The climate crisis and Responsible Travel

Responsible travel is an activist travel company. We believe that when done well, tourism can create many benefits to local communities and help with the conservation of natural and cultural heritage. We also believe that this way of traveling is richer and more enjoyable too.

However, there is an urgent need for all businesses, the tourism sector included, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. As pioneers of selling responsible vacations since 2001, we are focussed more than ever on this.

We believe that we need to act urgently to tackle the rising effects of emissions from our vacations. We need to fly less as well as address the other components of vacations such as the energy used in the places we stay as well as the food we eat.

We are calling for a three pronged approach:

  • 1. Urgent system change centerd around the introduction of a Green Flying Duty to reduce the amount we fly, by governments around the world. Revenues would be ring fenced for investment into lower carbon transport. We’ve been lobbying hard for this and we continue to engage with regulators, Government and the media around this proposal..

  • 2. Action from travelers to: ‘Fly less and make it count’ – a view we’ve consistently voiced since 2009. We urge people to take fewer but longer vacation by air (reducing the number of flights) and to switch short breaks from plane to train. As well as being better for the planet, this way of traveling is more relaxing and enjoyable too.

    We now include information about how to reduce your vacation CO2 in The Responsible Tourism section at the bottom of every one of our vacation pages and have made a film on how to curb your carbon.

    All our vacations can be booked without flights so customers can choose their method of transport. As well as transport, we urge customers to think about the food they eat as well as the energy used in the places they choose to stay whilst away on vacation. Our 2020 research revealed the relative scale of CO2 emissions from transport, food and accommodation for four of our vacation providers. Transport, especially flying, is of course very significant, but you might be surprised how significant a contribution food makes.

  • 3. Action from our tour operator partners. We are working with our operators to encourage lower carbon vacations: train and overland routes from a transport perspective, energy efficient accommodation and lower climate impacting food options too.

    We have created a low carbon vacation section - for trips which are going that extra length to reduce the carbon footprint of travel.

    Every trip featured in this section has to have a documented alternative travel means to flying with detailed advice on how to reach the destination in addition to at least one strong example about how the overall vacation reduces its carbon.

    We also have a flight free section to highlight trips which can be reached from the UK by means other than flying.

    We are one of the few travel companies who do not support or believe in carbon offsets - we stopped offering them ten years ago. We don’t believe they work and think they distract from the urgent need for reduction. Instead we encourage carbon reduction schemes in their own right such as the funding of carefully chosen natural carbon solutions, including tree planting.

    Based on our initial pilot study in 2020 we have called for the carbon labelling of vacations. We hope carbon labelling will become best practice across all sectors of industry over the next few years to enable customers to make informed decisions about the products they buy.

    We are founding signatories of - a network of organisations, companies and individuals working in tourism who have come together to join other industries and regions in declaring a climate emergency.

    Together we aim to accelerate our own emission reductions in line with the advice from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which calls for a 55% cut in global carbon emissions below 2017 levels by 2030.

In our climate hub you’ll find tips on what you can do to reduce the emissions of your vacations, as well as information and greater detail on our activist views.

Written by Justin Francis
Convert currencies