Envisioning tourism in 2030 and beyond



Tourism in 2030 and beyond: a vision

The Travel Foundation’s vision of tourism’s sustainable future, and its implications for short-term rentals

When it comes to an existential threat facing our planet, it’s only natural that we want to know what’s around the corner.

The Travel Foundation hasn’t quite managed to look into the future. But, they have modelled various possibilities for the future of travel in a world in climate crisis. Their industry report finds that, if we act now, the tourism sector can still reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by close to 2050.

What does that mean for short-term rental operators? Stick around as we delve into the Travel Foundation’s findings and consider precisely what they mean for the vacation rental industry.

Business as usual is no longer enough

The Travel Foundation used a “systems dynamics model”, developed at the Breda University of Applied Sciences, to predict the outcomes of different combinations of emissions reduction strategies. Essentially, if we do a, b, and c, what happens? How about if we do x, y, and z?

The key message that their results hammer home is that the global tourism industry cannot continue on its current track and still expect to meet climate targets. It simply isn’t possible.

“We have delayed action for too long, and as a result, our options have narrowed. This assessment should act both as wakeup call and motivation to act. There is huge opportunity for travel and tourism in a decarbonising world, but we must act with urgency and unite in our vision for a ‘good’ transition.” – Jeremy Sampson, CEO of the Travel Foundation

The report begins by analysing the four key methods upon which the travel sector is currently relying to reduce emissions:

  • Carbon offsets
  • Sustainable Aviation Fuel
  • Future technological advances
  • Taxation

It found that, even combined, these methods fall far short if they’re applied to the travel system as we currently recognise it. According to the Travel Foundation’s model, we wouldn’t achieve our net zero target until into the 2060s, more than a decade too late.

Interested in more industry data? Check out our compilation of reports and statistics on sustainable consumer behaviour.

The travel and tourism industry still has time to get it right

And yet, there’s still hope: the Travel Foundation did find a scenario in which the global travel industry reaches net zero (very nearly) on target. Importantly, this scenario doesn’t require us to suddenly, drastically cut down global travel, which could deeply harm short-term rental business owners. Instead, it focuses on:

  • Shifting travellers away from the most polluting forms of transport
  • Heavily investing in decarbonisation infrastructure (between 2-3% of total tourism revenue up to 2050)

If we implement this decarbonisation scenario, travel will undergo significant changes within less than a decade. In 2030:

  • The longest-distance trips are capped to 2019 levels and flights are taxed to generate investment for decarbonisation infrastructure. This means that, in real terms, flights are two-thirds more expensive than in 2019.
  • Nearly one-quarter of cars are electric, with one-third of electricity coming from renewable sources.
  • Rail investment results in three times the length of high-speed track and increasing electrification of the rail system. A 40% subsidy means that tickets will be one-third cheaper than in 2019.
  • 83% of accommodation is electric (with one-third of this electricity coming from renewable sources), and accommodation is 12% more energy efficient.

We have less than seven years to implement some pretty drastic changes, and that’s just a start. Under this scenario in 2050, the travel industry looks entirely different…



The cap on long-distance trips remains in place, meaning that there are 48% fewer flights than there would be in the business-as-usual scenario. 

Crucially, total numbers of flights have still grown by 19% since 2019. The Travel Foundation’s imagined caps don’t stop aviation growth altogether, they simply slow it down and shift travellers towards less polluting short-haul flights.

In addition to caps, nearly all jet engine flights are powered by e-fuels, and a small number of aircraft are electric. There is no offsetting, instead the aim is to drastically reduce the emissions of flights by converting to electric fleets.

One result of these changes is that, in real terms, plane tickets are around three times more expensive than they were in 2019.


100% of cars are electric, with 99% of this electricity coming from renewable sources.

Rail and other transport

There has been significant investment in rail infrastructure, and we now have ten times more high speed network than in 2019. In addition, the 40% subsidy on train tickets remains, meaning that, in real terms, rail travel is less than half the cost of 2019.

So, whilst long-distance air travel is more limited and more expensive, short- and middle-distance travel by car, rail, or coach becomes easier and more accessible. This likely means that travellers take fewer global trips, and your short-term rental receives more local guests.

In addition to expanding the rail system, rail and coach transport is now 96% electric, and the majority of this electricity comes from renewable sources.


