Travel industry alert to flight shaming trend

Flight shaming will be one of the consumer trends most likely to impact the travel industry over the next two years, according to the latest research from audit, tax and consulting firm RSM.

Travel industry insiders have warned that ‘flygskam’ (flight shaming) – an expression which has entered into common usage in Scandinavia and contributed to a significant decline in passenger numbers locally – may become a more common phenomenon in the UK. 

The travel and tourism business leaders surveyed by RSM said that carbon footprint shaming and sustainability (both mentioned by 37 per cent of respondents) were the consumer trends that will impact their business the most in the next two years, followed by other environmental concerns and digital lifestyles (mentioned by 30 per cent).

The survey, which included tour operators, booking platforms and travel agents, found that many in the industry are responding positively to the challenge by focusing on new product development which seeks to address the sustainability and environmental concerns of their customers. 

A growing number of tour operators are now offering to offset carbon emissions on behalf of their holidaymakers, while others are more actively promoting ecotourism holidays and city breaks by rail. 

But despite the challenges, the travel industry remains upbeat, with 86 per cent of survey respondents reporting optimism about their prospects in the year ahead. 

Respondents from the travel sector were also optimistic about the UK’s upcoming trade negotiations, with 77 per cent saying they were confident that the Government would broker a deal that would protect their industry in the future.

One area in which respondents did express concern was around the operation of the ATOL protection scheme. Less than half thought ATOL in its current form was fit for purpose with criticisms including inconsistencies in the application of repatriation and the lack of freedom it provided travel agencies.

Ian Bell, RSM’s head of travel and tourism said: 

‘The travel sector is becoming increasingly aware of changing consumer attitudes and its own environmental and sustainability obligations and our survey shows that the industry is starting to respond positively. 

‘While many in the industry were remarkably optimistic at the start of the year, the mood may have darkened slightly as operators become increasingly concerned about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. 

‘Historically the travel industry has proved to be hugely resilient despite their exposure to global events. Given the current headwinds, many operators may need to stay nimble to respond quickly to changing consumer demand.’

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