Sustainability slips down consumer agenda because of Covid requirements

Holidaymakers are increasingly turning to travel agents to help them deal with the complexities of travel – but issues about the environment are now less of a concern.

Julia Lo Bue-Said, Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive, said that even travel to a green list destination is “incredibly complex” and raises “lots of questions”.

“The human travel agent is absolutely best placed to help navigate through the complexities, paperwork and testing,” she said.

“Most of us have not travelled post-Brexit.

“We’re travelling in completely different times.

“The need to have that expert at the end of the phone to be able to navigate all those different requirements that we need to understand now is absolutely critical.”

Her comments came during a discussion about changing travel trends as part of the online International Women In Travel and Tourism Forum 2021.

Alongside the need for expert advice, there has been a fall in concern from consumers about environmental issues, she told the panel moderator Lucy Huxley, editor-in-chief at Travel Weekly.

However, for business travel agents, the corporate sector is seeing sustainability as “very high” on the agenda.

Business travel members of Advantage are helping to advise corporates about measuring their carbon footprint, offsetting and reporting tools, Lo Bue-Said explained.

John Bevan, divisional senior vice-president of dnata – whose UK brands include Gold Medal, Travel Republic and Travelbag – is seeing similar trends.

He told the online panel that dnata’s “high-touch” businesses, such as Gold Medal and Travelbag, are faring well because consumers want to talk and understand the complexities of their booking – while sustainability is “definitely at the bottom of what people are most worried about”.

“Most of it is around the flexibility of their bookings, safety, understanding the requirements – how many PCR tests am I going to have to do for my two-week holiday?” he said.

“All those complexities will probably help drive longer stays: if you’re going to go, you may as well make a go of it, go for two weeks or longer.”

Natalie Kidd, chief people and purpose officer at Intrepid Travel, commented: “We will get through the pandemic but climate crisis continues.”

The Australian-headquartered business specialises in adventure tours and has a ‘purpose-led’ growth strategy.

Kidd expects domestic and short-haul holidays to predominate for the time being, along with demand for holidays that feature nature and activities such as walking and cycling.

Another key issue is replacing short haul flights with more environmentally friendly alternatives, she added.

MoreThe International Women in Travel & Tourism Forum

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