Exclusive: Apathy and confusion stalls uptake of carbon offsetting

Apathy among agents and confusion among consumers is hitting the take-up of carbon offsetting by leisure travellers.

That is the view of Sunvil Holidays managing director and ABTA board member Noel Josephides, who warns the industry will pay a price if it fails to take climate change more seriously.

Josephides said: “The impetus has gone out of offsetting. People are ignoring it. It is too much of a hassle.

“Agents do not want it on last-minute bookings. They do not want to ask the client about it.”

Sunvil was the first UK tour operator of any size to offer offsetting as an opt-out option last year – meaning consumers have to choose not to accept it.

“We had 36% take-up in the first year,” said Josephides. He reported a 30% fall so far this year, with the lowest take-up among sales through agencies.

“The offsetting rate is 50% higher on direct bookings than through agents because agents do not want to do it,” he said. “They are pushed for time and it is a lot of aggravation. Most agents have little inclination to explain offsetting to clients.”

Sunvil includes a carbon-offset contribution and a donation to sustainable tourism charity the Travel Foundation on invoices.

“Agents often ask us to deduct these before we produce the invoice. Clients are not even given the opportunity to consider the option,” said Josephides.

But he added: “I sympathise with agents. It is management that is at fault. Most travel bosses do not treat climate change with the gravity it deserves. It is disappointing for an industry responsible for considerable carbon emissions.”

Josephides is also dismayed by the lack of interest in ABTA’s Reduce My Footprint initiative, launched at last year’s Travel Convention.

“There is hardly any take- up,” he said. “Nothing that relates to climate change is easy. It cannot be left to travel consultants. This needs the backing of shop owners and managers. ABTA is trying, but this needs a lot more commitment from members.”

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