The tourism sector is considering a green future, but tourists are not willing to pay

  • The tourism industry is looking for opportunities, but few want to pay
  • Better acceptance of green alternatives among younger consumers
  • Travelers are “pain averse,” the researcher says

BERLIN, March 13 (Reuters) – Tourists around the world, and especially in Europe, support greener travel but are unwilling to shoulder the extra costs, according to surveys and industry executives.

In the European Union’s economic powerhouse Germany, for example, 24% of travelers believe that environmental sustainability is an important criterion when booking a holiday, according to a survey by motor vehicle association ADAC published this month.

But only 5-10% would be willing to pay even a modest premium for sustainability, according to the survey of 5,000 people.

“The problem is that people don’t necessarily want to pay more for sustainability,” said Charuta Phadnis, head of research and product strategy at tourism research company Phocuswright.

That has left the industry questioning how to become greener as it faces thin margins and a post-pandemic recovery still hampered by global travel restrictions, such as the slow restoration of visas available to Chinese tourists.

Carbon offsets have been on the market for years, with many airlines offering voluntary investment programs. But uptake is limited and there are questions about how effective the offsets actually are.

Thomas Fowler, director of sustainability at Irish budget airline Ryanair ( RYA.I ), told Reuters earlier this year that few were willing to pay the few euros required to participate in their carbon offset program.

“Less than 3% of our customers use it,” he said.

Germany’s flagship airline Lufthansa ( LHAG.DE ) in February began offering more expensive “green fares” on some flights, which it claims offset its climate burden by 20 percent through the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and 80 % by financing climate protection projects.

This is built into the price, unlike Lufthansa’s existing onboarding fees, for which absorption is a very low 0.1%, according to the company. A trial run of the new integrated offer in Scandinavia showed a modest but improved take-up rate of 2%.


The younger generation is more committed to sustainability, Fadnis said. But without the willingness to pay a little more up front, businesses have to get more creative.

Many hotels, for example, ask those staying there to reuse their towels, while other travel services encourage tourists to adjust their habits by renting hybrid cars.

Some tour operators insist that climate-friendly tourism doesn’t have to cost the world and can sometimes even be the cheaper option, encouraging habits like reusable water bottles and using bicycles or public transport.

Time slot reservations, which became ubiquitous during the pandemic, have become a tool to prevent overcrowding and minimize the footprint of visitors locally.

GetYourGuide, a Berlin-based travel experience booking platform, said this is one way it is reducing its impact, for example by managing queues at the Vatican.

“It’s much better than people … waiting four hours … in the Vatican, you know, destroying the place,” said GetYourGuide CEO Johannes Reck.

Looking for greener deals is helping some businesses, but there are certain demographics that will remain stubbornly opposed to even a modest price increase – especially those over 55.

“They’re prone to pain,” Fadnis said.

Additional reporting by Joanna Plucinska in London and Ilona Wissenbach in Berlin; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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