Our nation’s travel industry is at a turning point

Americans increasingly prioritize sustainability when making decisions about how and where to travel. In parallel, American transport innovators are developing new technologies to make the entire mobility value chain more sustainable.

This convergence presents significant economic opportunities for our nation as well as new considerations for policy makers at the local, state and federal levels. To ensure the equitable distribution of infrastructure to support more environmentally friendly mobility technology, industry leaders and government decision makers will need to work together hand in hand.

It is clear that Americans want to travel more sustainably. More than one in five US travelers who responded to an Ipsos survey said they would travel more by car if their personal vehicle produced fewer carbon emissions, and 15% said they would do the same for air travel.

Looking ahead, over two-thirds of respondents said they would take more frequent leisure travel and 28% would take more business travel if Virgin Hyperloop technology were available. Nearly half of air travelers would make more frequent leisure trips and 16% of business travelers would make more frequent business trips to distant destinations if Boom Supersonic aircraft technology were available.

It’s not just travelers’ priorities that change. Companies are also making ambitious corporate sustainability commitments that could change the way workers meet for off-site conferences and workshops. And as we see more hybrid work environments here to stay, there is an opportunity to position travel as essential for growth, but likely only if it is sustainable in the long term. As a result, the travel industry is setting goals and targets to reduce emissions, minimize waste and conserve natural resources.

Investments in the sector are ambitious and substantial. General Motors plans to be fully electric by 2035. Ford plans to add four new electric vehicles to its Lincoln lineup by 2026. And Hyundai has announced plans for a 2,200-acre site in Georgia to build battery-powered cars.

Major US airlines, including American, Delta and United, have committed to carbon neutrality by 2050. A strong push is underway to substantially expand sustainable aviation fuels. At the same time, new technologies being developed, such as electric vertical take-off and landing (eTOL) aircraft, are about to reinvent aviation.

In the hospitality industry, Hilton’s hotel chains have partnered with Clean the World, the world’s largest hotel soap and bathroom recycling organization. Booking.com has created a program to encourage properties on its platform to become more sustainable and provide greater transparency to help consumers identify sustainable travel options.

But for this transition to a more sustainable future to be successful, strong private sector investment needs to be paired with coordinated policies to ensure new travel technologies are supported by modern infrastructure.

Cars provide a great example. About 87% of journeys are made by car nationwide, so an increase in electric vehicles puts some destinations, such as rural areas, at risk of being excluded if they don’t have charging stations. Even in cases where charging stations are available, wider adoption of electric vehicles means we will need more.

Travel sustainability also offers tremendous opportunities to grow a solid segment of our economy. The US Travel Association, which will host the Future of Travel Mobility Summit in September, estimates that if travel only increased by 5% due to more sustainable travel options, that would lead to an additional $ 50 billion in annual travel expenses than their own. once would support an additional 850,000 US jobs.

We can see where the journey in the United States is headed, with new technologies and innovations that will help Americans connect with colleagues, friends and family in more environmentally friendly ways. We must start preparing now to secure this future.

Yet innovation cannot happen in a vacuum. America’s travel and hospitality sectors, working alongside the transportation and technology sectors, public officials and communities across the country can shape an interconnected transportation framework that supports the modern travel economy for generations to come. .

With a coordinated planning effort, we can successfully drive sustainable travel to the United States for the benefit of travelers, the economy, and our planet.

Tori Emerson Barnes is Executive Vice President, Public Affairs and Policy at the US Travel Association.

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