Sustainable tourism faces major challenges even though eco-friendly travel is becoming popular among holidaymakers in Europe, new research from Tui Group reveals.
Only one in ten European holidaymakers (11%) book eco-friendly hotels, according to the poll of more than 3,000 respondents in Germany, the UK, France, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands.
And just 9% of travellers in the UK and Belgium prefer sustainable holidays.
This compares with German and French tourists who show an above-average tendency to book sustainable accommodation, with 17% of all German respondents and 18% of all French Tui customers prefering eco-friendly hotels.
Just six per cent of Swedish and five per cent of Dutch customers follow this trend.
More than half (55%) of all respondents criticise a lack of information and choice and two thirds believe that responsibility for sustainable travel primarily lies with travel companies rather than themselves.
Tour operators should attach particular importance to offering fresh local or regional food products at hotels – and avoiding waste.
Yet 84% of respondents consider it important to ensure that every individual contributes towards reducing the CO2 footprint of their trip.
As many as 68% indicate they are prepared to make “lifestyle trade-offs” in order to benefit the environment in their everyday lives.
The main motives shaping people’s fundamental attitudes to sustainability are environmental protection and animal welfare.
French, German and Belgian tourists show a particularly strong commitment to sustainability compared with other nationalities.
Based on a broad range of questions related to sustainable behaviour such as recycling or energy saving, the study established a Sustainability Index measuring the commitment to sustainable behaviour.
Three levels of engagement – low (trying to avoid food waste or save energy), medium (investing in energy-efficient appliances or prefer fair trade products when shopping), high (having solar panels installed regularly donate money to environmental charities or book sustainable holidays).
At 48%, French respondents rank ahead of German and Belgian tourists with 41% each in the high engagement group (UK 32%, Sweden 38% and The Netherlands 33%).
Tui Group executive committee member responsible for sustainability, Thomas Ellerbeck, said: “The survey shows that sustainable travel is in vogue among holidaymakers. This trend relates both to ecological and social sustainability.
“Sustainability factors that are becoming increasingly popular in the tourism sector include environmental protection, biodiversity, and better social standards for the local population in the destination.
“Two thirds of the respondents surveyed say that tour operators are responsible for offering sustainable holidays and should provide better information.
“This confirms Tui’s sustainability strategy, aimed at delivering 10 million greener and fairer holidays per year from 2020.”
He added: “The results of the survey should encourage the entire tourism sector to drive joint sustainability standards further ahead, based, among other factors, on sustainability certification for hotels such as the schemes recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.”
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