Visit Florida

Published on Thursday, November 24, 2005

Travellers reject sustainable tourism

ABTA Convention Special Report: A third of travellers have no interest in environmental issues when taking holidays – and a large proportion are young people, a new report shows.

These ‘lackadasical’ travellers are simply not concerned by any sustainable tourism issues, and 34% of them are aged under 25.

Meanwhile, a similar number are ‘concerned tourists’, with four out of 10 aged between 35 and 54.

The findings come from a responsible tourism report from First Choice based on more than 1,000 people questioned by Mintel last month.

The report – released to coincide with the ABTA Travel Convention in Marrakech - found that more than half of those surveyed give regularly to charity at home, but only a quarter said they were concerned about the impact of tourism on the environment of the countries they visited.

Only one in five said that it was important that their visit benefited local communities.

Seventeen per cent said they actively didn’t want to think about the environmental consequences of their holidays. And while eight out of 10 said they recycled at home, only half said they’d consider recycling on holiday.

The report said: "There was some recognition of the impact that tourism can have on holiday destinations, although the responses suggest that the public does not have any real engagement with the concept of responsible tourism and it is low on their list of priorities when it comes to selecting a holiday."

Only 28% would be prepared to pay a small supplement to offset the carbon emissions of their flights and the majority 72% would not.

Other less popular suggestions included reducing the changes of towels and bedlinen (34% agreed), buying locally produced souvenirs (32%), borrowing brochures from travel agents to avoid wastage (30%) accepting a smaller range of food in hotel buffets to reduce wastage (20%), reducing the number of holidays taken (14%), spending a couple of hours to help with local projects such as beach cleaning (11%) and paying more for a holiday so a higher proportion can benefit the local community (11%).

However, more than half said they would be happy to take more public transport to explore on holiday (54%), half said they would recycle on holiday (50%), and four out of 10 said they would accept local drinks if this meant fewer imports (44%).

Only 20% of those surveyed hadn’t heard the term “responsible tourism” while 20% agreed that tourism does more good than harm to most local communities where they had taken a holiday.

First Choice Mainstream Sector managing director Dermot Blastland described the results as disappointing, saying: “People work hard for their holidays so it’s not surprising that many don’t want to worry about issues they may face up to at home. 

“That means we and other travel companies need to make it as easy as possible for people to do the right thing while they are away. It also means we need to show our customers how, with their help we can make a positive difference and preserve holiday destinations for future generations”.

Admitting that the findings were not suprising, the report stresses that it does not mean that the travel industry can be complacent about these issues "which are at the very heart of many of the destinations that they visit".

It says: "The industry can't pay lip service to responsible tourism and expect customers to be able to continue to enjoy new and varied destinations for years to come. As an industry we have to work with governments, suppliers, local community representatives and non-governmenal organisations on this challenge."

The report suggests two types of responsible holidays people may be taking in 2020, prepared in consultation with sustainable development charity Forum For The Future.

“High-tech, high-luxury holidays” will use technology to improve travellers’ experiences and reduce their impact. This could range from taking a hydrogen fuel-cell powered aircraft, to staying in fully solar-powered hotel, where gym users’ exertions help to top up the hotel’s energy bank. 

Another option could be “village holidays” where existing communities develop new buildings for visitors which are handed back to the community over time. Visitors would be welcomed by local families and help out locally, or just relax confident that more money is going directly back into the village.

Report by Phil Davies 












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  • Its all in the marketing

    Instead of asking people if they would pay more for their holiday to be more sustainable, why not market sustainability as an investment. Is is becasue of this 'money-making' image that discourages people to be environmentally friendly. Main point to consider: know your audience!

    By Kate Harland, Wednesday, March 1, 2006

  • Quality = Sustainability

    What sells is quality not sustainability. And you cannot truly say you have a quality product if you do not address sustainability. The Brazil Sustainable Tourism Program (despite the name) therefore encourages its participants to adopt sustainable practices, but to promote quality (with sustainability inside). For those who want to consult a good site on Brazil in English (and Portuguese and Spanish) visit

    By Ariane Janer, Thursday, December 1, 2005

  • a stimulating array of response

    Perhaps it was the headline that provoked so many responses, but I am pleased at the volume and diversity of the replies. Being an optimistic person by nature I agree with positive interpretation of the statistics. I also agree with the observation that many people who do not consider their vacations as being specifically sustainability motivated or oriented, are, in fact, choosing more sustainable vendors and activities. A good point was made that language barriers often prevent English speakers from accessing information about sustainable tourism in Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries. I would be more than pleased to participate in joint efforts between English speaking organisations, operators and committees wishing to mutually inform and promote sustainable tourism options incoming and outgoing between Spain and their countries. Finally, it must be recognised that in travel, as in any other sector, there are discerning, and less discerning, clients. The companies that serve them, the products they offer and their ethics reflect the market profile that they pursue.

