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12.11.2018

Sustainable tourism – German travel industry tries to bridge consumer ‘green gap’ with a new sales initiative

Photo: Green leaf © futouris

The German travel industry has launched new initiatives to promote increased bookings of sustainable holidays and to overcome consumer reluctance to put what are often well-meaning travel intentions into action. Apparently, there is a massive ‘green gap’ between the goals and actions of German consumers when it comes to booking sustainable travel.

In a survey conducted last year by the Green Travel Transformation initiative, over 70 % of German holidaymakers said they pay a lot of attention to sustainability (17.5 %) or would like their holiday to be sustainable (53.7 %). But sustainability was, however, only one key aspect of actual holiday booking for 6.7 % and one factor among many for 26 %. 46 % put more importance on other issues and 21 % did not take ‘green’ issues into account at all.

The main problem is that 75 % of German consumers believe ‘sustainable holidays’ are automatically more expensive. Nearly 20 % said such trips have “a significantly higher price” and some 55 % said they have “a slightly higher price”, while only 22 % believed they cost the same as other trips. Price, therefore, is a major barrier, confirmed market researcher Ulrich Reinhardt: “Most Germans look primarily at the cost of a holiday. As long as sustainable trips are significantly more expensive, it will be more difficult to sell them. That’s why we need offers that are price competitive.”

A major problem for travel agents trying to sell sustainable holidays has been a complex muddle of specialist offers, different certificates and confusing labels. That is why RDA ally federation DRV (German Travel Association) and the Futouris organisation for sustainable travel, have launched an initiative called the ‘Green Travel Transformation’ to try to simplify this situation, to make offers more transparent and to encourage increased bookings.

A green leaf symbol now marks sustainable holiday offers in the Bistro booking system for travel agents and the printed brochures of leading tour operators such as Thomas Cook and FTI. The symbol covers 13 different ‘green’ certification schemes that meet the standards of the Global Sustainable Travel Council, including hotels, incoming agencies and destination services suppliers.

“We have labelled about 6,000 hotels and 1,200 tourism suppliers with the green leaf symbol so far,” said Stephan Busch, whose company Travel Bridge is responsible for the Green Travel Index database that the symbol is based on.

The next stage will be to develop an industry-wide concept how to evaluate whether an entire trip – and not just the hotel – is sustainable or not, by taking transportation, accommodation, catering, destination activities and other elements into account. It would, indeed, be well worth looking into possibilities of integrating sustainable and environment-friendly coach holidays into this system.

Futouris chief Harald Zeiss, the former long-serving head of sustainability at TUI, hopes that the green leaf symbol will help tour operators and travel agents to sell more sustainable holidays in the future. Zeiss emphasised that tour operators, hotels, cruise firms and other travel companies had already done a lot in recent years to make their products and services more sustainable, for example through the use of regional food, better waste management and more energy saving measures.

Further information: https://www.futouris.org/projekte/green-travel-transformation/

See also recent blog posts on sustainability and coach group tourism:

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