Booking.com
Booking.com's Travel Sustainable 'leaves' system [Credit: Booking.com]

Booking.com ends sustainability programme due to ACM pressure

Netherlands: Booking.com has announced in a statement that it is ending its Travel Sustainable programme and that it will replace it with the option to filter for properties with a third-party certification.

Announcing the news on its website last week, the company said that it was removing the Travel Sustainable name and levels to “help highlight the significance of third-party certifications”, marking a shift to “ensure consistency and clarity to help make it easier for travellers to make informed choices that are more sustainable”.

As a result, the Travel Sustainable branding and levels ceased to be displayed on the Booking.com website from 25 March, although sustainable practices can still be visible to guests on the property pages.

Booking.com created the Travel Sustainable programme three years ago to “educate and guide” users on sustainability and the impact they can have. Last year, the online travel agency, which has more than 28 million accommodation listings around the world, said that more than 500,000 accommodations on its platform had a ‘Travel Sustainable’ badge on them.

However, the company said that it was shifting its approach to focus more on third-party certification, in anticipation for upcoming regulatory changes that came into effect this week. These incoming regulations are designed to help set the framework for sustainability standards, bring more clarity regarding sustainability communication, and make it easier for travellers to make more informed travel choices.

Booking.com removed the Travel Sustainable badge following pressure from the Dutch competition regulator, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets [ACM]. The ACM called the Travel Sustainable programme’s scoring “levels” system and displaying of one or more green leaves on its website [based on their sustainability efforts] “misleading”, adding that it may “result in a distorted impression of the actual sustainability efforts of accommodations”.

Additionally, the ACM noted that not all of the measures listed with the accommodations could be qualified as measures producing “significant sustainability benefits”, such as eliminating single-use plastic in a hotel, which is already prohibited in the European Union [EU].

Edwin van Houten, director of the ACM’s consumer department, said: “It’s important that companies use clear, correct and relevant sustainability claims. Consumers are more and more aware of the impact that they themselves have on the climate, including when travelling. That is why, when choosing accommodations, consumers must be able to understand and rely on the sustainability claims that are used.”

In a company statement, Booking.com said: “Booking.com will now introduce a label to acknowledge when a property has achieved a third-party sustainability certification coupled with the ability to filter searches accordingly. To date, over 16,500 properties have a third-party sustainability certification displayed on the platform.

“Moving forward, the Travel Sustainable name, logo and levels will no longer be displayed,” it added.

Thomas Loughlin, sustainability manager – supply at Booking.com, spoke on a session about ‘Sustainable hospitality: Unlimited desire vs limited resources?’ at the 2023 STRz Summit – watch the recording now at this link.

More information on Booking.com’s shift in approach to its sustainability programme can be found here.

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