The most significant changes to accommodation are seen in its energy consumption:

  • 99% of accommodation is powered by electricity from renewable energy sources
  • Accommodations are, on average, 47% more energy efficient than in 2019

Under the business-as-usual scenario, the average trip lasts 3.37 nights. Under the decarbonisation scenario, the average trip lasts 3.73 nights. Longer trips mean fewer changeovers, which means lower costs and energy usage for short-term accommodation operators.

Getting sustainability right will help the short-term rental industry to grow 

In this report, the Travel Foundation presents a solution which allows the travel industry – and, by extension, the short-term rental industry – to continue to grow. Their imagined scenario requires drastic shifts in how we travel, but it doesn’t require vacation rental owners and managers to sacrifice their financial stability. 

In fact, they hope that this route would help stakeholders in the global tourism industry to maintain their stability. In their decarbonisation scenario:

  • Overall number of trips increases in line with the business-as-usual scenario
  • Total revenue increases in line with the business-as-usual scenario
  • Overall guest nights increase at a greater rate than the business-as-usual scenario

In contrast, the rapidly worsening effects of climate change pose a serious threat to short-term rental operators. Limited natural resources lead to economic crises and geo-political tensions, both of which restrict our ability to travel. Natural disasters threaten the properties and communities upon which we depend.

This is our last chance to transition into a zero carbon economy in a way that still allows us to grow and develop as an industry.

We owe each other an equitable sustainability 

The Travel Foundation urges us to remember that these changes won’t have the same impact in every part of the world. It’s important that we take a flexible, equitable approach to our solutions. 

The report highlights the particular vulnerability of small island developing states (SIDS). These states tend to have a small carbon footprint themselves, and yet are some of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. At the same time, tourism accounts for a significant portion of their GDP. Any net-zero tourism solutions must account for the economic context of middle- and lower-income countries.

As a short-term rental operator, what does this mean for you? At a local level, it means ensuring that your business puts money back into the local economy and benefits local people.

Vacation rental operators are crucial to net zero tourism solutions 

Short-term rental properties are only one part of the travel and tourism sector, and yet accommodations account for 10% of the sector’s total emissions. This means that the action we take – as individuals and as a wider industry – will play a significant role in determining whether we reach net-zero by 2050.

Environmental legislation and regulation are catching up to the realities of the climate crisis. They’ll soon begin to impact our sector much more significantly than they have previously. The best thing we can do – for the climate and for our business – is to be prepared for them.


Start in your own backyard

We understand if this all feels overwhelming. It’s certainly a big job we’ve got ahead of us! But even the smallest steps will take us in the right direction. 

If you’re just starting your sustainability journey, we’re here to support you. Our Sustainability Roadmap walks you through simple, manageable steps to start reducing your business’s emissions. No jargon or vague suggestions here. We outline practical, concrete actions you can take.

One of the key ways in which you can reduce your direct emissions is by reducing your energy consumption. The Travel Foundation suggests that this will happen partly through longer average guest stays. You can also:

  • switch to a green electricity tariff
  • replace incandescent and halogen bulbs with LEDs
  • install solar panels where affordable (remember to to make the most of any grants and tax incentives in your area)

If you’re looking for inspiration, read about how Les Chauvins transformed their 17th-century rental property into an eco destination, one step at a time.

You don’t need to accomplish everything at once. All of our (free!) resources are there to support you in making meaningful sustainable changes, whatever your starting point.

Become a sustainable trailblazer 

In order to make the radical changes that the Travel Foundation outlines, we need to work together. The good news is that your actions can have an impact far beyond your own business.

Once you feel confident that you’re making meaningful sustainable changes, start to tell people about what you’re doing. Talk to fellow vacation rental operators. Shout about your sustainable initiatives in your guest communications. If people understand what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it, they’re more likely to implement changes in their own lives.

Many travellers are way ahead of the tourism industry in their desire for more sustainable travel. As accommodation providers, we need to listen to what they’re saying and give them what they need. Sustainable action is absolutely necessary if we want to keep pace with our consumers.

You could even join industry-level initiatives, such as Glasgow Declaration, to influence decision-making at a higher level. We’ve compiled a list of sustainable initiatives across the vacation rental industry. Take a look to see how you could get involved!

The Travel Foundation has produced their report to show that the travel sector still has viable options for reaching net-zero emissions in time. There is hope if we act now. So, what are we waiting for?

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