Luxury Travel is Sustainable

“It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

It can’t be, right? How can high levels of luxury consumption gel with sustainable travel? We say it’s possible and in this article we’ll show how the industry is evolving. Read on and find out how to both have your cake and eat it, too.

First, a bit of a personal question. What do you consider luxurious? Private jets, enormous yachts? Or perhaps an early morning walk on your favourite beach when nobody is around?

At One Planet Journey, we define it as a premium experience, leaving your soul fulfilled. Expensive, cheap or free doesn’t matter. I’ve experienced traditional luxury travel and, while enjoyable, memorable moments came in times of total serenity. For example, taking a walk in the Sahara desert, immersed in endless dunes and a soft breeze. Another topic is of course cuisine. Michelin star restaurants deliver outrageous gourmet experiences, but you can enjoy mind-blowing meals at food trucks as well.

Dunes in an expansive desert

Sahara desert, Egypt

Out of the bubble

Luxury has evolved from ownership to more one-of-a-kind encounters. And herein lies vast business potential for both the travel industry and destinations.

Instead of uniform token exoticism, from an outside-looking-in perspective, tourists crave personalised and meaningful experiences with strong local flavour and authenticity. By engaging in activities in harmony with nature and the cultural environment, this new segment of luxury travellers tap into the social fabric of the destination. Your money creates permanent community benefits like jobs, a stronger economy, environmental protection, and robust infrastructure.

In 2015, I visited Rwanda to trek in the jungles and on the volcanos where the famous mountain gorillas live, an incredible wildlife experience to be sure, and the eco-lodges where I stayed were first class. However, my stay took new heights with the opportunity to do an inspirational talk for Kigali tech entrepreneurs. Not to mention presenting my home country, Sweden, in schools near the Volcanoes National Park area.

A gorilla eating in the jungle

Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

A quiet revolution in luxury sustainable travel

Many luxury hotels and resorts have incorporated sustainable practices into their operations, almost under the radar. Measures include using renewable energy sources, reducing water usage, implementing recycling programs, and sourcing local and organic food. Apart from the positive effects, they also enhance brand value by appealing to conscious consumers. You find these pioneers displaying certifications to make your selection easier. We believe it’s important that businesses showcase their work, even if they don’t satisfy every single criteria on the sustainability spectrum. Better to take one step forward, be proud of it, and inspire others to do the same, rather than engage in green muting. While a loud and constant negative minority exists, a majority of guests appreciate and reward progress.

Did you answer jets and yachts to the question at the beginning? Well, time to relax. Smart luxury travel companies don’t want to be left behind and offer greener options with the same level of indulgence and comfort. Travellers now have the possibility of choosing from an amazing line-up of eco-friendly boats, private jet charters with carbon-offsetting programs, and sustainable safari tours. I have fond memories of a multi-day responsible tiger viewing in Ranthambore National Park in India. The combination of financial flows from exclusive on-site hotels and ethical wildlife experiences helps protect and secure a thriving population.

Take your time

Luxury is often associated with extravagance and excess, dismissing a more minimalist approach that’s every bit as desired. Instead of packing multiple destinations and activities into a short period, travellers of late have chosen a more leisurely pace, allowing for a deeper exploration of each location. Throw the checklist out the window! Metaphorically, of course, we don’t support littering.

Staying in boutique hotels, engaging with local communities and sampling locally sourced, food and beverage provides an opportunity to engage with artisans, farmers, and craftspeople. By slowing down, a greater sense of satisfaction and fulfilment is yours for the taking. Opulent train rides, for example, offer an excuse to live the mantra, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” For enthusiasts, we covered the topic in more detail in “Why Slow Travel is Sustainable Travel.”

Interior design of luxury train

Travel in style on a classic train journey

As the world continues to grapple with the challenges of climate change, the travel industry has a critical role to play in promoting responsible tourism practices. Sustainability and luxury are no longer mutually exclusive concepts and, with the shift in the industry, we look forward to bringing you shining symbols of the marriage. Stay tuned!

What’s your idea of luxury travel? Leave a comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter and benefit from tips, interviews, and inspirational examples of sustainable travel coming your way.

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