THE RISE IN ETHICAL HOLIDAYS
posted on Monday, April 09, 2007 08:40 PM
Ethical awareness amongst consumers in the UK has been increasing rapidly over the last few years. Fairtrade sales increased by 52% in 2005, the online travel agency responsibletravel.com saw sales grow by 50%, and as an industry sector responsible travel is predicted to expand its market share by some 25% every year. Whilst many people continue to place cost, weather, and facilities at the top of their checklist when planning a holiday, demand for ethical products and services has never been higher.
With ethical concerns finally beginning to permeate all areas of the marketplace, growing demand is being matched with an increasing availability of ethical products and services. People are beginning to build ethical into their lifestyle as a whole; not just in certain areas but as a much more permanent and important basis to their decision making process as a consumer. This market trend is by no means a new indicator for demonstrating the shift in consumer attitudes - between 1999 and 2000 some areas of ethical purchasing grew six times faster than their overall market sector – it’s just that this ‘niche’ is now beginning to acquire a much more noticeable proportion of the market, and is exposing ethical concerns to a more mainstream audience.
Holidays and trips away are being seen more and more as an opportunity to explore personal interests, to participate in an ‘experience’, or for personal development. The theme of a trip is becoming a primary concern, and in some cases more so than the destination itself. Holiday and travel choices are being made on the basis of which destination can offer the best experience of its kind, rather than on what a specific destination can offer. A holiday can involve learning how to cook authentic Italian food in Tuscany, Trekking through the Himalayas in Nepal, taking part in coral reef conservation in Madagascar, helping on a farm in the British Lake District. The possibilities are endless. This approach to travel and holidays naturally lends itself towards promoting a greater awareness, education and understanding amongst consumers on their social, environmental and economical impact.
“When you stand in someone else’s shoes you can’t help but gain apathy for their situation.” – Sally Broom, Your Safe Planet.
Until recently the travel industry has been held to relatively little account for its impact on destinations. Tour operators and travel agencies are beginning to realize that having a responsible tourism policy in place can give them the much valued edge when it comes to attracting customers, in what is an extremely competitive industry. This has led to a proliferation of attempts by agents and operators to classify themselves as ‘responsible’. Whether these companies in fact practice what they preach is another matter, and is an area under investigation and development by the organization Tourism Concern. If you want to take a truly ethical holiday perhaps you shouldn’t be booking through a travel agency at all but using local people as your knowledge base.
As debate on the best way to travel responsibly rages, many people are looking closer to home in an effort to reduce their ‘carbon footprint’ and to appreciate all that the UK has to offer. Ethical holidays have one particular advantage over many other ethical products and services currently on the market - the consumer can experience the difference. Ethical holidays ensure maximum social and economic benefits for the local community whilst minimizing environmental damage. This format and attitude provides a far superior experience complete with the life-enriching element that consumers in this growing sector of the travel industry crave. Ethical holidays provide a ‘feel-good factor’ for the conscious consumer, yet are also a by-product of a new breed of travel and ethical awareness.