Holidaymakers remain sceptical about carbon offsetting and have yet to ask travel agents about the issue.

The Co-operative Travel Group managing director Mike Greenacre admitted customers remained more focused on price than the environment. The travel agency chain runs a scheme which allows customers to offset their carbon emissions when booking a holiday.

Speaking at a session on Tourism 2023, a 15 year plan on how the industry can respond to changing customer expectations on the environment, he said: “There is scepticism. The number one priority is value for money. Customers do not walk through the door and say do you do carbon offsetting and if not I won´t book a holiday.”

But he added: “The fact is we are at the beginning of a process of long term education for the whole of the population to understand what the impact is of carbon emissions.”

Thomas Cook group director of quality, safety and corporate social responsibility John De Vial agreed the holiday-buying public had yet to make choices based on the environment. He added: “There is a lot of scepticism and a bit of confusion.”

Companies also admitted they had been driven to introduce more environmental practices mainly for commercial reasons.

Carnival UK chief commercial officer Peter Shanks said the rising cost of fuel had been one of the factors that forced its cruise lines to focus on the environment, although the group was “nowhere near ready” to promote carbon offsetting schemes to customers . He added: “Fuel is a driver. It´s not about the marketing. Getting a competitive advantage by being more green – people will see right through that.”

Greenacre added: “A lot of what we are doing is commercially sensible.”

But TUI Travel managing director UK and Ireland Dermot Blastland added that commercial reasons had forced travel companies to look at ways to reduce their energy use before fuel costs rose. “Most of this is obvious good common sense,” he said.

The cost of fuel will force consumers to think about their holiday habits, he added. “There is almost a feeling of entitlement of cheap travel. I think that will move to it being a privilege to fly,” he said.

British Airways manager of environmental affairs Trudie Drake added: “We want our customers to fly with confidence, knowing we are addressing these environmental issues.”

More news from the ABTA Travel Convention 2008.