Aarhus Universitets segl

No.462: Climate-friendly holiday life

Petersen, L.K., Cold-Ravnkilde, S., Ballantyne, A.G, & Mortensen, M.N. 2021. Klimagunstig ferieliv. Aarhus Universitet, DCE – Nationalt Center for Miljø og Energi, 61 s. - Videnskabelig rapport nr. 462. http://dce2.au.dk/pub/SR462.pdf


This report conveys results from a pilot project regarding climate concern in vacation practices. The project comprised two sub studies, both of which were conducted in the spring of 2021. Firstly, a survey was distributed to citizens in the Danish municipalities of Roskilde and Ringkøbing-Skjern and in the region of Sønderjylland. Secondly, an interview study involved providers of vacation related products and services, i.e., providers of accommodation, food, activities, tours etc.

Transport is responsible for most of the carbon footprint from vacation practices, especially aviation but also car transport. Hence, any transition to more climate friendly vacation practices must involve a shift from airplanes to trains and a reduction of transport loads through increased vacationing in Denmark, including staycation in vacationers’ own home. In addition, climate friendly vacations can also be achieved through less meat in the holiday diet and through improvements in energy and resource consumption at holiday destinations.

Results from the survey show that a considerable majority, counting 73 % of the respondents, in principle want to integrate climate concern in their vacation practices, at least to some extent.

However, the support for climate friendly vacationing is notably reduced, when respondents are asked about specific measures such as less flying and more holidays in Denmark. Thus, a minority of only 17 % indicate that they in the future will choose trains instead of planes either often or always. When asked about specific measures that can be achieved at holiday destinations – for instance benefits for bicycle and train travellers – the majority of respondents are indifferent.

But even if it is only a minority, there is still a considerable share of the respondents who more or less actively will seek out or at least favour destinations that for instance have vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu, offer benefits to train and bicycle travellers or where providers in various other ways integrate climate concern in their products and services.

In addition to the 17 % who often or always will choose trains instead of planes for their holiday travels, 26 % indicate that they will do so occasionally. Thus, it appears that a considerable share of the respondents is willing to make at least minor changes in their modes of holiday transport. Consequently, there should also be a market for offering other transport forms than aviation.  Likewise, a considerable share of the respondents indicate that they want to spend more of their vacations in Denmark.

It is worth noting that it is among respondents with high household incomes we find the most climate harmful vacation practices, at least with respect to the amount of flight travels. But, at the same time, it is among respondents in the second highest income segment – those with an annual household income of 900,000-1,100,000 DKK/120-147,000 € – we find the largest share that to some extent will integrate climate concern in their vacation practices. It is also in that segment we find the largest share that will spend a little more (but not a lot more) of their holidays in Denmark, will travel a little less (but not a lot less) with airplanes, and occasionally (but not often) will choose accommodation based on the provider’s climate profile.

In other words, those with high incomes are more inclined to integrate climate concern in their vacation practices to some, lesser, extent. From the providers’ perspective, this indicates that there are customers with money to spend for climate friendly holiday products and services – although there are limits to how much these customers want to renounce out of concern for the climate.

At the same time, there are hotels and restaurants, shops, tour organizers and other providers who already offer climate friendly products and integrate climate concern on their properties and in the daily operations of their businesses. But many of these providers express some uncertainty regarding the promotion of their climate friendly measures.

This leads to the project’s main point. Vacationers and providers need to find each other. There is a need for better channels through which those customers who are prone to climate concern easily can find those providers who offer products and services where such concerns are integrated; and vice versa, those providers who do integrate climate concern need to find ways in which they can reach their customers.

The study shows that providers of climate friendly holiday products – sometimes very small businesses, but also large hotel chains – cannot achieve better climate related promotion and better customer contact on their own. They need help, advice and inspiration to promote their climate friendly measures and find their customers, and they also need help to join certification schemes. Some of this help could come from local and regional tourism agencies – or destination organisations as they are usually referred to – like VisitFjordlandet, VisitVesterhavet, VisitSønderjylland etc.

The study also shows that more can be done to develop local networks, knowledge sharing and partnerships as useful tools for local providers to support the development and promotion of climate friendly vacation products and services. Through such networks, providers can inspire each other, refer customers to each other and support climate friendly business development. The destination organisations may also be instrumental in facilitating such networks.