Analysis: How energy-efficient are high street agencies?

Avoiding unnecessary energy use seems the obvious place to start to save money and reduce the carbon footprint of any business. Yet how often are shop doors wide open in mid-winter or air conditioners turned up while doors are open in summer?

The practice is endemic on the high street and startlingly high among agencies, according to a survey by Abta. It found 70% of agents report having an ‘open door’ policy, meaning doors are left open year-round – typically out of fear a potential customer might think a shop closed.

Just 16% of the 530 agents who responded reported keeping doors closed while businesses are open.

At the same time, Abta found only 6% of agent respondents knew the size of their business’s energy bills – 75% did not. Only 1% knew how much power their premises use, despite 76% reporting they could control the heating in their store.

Almost three-quarters (73%) said their shops had air conditioning and 71% could control the temperature – meaning it would make sense to close the door and cut bills.

Pie charts - Travel agent awareness of energy usage; spread of Open Door policies

Agents cut energy use

Agencies are taking action to cut fuel bills, the survey found. Almost half (49%) said they worked in premises equipped with energy-efficient lighting. Another one in four did not know, so the proportion could be higher.

More than two-thirds (69%) reported lights were switched off or turned off by timers when a shop was closed.

Near to three-quarters (73%) reported trying to reduce energy consumption at work. Indeed, only 7% said they were not.

At the same time, waste and, in particular, unused brochures appear to cause some bother.

Almost two out of three agents (63%) reported brochures and paper as the main type of waste they produce at work. Almost half (48%) work for agencies which pay a private company to collect their rubbish. Almost as many (44%) complained of receiving brochures they did not request.

Two-thirds sought to recycle brochures. Two out of five (43%) encouraged customers to return brochures after use, although it appears few clients do so.
A similar proportion (45%) reported separating recyclable and non-recyclable waste.

Consumers show interest

The survey suggests agents can take pride in their contribution to charities. Three out of five (61%) reported working with charity organisations, and almost as many (59%) said they encouraged customers to contribute.

Most agents were aware of the industry charity The Travel Foundation, which has championed work on sustainability, most recently through its campaign to Make Holidays Greener.

The results suggest there has been progress in raising awareness among customers.Almost two out of five agents (38%) reported interest in sustainable tourism products among clients, although 27% said there was no interest. One in five (20%) reported customers asking about sustainable tourism or the environmental impact of holidays.

The survey therefore provides reason for optimism.

Nikki White, head of sustainability and development at Abta, says: “It shows there are retailers doing things that should be common practice.

“Sustainability has an impact on the bottom line. Now it’s important we engage customers.”

Abta surveys: data on consumer interest in sustainable tourism

This article appeared in a special responsible travel edition of Travel Weekly magazine, in association with Virgin Holidays

Virgin Holidays

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