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More travel consumers seek more responsible tourism

Although there is more to the business case for responsible tourism than shifting consumer expectations, recent predictions about the growth of the responsible tourism market and consumer survey results suggest that tourism businesses and destinations would do well to understand the connections between revenue and market share and taking responsibility on environmental and social issues.

Some experts predict a tripling of demand among international travellers for responsible tourism.

The UK’s Which? Travel survey questioned 1,284 people about their attitudes towards ethical travel and found the following factors were the most important when it came to booking a holiday

  • political stability of the area visited
  • financial protection for the holiday
  • the weather.

OK, so there are no great surprises there.  But note the group of next most important factors:

  • the cost of living at the destination
  • the method of transport used
  • that the company practices responsible tourism.

In particular

  • 74% of respondents wanted the holiday company they booked with to behave responsibly towards communities in destinations
  • 58% expected their holiday firm to have a policy on ethical tourism
  • 26% said they only booked holidays with companies that had a policy on ethical tourism
  • 37% said their carbon footprint was important to them when it came to booking a foreign holiday
  • 54% thought they had as much responsibility as the travel company for being aware of tourism issues in the destination.
  1. 25/10/2011 at 07:28

    Can you provide a traceable reference for the study you quote please. Also, what does this study tell us that is new? My concern is that we still look at responsible tourism in quite unsophisticated terms, and it does need to be put in context of all other travel decisions. Too much emphasis has been placed on willingness to purchase or pay more for first time products. If we look at it as part if the quality experience that leads to loyalty, and how sustainability features or taking responsibility for them is part of the feel good factor, we have a better chance to get somewhere

  2. 30/10/2011 at 00:19

    The data come from a summary of a Which? consumer survey published at:


    But you’re right, Xavier, not much new here. And for sure the attitude-behaviour gap is at play.

    In contrast:

    “The industry feels there isn’t a huge demand out there,” says Sue Hurdle, chief executive of the independent charity The Travel Foundation. “They don’t have a lot of people banging on the door asking for greener holidays.” (The Independent, 9 October 2011)

    Going back to the Which? survey and its participants general view of the holiday purchase, local communities/environment would seem to matter more than the global environment/carbon issues. This is probably a function of ongoing skepticism on the part of the flat-earthers, and sense of powerlessness or general denial/moral disengagement for others–“What can I do about global warming while I’m on holiday?”

    So, yep, tourism businesses and that group of their customers who care will, collectively, probably get somewhere quicker working on matters close to where things happen on holiday: the experience, the contact with the people, the connections with the place, and the impromptu testing of the reality of green claims with their own eyes, ears and so on.

    Yet, given that some key decision-makers in some destinations (at some DMOs) are still myopically preoccupied with growth in visitor arrivals and spend, do you think there is value in drawing attention to, what seems to be, a steady upward trend in consumers incorporating ethical and more complex aesthetic concerns into their holiday decision-making and evaluations of their experiences? Or are such surveys now distracting us from what’s really going on as part of so-called “responsible travel” transactions?

    Thanks, by the way, for being the first to comment here, Xavier. We hope to get pages up in Catalan and Spanish really soon.

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