Vegan travel is no more the periphery

Published on : Thursday, January 27, 2022

While vegans and vegetarians are minorities in the United States, a growing number of people are more interested in reducing their meat consumption, often for environmental reasons, as livestock operations significantly produce climate-disruptive methane gas.

The travel industry is countering with plant-centric hotels, restaurants, festivals and tours as veganism becomes increasingly associated with sustainable travel, and not just during what some people are calling Veganuary, an annual January campaign to highlight the plant-based diet in the month traditionally associated with good intentions.

Favouring plants

Vegan diets consist exclusively of plant-based foods, excluding meat as well as animal-derived foods such as eggs, dairy products and honey.

It’s hard to say how many vegans exist in the United States.

A 2019 survey found that 9.7 million Americans were vegan compared to about 300,000 15 years before.

However, a 2018 Gallup poll found the 5% of Americans who said they were vegetarian and the 3% who said they were vegan were little changed from 2012.

Still, many are eating greener.

In a 2019 Nielsen survey, 62% of Americans said they were willing to reduce meat consumption based on environmental concerns. Many have satisfied their carnivorous cravings with fake meats by brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

The nonprofit Good Food Institute, which promotes alternative proteins, said 2020 was a record year for investment in alternatives at $3.1 billion, more than three times the $1 billion invested in 2019.

Vegan bed and board

Hotels are rolling out the plant-based welcome mat with vegan menus and interior design.

Vegan restaurant additions span the range of lodgings, from Marriott Bonvoy’s Aloft Hotels which recently added vegan and vegetarian breakfast items in its grab-and-go lobby markets at more than 150 North American hotels to the high-end Peninsula Hotels, which will launch a new wellness initiative in March, including plant-based dishes as well as sleep-promoting aromatherapy.

Some used the pandemic hiatus of 2020 to turn over a new leaf, so to speak, including Andaz Mayakoba resort on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, which introduced VB, short for vegan bar, serving rice ball salads and Chaya leaf wraps beside the beach.

Since 2017, when it hired vegan chef Leslie Durso, the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita in Mexico has been accommodating an expanding range of diets.

She now offers more than 200 vegan menu items and creates dishes based on guest allergies and dietary restrictions.

Menus aren’t the only vegan aspects of hotels in the animal-free vanguard. Rooms are going vegan with plant-based amenities and interior design.

On Mykonos, in Greece, Marriott Bonvoy’s Aloft Hotels opened in 2020 with a vegan restaurant, a spa that uses only plant-based massage oils and rooms furnished with vegan mattresses made with coconut fiber.

In the United Arab Emirates, the 394-room Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi plans to open two vegan rooms in February with vegan minibars and room service.

In London, among its 292 rooms, Hilton London Bankside offers a vegan suite built with plant-based materials, including bamboo flooring and pineapple-based plant-leather cushions.

A pillow menu offers down-free stuffing options such as buckwheat and millet and vegan snacks fill the minibar.

Guests have designated plant-leather seating in the restaurant.

No more French fries for dinner

For travellers who don’t want to research each meal, vegan tour operators and travel agents offer the assurance that they will be able to maintain their diets and eat well, particularly abroad.

Donna Zeigfinger, owner of Green Earth Travel and a co-founder of a vegan travel summit running online through Jan. 30, said the diet has become much more mainstream in the more than 30 years she’s been organizing vegan travel.

Vegan-friendly destinations

Destinations, by contrast, are keen to trumpet their vegan credibility.

The tourism office in Virginia said visitors spend an average of more than five minutes on pages related to vegetarian and vegan content at its website, almost two minutes more than for general travel content.

Through Jan. 30, the global fair Expo 2020 Dubai is holding what it calls the Middle East’s first vegan food festival.

In September, the tour operator Vegan Travel Asia is planning what it calls the first vegan festival in the Himalayan region, taking place in Nepal and Bhutan with panel discussions, cooking workshops and a Vegan Village of more than 100 exhibitors.

Big cities have long been vegan refuges.

A digital platform for vegan dining, ranks London as the top city globally for vegan dining with more than 150 vegan restaurants, followed by New York, Berlin, Los Angeles and Toronto.

But veganism is becoming easier to find in more rural areas Argyll, in western Scotland, has a new vegan trail connecting vegan cafes and inns and in smaller cities like Boise, Idaho, home to a vegan food truck, soul food restaurant, tattoo shop and dining tour.

Dining tours have flourished from Greenville, South Carolina, to Scottsdale, Arizona, as ways to introduce vegan visitors to local options.

To be honest, it’s more interesting than a non-vegan tour, said Ross Belfer, a partner in the company, who is an American living in Israel. What Israelis can do with a vegetable is rather unparalleled, in my humble opinion.

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