OTAs keen to play up sustainability credentials in search results

The world’s biggest online travel agents, Booking.com and Expedia, are in talks to include sustainability accreditation in hotel search results.

Leading operators, particularly Tui, already identify hotels certified by Abta’s Travelife and other schemes recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). But the big OTAs do not, as too few hotels are certified to show up in search results. Bookdifferent.com, a subsidiary of Booking.com, is one of only a few to display properties certified as ‘sustainable’.

GSTC chief executive Randy Durband said: “We’ve had extensive discussions with Expedia, TripAdvisor and Booking.com. The giant OTAs want at least 4,000-5,000 hotels [accredited].”

The GSTC recognises 27 schemes, including Travelife, but has accredited only three. There are about 2,000 hotels in GTSC-certified schemes (Biosphere in Spain, and EarthCheck and ECO Certification in Australia) and 5,000 in recognised schemes.

Durband said: “The big OTAs are more interested. I’m confident we’ll reach a threshold in the next year that will be sufficient. Two or three significant bodies are on the way [to accreditation] in six to 12 months.”

Travolution understands Travelife is one of these.

However, a broad take-up online will also require development of a single certification mark. Durband said: “The certification bodies are protective of their brands. Some have had separate discussion with OTAs, but the OTAs aren’t interested.”

An Expedia spokesperson said: “Sustainable travel is an important and growing area for us and we continue to look for ways to expose travel providers who are doing this well to our customers.”

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