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13 Mar 2020

Flight shaming expected to have significant impact on UK travel over next two years

Flight shaming, an emerging consumer trend, is expected to have a major impact on the UK's tourism and travel industries over the next two years, new research has found.

The research, carried out by tax, audit and consultancy firm RSM, was based on a participant pool of 326 industry professionals, including senior decision-makers from tour operators, travel agents and booking platforms.

37 per cent of those surveyed flagged sustainability and carbon footprint shaming as the consumer trends that will impact their businesses the most over the next two years, while 30 per cent highlighted digital lifestyles and other environmental worries as a cause for concern.

The survey also found that operators are looking to address these concerns with the development of new products aimed at eco-conscious travellers, while a growing number of operators are looking to offset carbon emissions on behalf of their customers. There is also an increase in operators actively promoting eco-tourism and city breaks that can be accessed by rail.

Flight shaming, or 'flygskam', originated in Scandinavia, partly as a result of the school climate strikes led by teen activist Greta Thunberg. An 11 per cent boost in train travel in Sweden has been attributed to the phenomenon.

The trend is expected to become increasingly more common as consumers become more environmentally aware.

"The travel sector is becoming increasingly aware of changing consumer attitudes and its own environmental and sustainability obligations and our survey shows that the industry is starting to respond positively," said Ian Bell, head of travel and tourism at RSM.

"Historically the travel industry has proved to be hugely resilient despite their exposure to global events.

"Given the current headwinds, many operators may need to stay nimble to respond quickly to changing consumer demand," Bell added.

According to a report by The LA Times, Flight Shaming has yet to foster quite the same attitude shift among US consumers. However, airline industry experts have reported that carriers are increasing efforts to cut emissions to "ease concerns of fliers, especially young travellers who are more likely to change their travel plans based on environmental issues."

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