Travel agents have an responsibility to tell customers about the impact on the environment of their holidays, according to tour operators with sustainability pledges.

Representatives from Intrepid Travel, G Adventures and The Travel Corporation said consumers were thinking more about the impact of their decisions since Covid-19 began.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, G Adventures’ Jamie Sweeting said the industry had an opportunity to return more sustainably when travel restarts, but that he was “sceptical enough” that mass-market firms would “sell the heck out of” certain destinations.

He said: “Consumers have more power in the travel industry than ever before. They can choose companies that do it the right way rather than companies that do it the other way.”

Intrepid Travel’s Zina Bencheikh predicted a “long-term recovery”, adding: “I don’t believe in this idea that travel will pick up very fast.”

Noting it’s better to think about ‘how’ you travel than ‘where’ you travel, she added that while the industry needs to support destinations that rely on tourism, she believes customers will be more likely to choose their destination based on the impact of their trip.

“Even if the demand comes back the same, maybe people will go to places that are completely different,” she said. “The product will take time to recovery, even if the demand is there.”

Rachel Coffey, of the Travel Corporation – parent company to Costsaver Tours, Trafalgar Travel, Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold Vacations – explained how the brands were upping the number of tours to lesser-known destinations.

She added: “People who go to Italy will want to go to Venice, but [tourism] will come back better. Consumers are thinking more along those lines anyway [noy just about holiday destinations].

“It’s up to travel agents, and us, to educate so they understand the positive impact of going on trips with our companies – not just the experiences themselves but the impact on the climate as well.

“The more we talk about these things, the more it becomes something people buy into.”