Jetset Brits leave the environment at home when they go on holiday

4 Jul 2011

Almost 70% of people in the UK don't let environmental concerns influence their holiday choices, compared to 50% of our continental cousins in France and 60% in Belgium according to a study conducted by Eurostar.

The study of over 3,000 adults in the UK, France and Belgium also found that over half of Brits (55%) take up to three flight based holidays a year, compared to just over a third (38%) of French people. The research also revealed that despite the difficult economic times, 6% of Brits take at least five flight based holidays each year, which worryingly could generate around three tonnes of carbon emissions per person1.

The findings also highlight that as foreign travel has become easier and more accessible, people are travelling further and from a younger age. In the UK, less than 3% of over 65s in the UK went on their first overseas holiday before they were five years old, compared to almost half (48%) of 18-24 year olds. Belgians equally seem to travel from an early age, with over half (57%) of 18-24 year olds in Belgium taking their first holiday abroad before their fifth birthday, compared to only a third (36%) of French 18-24 year olds.

Although Brits seem to understand how personal daily travel can damage the environment, with over a third of people in the UK (36%) ranking driving2 as the part of day-to-day life which generates the most carbon emissions. Less than a fifth (17%) of people in the UK ranked recreation, leisure travel and holidays as the most damaging, which shows a lack of awareness of the impact their holidays have on their annual carbon footprint.

Academic studies3 have shown that 27% of an average consumer's annual CO2 emissions are generated from leisure and holiday activities, the largest segment, compared with only 18% of CO2 emissions generated by driving. For consumers choosing to fly to their holiday destination, the carbon emissions from the flights alone account for over half (52%) of the total emissions of their holiday.

Even for those Brits who said that concerns about the environment did influence their holiday choices, only around a third (34%) would actually reduce the number of holidays they take to cut carbon emissions and a similar number (32%) would consider switching from flying short haul to taking the train.

The Eurostar research also discovered:

- Over 80% of over 65s in the UK don't let environmental concerns affect their holiday decisions, compared to less than half (46%) of over 65s in France and just over half (55%) of over 65s in Belgium

- Only 23% of Belgians would consider booking an eco hotel compared to 30% of French people and 26% of Brits

- French and Brits are the most concerned about travel time when booking a holiday with 28% of people in France and the UK ranking it as a top three holiday consideration compared to 24% in Belgium

- Only 5% of Brits ranked environmental concerns as a top three holiday consideration, compared to over half (51%) of Brits that ranked the weather as a top three consideration

Peter Bragg, Head of Environment and Energy for Eurostar commented; "We know that many of our customers are concerned about environmental issues, yet this research shows that when planning their holidays, only a few consumers are willing to make changes to reduce their carbon footprint. There are confusing messages around the issue but as people are now traveling from a younger age, it is crucial that they understand there are sustainable travel options available."

"This is not to say we should never go on holiday, but there are simple actions people can take to help reduce the impact their holidays have on the environment. These include using public transport abroad rather than hiring cars or switching from flying short haul to traveling by high-speed rail. These small changes, alongside the actions that organisations must take to make journeys more sustainable, can help us to ensure that future generations will have the same opportunities to travel that we have today."

This research was commissioned by Eurostar to coincide with the launch of the Eurostar Ashden Award for Sustainable Travel. The award is open to enter from the end of July and promotes local, sustainable travel initiatives in the UK, France and Belgium. Through the scheme, Eurostar aims to encourage more people to travel sustainably and inspire them to reduce their own carbon footprints.

For further information about Eurostar's Tread Lightly programme or the Ashden Awards or to book tickets visit or call 03448 224 777.

Note to editors:

Survey by Toluna based on online interviews with over 3,000 adults aged 18+ (in UK, France, and Belgium). Fieldwork: 27th May – 3rd June 2011

1. Illustrated example: 2.9 tonnes of carbon emissions could be generated if the person took the below flight based holidays a year:

- New York - 1 passenger, flying round trip from LONDON, GBR (LHR) to JFK ( 11,076 Km ), in Economy Class, generates about 774.72 Kg of CO2
- Barcelona - 1 passenger, flying round trip from LHR to BCN ( 2,292 Km ), in Economy Class, generates about 207.35 Kg of CO2
- Malaga - 1 passenger, flying round trip from LHR to AGP ( 3,350 Km ), in Economy Class, generates about 274.74 Kg of CO2
- Bangkok - 1 passenger, flying round trip from LHR to BANGKOK, THA (BKK) ( 19,096 Km ), in Economy Class, generates about 1,397.75 Kg of CO2
- Rome - 1 passenger, flying round trip from LHR to ROME, ITA (FCO) ( 2,884 Km ), in Economy Class, generates about 250.20 Kg of CO2

2. Rank of the day-to-day activities that the respondents felt generated the most carbon emissions:

Rank Activity
1 Driving
2 Energy consumption at home
3 Not recycling rubbish
4 Leisure travel and holidays
5 Buying non essential, luxury items
6 Eating meat and dairy products
7 Other

3. University of Surrey Resolve Working Paper 02-10 (Druckman & Jackson)

About Eurostar's Tread Lightly Programme:

Eurostar launched its environmental plan, Tread Lightly, in 2007 and has committed to reducing CO2 emissions by 35% per traveller journey by 2012

Eurostar is on track to achieve this original carbon reduction target (35% reduction in emissions per traveller journey by 2012)

Eurostar is also embarking on a ground breaking study to measure its entire carbon footprint including its supply chain and other areas outside its immediate business making changes where necessary

In June, Eurostar announced the next phase of its Tread Lightly programme, by introducing stretching new carbon reduction targets (25% reduction in wider Eurostar business emissions by 2015)

In partnership with the Ashden Awards, Eurostar is launching the Eurostar Ashden Award for Sustainable Travel:

promote local sustainable travel initiatives in UK, France and Belgiuminspire others to think differently about the way they travel

Since 2007, Eurostar has progressed well on its 10-point plan to reduce other environmental impacts of its business, including:

  • Diverting approximately 11,000 tonnes of onboard train waste from landfill (to recycling or waste to energy)
  • Almost achieved zero waste to landfill. In 2007, 45% of UK waste was sent to landfill. In 2010, we had reduced this to only 1.6%
  • Removing ticket wallets & timetables has saved 87 tonnes of paper per year
  • Recycling approximately 90% of the water used to wash Eurostar trains
  • Partnering with the UK recycled apparel manufacturer, Worn Again, to up-cycle Eurostar staff uniforms into saleable items and Train Managers' bags which are currently being distributed to on-board crew.

For more information contact:

Eurostar Press Office
t: 0044 (0)20 7843 5500