Brits take a million green holiday trips a year, worth a total of £409m, according to research from Mintel.
Green tourists are a tiny minority, the survey finds, accounting for only 1.2% of the 2006 UK travel market. However Mintel’s research predicts a 25% growth in responsible travel year on year in Britain, making it the fastest growing travel sector.
Awareness of ethical travel issues is strong among British travellers, though their actions lag behind. 20% say they are willing to pay to offset carbon emissions from flights, but only 2% of UK consumers’ carbon is currently offset.
And 42% were aware tourism helps the local economies of their holiday destinations. However, only a minority of travellers actively seek holidays with an ethical code of practice and even fewer change their holiday plans because of responsible tourism.
Obstacles to a greater take-up of ethical travel products include public scepticism over corporate practices and consumers’ saturation with ethical concerns. 63% of consumers believe that companies are “just using green and ethical issues for PR purposes”, and greater transparency and consistency among carbon offsetting businesses would increase consumer confidence.
Green travellers are more likely to have an above-average income or be in the “third age”, according to the survey, though they were “fairly evenly” spread across the short- and long-haul as well as the independent and package holiday sectors. The youth and family markets scored worst, with younger travellers “appearing keener to close their eyes to the situation beneath their sunglasses” and those travelling with children preferring to “relax, rather than worry about ethical issues or future consequences”.
Nonetheless, 9% overall expressed a desire to volunteer on an aid, teaching or construction project as part of a future holiday.
The study also underlines the relentless rise of air travel, putting the current growth in UK air passengers at 6.4% per year. Some 38% of those surveyed had taken a low-cost flight in the past 12 months, while budget airlines (22%) and overseas property ownership (11%) are causing Britons to fly ever more frequently.
As for non-flying alternatives, efforts to promote domestic and international rail journeys are being “derailed by the legacy of overpricing and overcrowding on domestic services”, with more affordable tickets and greater capacity “desperately required” at home.
Coach travel, in decline since 2001, could also benefit from recent rises in aviation taxes as well as the growing green travel market. Separate research from Mintel suggests that companies such as Eurolines are already reporting an uplift in business from those concerned about climate change, while companies such as Stagecoach are trialling greener fuels in their fleets