry Collaboration: Collaboration across the travel sector can standardise sustainable practices, making them the norm rather than the exception.
  • Innovation and Investment: Investing in sustainable infrastructure, such as green hotels and low-carbon transportation, can expand the availability of eco-friendly options.


Bridging the say-do gap in sustainable travel requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including consumers, travel companies, governments, and NGOs. By increasing awareness, making sustainable choices more convenient and affordable, building trust, leveraging behavioural nudges, and engaging the travel industry, we can foster a culture where sustainable travel is the norm. The journey towards sustainable tourism is complex, but with collective action, we can ensure that our holidays leave a positive impact on the world we cherish.

As we embark on our next adventure, let’s choose paths that not only satisfy our wanderlust but also honour our commitment to a sustainable future.