Green travel market set to grow 25% a year
Monday February 19 2007: Britain has a budding green travel market with over a million responsible holidays, worth a total of £409m, taken last year, according to the latest research from Mintel.
Green tourists still form a tiny minority, the survey finds, with responsible breaks accounting for only 1.2% of the 2006 UK travel market. However Mintel’s research detects the seeds of change, predicting a 25% growth in the responsible travel market year on year.
Awareness of ethical travel issues is already strong among British travellers, though their actions can often lag behind. Around a fifth of the population is prepared to pay to offset carbon emissions from flights, but only 2% of UK consumers’ carbon is currently offset.
Similarly, some 42% of those surveyed said they were aware that tourism could help the local economies of their holiday destinations. However, only a minority of travellers actively sought holidays with an ethical code of practice and even fewer had changed 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. An overwhelming 63% of consumers believe that companies are “just using green and ethical issues for PR purposes”, the study finds, while 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.