    By Jenni Lukac, Monday, November 28, 2005

  • Travellers accept responsible tourism

    The headline of this article should have been tourists move towards responsible tourism. For the past 20 years the mainstream tourism industry have been saying that the only thing that tourists care about are cheap holidays - and that they do not have any regard at all for communities and local people. Now FC have discovered that 80% of mainstream tourists have heard about responsible tourism, that 20-25% of tourists feel it is important that tourism benefits destinations and local communities. Which mainstream tourism business is prepared to ignore 25% of its customers? My feeling is that in five years time we will find it is 40% of customers who care about responsible tourism. Justin Francis from online travel agent

    By justin125, Friday, November 25, 2005

  • could we make sustainable tourism more appealing?

    Thank you for publishing 'Travellers reject sustainable tourism.' Travellers are rejecting sustainable travel, and it is not just this survey that bears it out. The big question is 'why?' My answer -- those in the lead have made the issues too complex and boring. What's wrong? Travellers seeking information on the Web -- and this number continues to grow -- find little or no information about what's available. National tourism portals rarely feature their own sustainable tourism news or showcase operators in a way that would actually motivate sales. For example, Brazil has a lot of information, but you'd better be prepared to read Portuguese! Industry sites discuss investments and trends, but don't highlight details of practical use to travellers or travel agents. Trade shows are rarely better. Representatives know how to talk the policy angle, but when it comes to discussing specific eco-friendly, people-friendly options, they're not convincing. My suggestion -- it's time to agree to disagree about language, particularly loaded terms such as "sustainable tourism," "responsible travel" and "ecotourism." I'll point to one example that came up in the Ecotourism Emerging Industry Forum conducted online this month: "No one buys an 'ecotour' per se. People buy bird safaris, wildlife safaris, natural history tours, hiking tours, rafting tours, etc. The destination is the first priority. We all like what 'ecotour' connotes but that image is not a driving force in tourist decision-making." In short, there is a demand for sustainable tourism, but it won't be articulated in the same language as policy-makers. Ron Mader PS) One technical question -- is the survey report online? If so, could someone provide the URL?

    By Ron Mader, Thursday, November 24, 2005

  • Over 55s more concerned

    I, too, believe that your headline is misleading. A survey we recently completed of travel agents and wholesalers worldwide who book southern Africa indicated an increasing number of travellers seek local, person-to-person encounters, greater concern for the environment, and a generally more responsive attitude towards sustainability issues. Given the expense of long-haul, agents surveyed cater to mostly an over-55 market.

    By Alvin Rosenbaum, Thursday, November 24, 2005

  • from Sunvil Holidays - the report confirms what we have known for a long time

    The report confirms what our own surveys amongst our very middle class 45-plus clientele - chattering classes - reveal. All initiatives at the monment are coming from the industry - the clients are not driving this. First Choice may have a more mass market clientele than Sunvil but the results are much the same. Any company that carries volume will have the same results if it surveyed its clientele. Do not make the mistake of thinking eco-friendly companies that carry 500 to 2,000 people are representative. We have such operations within our own structure as has First Choice but these in no way represent the bulk of the travelling public.

    By Noel Josephides, Thursday, November 24, 2005

  • Wrong Headline?

    Like Steve, I disagree with the headline and First Choice. That only 1/3 reject out of hand is very encouraging. That is not a majority and your headline is misleading.

    By Ariane Janer, Thursday, November 24, 2005

  • The glass is two-thirds full

    "A third of travellers have no interest in environmental issues when taking holidays..." So, two-thirds do. That's a good start...

    By Steve Bridger, Thursday, November 24, 2005

  • Stop offering all-inclusives!

    If First Choice is really "disappointed" that its clients are not interested in sustainability, it might consider putting its house in order by withdrawing all-inclusive accommodation. This type of deal virtually guarantees the least possible benefit to the local community, as holidaymakers are incentivised to remain at their hotels and not spend money in local restaurants etc.. Not only that, but in the Caribbean many hotels import much of the food that goes to tourists, so local food suppliers don't benefit either.

    By Alastair Forbes, Thursday, November 24, 2005

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