Booking.com -
Making sustainable travel
easier for everyone

Booking.com’s mission is to make it easier for everyone to experience the world. As one of the world’s leading travel companies, Booking.com believes they have a responsibility to ensure the planet, its people, wildlife and habitats thrive now and in the future. Booking.com partnered with Sustainalize to create an impact model for the sustainability efforts of accommodations, which formed the foundation of their first-of-its-kind Travel Sustainable badge.

The Travel Sustainable badge

Developed alongside the Travalyst Coalition, Booking.com’s Travel Sustainable programme represents a credible, globally relevant sustainability standard that identifies locations offering a more sustainable travel experience. Booking.com empowers their accommodation partners to showcase their sustainability efforts on the platform, no matter where they might be on their individual sustainability journeys. Properties of all kinds, from family-run B&Bs and apartments to large resorts can be recognized with the Travel Sustainable badge, which highlights that a property has taken significant steps to make a traveler’s stay more sustainable – making it easier for customers to book consciously and with confidence.

Selection of attributes included in the model

Building on several existing frameworks and standards, including from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), five key sustainability areas for accommodations were identified: waste, energy and greenhouse gases, water, supporting local communities, and protecting nature. For each category, attributes were determined by evaluating their potential impact and relevance, implementation costs and effort, and verification potential. For the first version of the model, this resulted in 32 specific sustainability measures or practices that accommodations can implement. All attributes in the current framework have been validated by the Travalyst Independent Advisory Group (IAG), with Booking.com and Travalyst aiming to add additional attributes to cover a broader range of sustainable practices in the future.

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  • Impact measurement
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Experts at work
Quinten Geleijnse

Quinten Geleijnse

Consultant, Sustainalize

Misha Elkerbout

Misha Elkerbout

Senior Consultant, Sustainalize

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Developing a robust methodology

As the aim is to identify properties that offer guests a truly sustainable experience, Sustainalize developed a robust methodology that assesses the relative importance of these 32 sustainable practices. While this assessment is impact-based, not only environmental and social impacts are considered when determining their relative weight in the model. The accommodation’s location and size are also considered, improving the accuracy and applicability of the Travel Sustainable badge among the large variety of Booking.com’s accommodation partners.

As the goal is to create a universally applicable and recognizable standard together with Travalyst, the model must take into account that operating sustainably has a different meaning in different geographic regions. For example, water-reducing measures in an area prone to droughts and saving plastics in a region where waste management systems are underdeveloped are weighted as being more impactful. So the relative importance of attributes is location-dependent. Additionally, the model corrects for a property’s size as all impacts are calculated per guest room, ensuring accommodations are reasonably assessed, regardless of their scale.

The Travel Sustainable badge and its methodology have been independently verified by the Travalyst IAG, and continue to be developed with further consultation and advice from GSTC, ensuring travelers can trust that the model and impact of the practices being put in place are sound.

How properties are eligible for the Travel Sustainable badge

This model creates a level playing field for a wide range of accommodation partners to be recognized for their sustainability efforts. Accommodation partners can obtain the Travel Sustainable badge by implementing a combination of sustainable attributes that add up to an impact score that exceeds the location-specific threshold for their destination. Alternatively, properties can also receive the badge when officially certified by one of over 30 existing sustainable tourism labels and certifications recognized by the programme. This includes Green Tourism and the EU Ecolabel, and those certifications officially approved by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

Information is collected through Booking.com’s supplier portal (extranet) to evaluate if an accommodation is eligible for the Travel Sustainable badge. In the Booking.com extranet, properties submit their sustainability practices through a survey of dichotomous (yes/no) questions, which results in an impact score. Although this score is already tailored to the property’s location, the threshold with which the score is compared is also region-specific. Some attributes are more difficult to implement in certain regions than others. The well-developed recycling infrastructure in Western Europe often allows accommodations to recycle waste with little effort compared to the other areas. Similarly, the availability of renewable energy varies significantly by region, making it difficult for some accommodations to purchase it.

What's next?

Booking.com aspires to expand the model and broaden its applicability in the future. The model currently consists of 32 attributes; more will be added soon to allow the Sustainable Travel badge to cover more aspects of sustainability. Furthermore, the model will be customized to different accommodation types to improve its applicability.

In our Walk The Talk Podcast series, we will dive deeper into Booking.com’s purpose and vision of sustainable travel and how the model fits that strategy. What are the next steps? How will the model develop over time, and what are the future ambitions?


Stay tuned for more exciting developments yet to come!

"Sustainalize is a great partner for us. Supportive and knowledgeable, Sustainalize is very easy to work with and always happy to think along with us as we progress on this journey."

Thomas Loughlin

Thomas Loughlin

Sustainable Supply Lead, Booking.com

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