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Australians are ready for regenerative tourism, is the travel industry? Travel Catalyst research

The Catalyst social and environmental research program provides an ongoing monitor of consumer sentiment towards a range of issues facing society. is a travel research agency and market intelligence company dedicated to helping the travel and tourism industry succeed. In partnership with and The Tourism COLAB, September’s Catalyst research looked to investigate Australian sentiment towards upcoming domestic and international travel. As our guest analyst, CEO of, Carolyn Childs, shares her thoughts on what the data tells us.

Australians are ready for regenerative tourism, is the travel industry?

Almost two out of three Australians agree that sustainability should no longer be the goal for tourism (see Chart 1).  Instead, they are calling for the industry to make a positive contribution to communities and natural places – a more holistic view of travel known as regenerative tourism. That’s the conclusion from the latest Catalyst study data from research company Glow working in partnership with and The Tourism COLAB

“What is even more striking is how widely this view is held,” says CEO Carolyn Childs. “We asked a series of statements about tourism and its role in environmental and social issues.  This was the statement that gained the highest level of agreement. At least 60% of every key demographic agreed with this statement – that includes men, older people, regional Australians and less affluent households. These are all groups who are traditionally seen as being less attached to the impacts of tourism – but they all agreed: it’s time to move on.”

Dianne Dredge, Director, The Tourism COLAB, says, “The pandemic gave people an opportunity to slow down and access a range of other perspectives aside from their own. That has made people more cognitively and socially aware of what is going on.”

Millennials (69%) were the group most likely to agree with this statement, followed by parents and affluent households. This confluence is a particular call out to those in the travel industry targeting high yield travellers and the family markets. 

Indeed, Millennials were the most demanding overall across the whole series of statements about tourism’s responsibilities. They were equally adamant (69%) that they expect to see tourism take a seat at the table in solving the big challenges our planet faces. Yet again, whilst they were more numerous, they were not alone. Overall 57% percent of Australians felt the same way (see Chart 2) with parents and high-income households strong supporters.  

Views were a little more nuanced on whether these opinions had been impacted by COVID-19. It seems a few people are prepared to give the industry some slack. Just over half said their expectations hadn’t really changed, or they didn’t know. Just as many said that covid had actually raised expectations of tourism. 

Part of the reason for this lack of social licence is that communities feel undervalued by decision-makers on issues related to tourism. 62% of Australians agree that the views of communities count for less than those of the tourism industry.  Of all the concepts tested this had the most relevance for Australians living in regional communities – but it was no less important to metro consumers.  “On this issue, there is no city/bush divide – we all agree that communities should count for more,” says Childs.  It’s something the industry should mess with at their peril, with last month’s Catalyst survey showing how much Australians value community.

A majority of Australians have indicated that if the industry does their part, they are prepared to take up their share. 52% would be willing to pay up to 5% more for a holiday if they could be confident that it really was regenerative. Interestingly, less affluent households were just as likely to agree as wealthier ones.

In fact, 44% of Australians have already started to change the way they travel, suggesting that the companies that lead on this issue will be the ones that reap the benefits of this drive to travel better.

One good place to start is with carbon offsetting. 56% think that this should be mandatory for all flights rather than a matter of choice.  

This should be no surprise.  After COVID-19 (55%), climate change (42%) now ranks alongside economic factors like the cost of living (42%) as the issues which Australians believe require urgent attention. 

Says Childs, “Australians of all kinds are inviting the travel industry to enter a new contract — one that acknowledges communities and nature as partners, rather than resources to be exploited.  We’re already seeing destinations like Bhutan, Bay of Plenty (New Zealand) and Flanders, plus tourism businesses like Intrepid, respond.  After almost two turbulent years, we know the industry is exhausted. But the worst of times can actually be the best of times.  Indeed, now is actually the perfect time to change.”

As Jenny Cave, Associate, The Tourism COLAB said, “The results catalyse an opportunity to engage with stakeholders and communities in meaningful conversations about ways that their towns and practices can evolve alternative livelihoods, linked to, but no longer dependent upon, tourism, hospitality and events.

by Carolyn Childs, CEO,

Get the monthly Catalyst data release here.