Booking.com Ends ‘Possibly Misleading’ Sustainability Program



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Booking.com’s Travel Sustainable program ran into a regulatory buzzsaw.

Booking.com initiated a program in 2021 to highlight properties that were standouts in their sustainability practices – on Monday, it began removing its badges from listings in response to regulators in the Netherlands.

Booking’s program was called “Travel Sustainable” and designated properties with scores between 1 and 3+ as well as green leaves badges. On March 25, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets said the program “was a possibly misleading sustainability claim.” Booking.com is headquartered in Amsterdam.

“It implies that traveling and staying at one of the program-affiliated accommodations are sustainable, even though this is incorrect,” the regulator found. “The use of the green leaf reinforces this implication.”

The consumer authority found that the program gave a “distorted” view of hotels that Booking didn’t provide with green leaves designations because these properties might be carrying out sustainable practices that weren’t recognized.

The Travel Sustainable program didn’t clearly state the basis of the scores and erroneously credited properties with measures, such as not using single-use plastics, that were already required under European Union law, the regulator stated.

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

Sustainability Badges Are Being Removed

In April 2022, Booking.com reported that more than 100,000 properties listed on its site had received a Travel Sustainable badge, and the company was recognizing them for their sustainability efforts. That was more than 25% of the 400,000 “hotels, motels and resorts” listed on Booking.com that year.

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets said Monday that Booking.com was taking that sustainability program “offline,” adding that the company informed the regulator that “they are working on an improved system.”

A Booking.com spokesperson downplayed the end of the Travel Sustainable program.

“This work is not changing, but how it is displayed will change slightly,” the spokesperson said. “We will now include official certification notices for those partners who are certified by government-approved third party sustainability bodies. For those that don’t quite meet levels for official certification, we will still include information on some of the steps they are taking for consumers. But we won’t have the leaf tiered system.”

The Booking.com spokesperson added that the company’s strategy will be the same: It wants to educate partners, including hotels, on sustainability practices, and highlight hotels to travelers that engage in sustainable practices.

What Booking.com Is Telling Hotels

Booking.com has an FAQ for partners about the “evolution” of its sustainability program, and stated that it will be relying more heavily on third-party certifications.

The company acknowledged that the Travel Sustainable name will be gone. “This shift ensures consistency and clarity to help make it easier for travellers to make informed choices that are more sustainable,” Booking.com stated.

Booking.com will display properties’ third-party certifications and travelers will continue to be able to search via a filter for properties that have such certifications.

Booking.com said properties will continue to be able to highlight their sustainable practices on their property pages on Booking.com. “You’ll remain in control of editing and managing the practices you share with us,” Booking.com stated.



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