Special Report: Consumers’ eco concerns drop

Aito consumer survey finds fall in focus on sustainability of travel choices. Juliet Dennis reports

A survey of Aito customers has revealed a slight drop year on year in concerns about sustainability.

Of the 12,000 client responses from 40 companies within Aito, The Specialist Travel Association, including operators, travel agents and tourist boards, 33% were concerned about their carbon footprint – down from 37% a year ago.

In total, 28% of respondents to a survey for the association’s 10th annual Travel Insights report said they do not consider the carbon footprint of their travel when making booking decisions.

But Roy Barker, director of customer data and insights company Spike, which conducted the survey on Aito’s behalf, pointed out: “That means 70% do.”

Sustainability credentials

There was also a slight fall in the proportion of travellers who regarded the sustainability of a travel firm or holiday destination as important.

Less than half (47%) said they always or often consider the sustainability credentials of a company as ‘of significant importance’, with 48% saying the same regarding a destination. A year ago these figures were 54% and 52% respectively.

The research also found that 21% of respondents never or seldom consider a company’s sustainability credentials when booking.

Similarly, concern among travellers about helping local economies has dropped since last year, with 17% seldom or never considering this factor, compared with 12% last year. However, the survey revealed 75% of people do believe travel is a ‘force for good’.

Booking variance

Despite this, Barker said consumer sentiment on sustainability did not appear to be backed up when it came to making travel decisions.

“Although 75% say it’s a force for good, this does not appear to be a key driver [of holiday bookings] based on the data,” he said, adding: “People generally don’t think, ‘I want a sustainable holiday’, but they do think, ‘I want to go to X and do Y and if I can do that in a sustainable way then great’.”

Aito operators said price and destination ranked above sustainability among clients but eco credentials could be a way to stand out from rivals.

Ramble Worldwide sales and marketing director Jim Eite said: “Sustainability is a way companies can differentiate themselves.”

Journey Latin America director Sarah Bradley said clients wanted to mitigate the impact of travel by supporting natural habitats, local enterprises and communities.

“Carbon offsetting comes further down the [priority] list,” she said.

Travel Insights report findings

Overall customer satisfaction levels with Aito firms continue to be high, with agents receiving a higher score than tour operators.

According to this year’s Travel Insights report, 91% of respondents expressed above-average satisfaction levels with their holiday, slightly down on last year’s 94%.

The figure was higher among customers of just Aito agents, 96% of whom ranked their satisfaction above average, compared with 91% of operators’ clients. This is thought to be due to personal rapport with agents.

When customers were asked why they booked with a certain company, 94% cited expertise, service levels and support, up from 88% last year. For specialist agency customers, the figure was 97%.

More than half of respondents said they spend more than £2,500 per person on experiential holidays, with nearly 80% willing to pay more for a better experience.

More than 80% of those surveyed were aged over 50 and 66% over 60, with 95% in an average or above average financial position. More than 80% said holidays were an important part of their lifestyle.

Roy Barker, director of Spike, which carried out the survey, said: “Your customers love you, want to travel and demographics are on your side.”

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