Brits are ‘top deck’ when it comes to responsible travel

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Eco-friendly domestic tourists in the UK are more switched on to the issue of sustainability than their European counterparts – and more likely to bear these concerns in mind when booking a short break, according to new research from Tootbus. However, cost implications and generational differences pose barriers to the real, immediate action that is needed.

An impressive 69% of UK travellers say they have heard about the concept of ‘sustainable travel’, with 41% claiming to have a strong understanding of the subject. This makes them more knowledgeable than their neighbours from France (68% / 32%) and Belgium (65% / 29%). However, while 82% of those questioned in Generation Z (18-24) are clued up, that drops with each increasing age bracket, to just 60% of Boomers (65 and over).

When it comes to nipping off for a short city break, whether it’s at home or overseas, just under half of Britons (49%) say preserving the environment in their chosen destination is ‘very important’, again ahead of the French and Belgians (42% and 37% respectively).

Pollsters Opinionway conducted a wide-ranging survey on the issue of sustainable holidays on behalf of city bus tour operator Tootbus – to capture a barometer gauge on how current attitudes to green issues were likely to shape travel trends in the future. And interestingly, it was good news for holiday companies, with the answers suggesting that holidaymakers already understand that eco-tourism comes with an additional cost. While 77% of UK travellers acknowledge that eco-friendly tourism is expensive, it is a cost most are willing pay.

When quizzed about choosing activities on their city break, UK visitors are the most likely to opt for operators and attractions that are environmentally aware (86%). At the same time, Brits are more accepting of the idea that visiting a city in a ‘greener’ way could be more expensive – with average price rises of 16.5% being deemed bearable (French would pay 10.8% more / Belgians 11.8% more). However, less than one in five overall (19%) say that they would choose an eco-friendly option even if it is more expensive than a similar, less green option.

Gavin Brooking, MD Tootbus UK, explained: “Right across the travel and hospitality industry companies are battling with the fear that raising environmental standards and improving pay and conditions for staff is going to hurt them, but what our survey has discovered is that Britons are much more aware of sustainability and want to make them part of their holiday choices. And while the generational differences are clear, it is heartening to see that the younger age groups are the ones driving change.

“But I’d like to see how far they are willing to push that awareness and desire with tourism operators. While 72% say that ‘sustainable tourism must become the only way to travel’, are they ready to boycott non-green operators, especially when taking cost into account? This is something I’m particularly keen to monitor with our future barometers. We need to start seeing real, tangible actions, even if it incurs a slightly higher cost, in order to ignite real, positive change.”

The trend for doing the right thing on holiday is reflected in the British willingness to adopt eco-friendly behaviours during a city trip. Popular measures include buying local produce (89%); eating local and responsibly, with less meat and seasonal goods (82%); travelling off-peak (82%) and choosing sustainable travel to get around the city, such as walking or cycling (79%).

For city mayors and town planners there are some interesting take-aways too. Natural attractions such as green spaces and parks, and the proximity of rivers, feature in the city-break decisions of 52% of Brits. More than one in every two (55%) Brits would choose to visit a city in the UK, potentially a by-product of the pandemic restrictions, but also the how travel operators have adapted to the domestic market over last two years. Tootbus, for example, has seen huge success with locals taking to its London Bar Bus, and with tours focused on content for children and around the recent Jubilee celebrations.

Tootbus, which offers planet-friendly tours of iconic cities across the UK, France and Belgium, promotes loving and protecting our cities. Its journeys provide memorable travel experiences while remaining eco-friendly with clean air buses which are powered by biodiesel/euro 6. The sightseeing operator also launched the world’s first all-electric sightseeing bus in Brussels in 2021.

Preserving the environment is important for every component of the trip, especially for young people, who are willing to pay more than other groups. And you certainly shouldn’t underestimate the power of social media either, with British travellers way out in front when it comes to getting a good selfie… a staggering one in five (21%) said they would visit a particular spot to take the ultimate Instagram shot (rising to one in three (33%) for those aged 18-34).

And looking ahead, British holidaymakers are also more inclined to believe that the future of holidays is much more sustainable. As many as 84% of those questioned believe sustainable travel is a good way to help the environment.

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