Netherlands at a glance

The Netherlands is ranked 12 in top long-haul outbound tourism markets, and 80% of the population goes on vacation, with 45% of these going abroad. For South African overseas arrivals, the Netherlands is ranked 7th, down from 4th in 2010. A significant number of Dutch visitors (40% in 2008) are repeat visitors who stay longer and spend more than first-time visitors.

Nearly half of the Dutch travelling to South Africa are between 25-44 years, thus considered working professionals, and close to 80% of these fall in the high-income earner bracket (over ZAR20 000 per month).

Seventy percent of visitors to South Africa travel for leisure purposes, while visiting friends and relatives and business travel account for approximately 10% each. Visiting natural attractions and wildlife are the most popular activities for Dutch travellers, followed by cultural experiences and beaches. The main reasons for satisfaction are wildlife/safari, followed by scenic beauty and hospitality. The Western Cape is the most-visited province (65%), followed by Mpumalanga (42%), KZN (37%) and Eastern Cape (30%).

There are currently approximately 2-million Dutch consumers (approximately 15% of the population) who actively strive for a sustainable lifestyle. In combination with the 12% who subscribe to the values of sustainability but not yet put it into practice in everyday life, there is a potential segment of 25-30% of the Dutch population that takes an active interest in sustainability when evaluating a purchase.

The total sales of Fairtrade products in 2011 went up by 20% and represents a retail value of €147-million. In 2011 53.3% of Dutch consumers bought one or more Fairtrade products, which is an increase of 12%. Research also shows they are buying Fairtrade products more often and in larger quantities. The success is largely due to increased availability in supermarkets.

A total of 7.2-million Dutch people over the age of 18 think it is important that sustainability is part of their holidays. Older people (55+) place more importance on sustainable holidays than the 35-44 year old group. However, sustainability is not top of the ranking when it comes to decision-making: elements such as attractiveness of the destination, value for money, quality of accommodation, weather, price, safety and security, and customer service come before people issues such as good living and working conditions, and planet issues such as care for the environment.

Key factors


The price of sustainable products is still an important reason why people end up buying a cheaper non-sustainable option: 71% of Dutch consumers base their purchase decision on price, even though they were aware that a low price comes with potential negative consequences such as child labour, low wages for workers and negative impacts on the environment.

Awareness and trust

Dutch consumers want sustainable products and services, but are becoming more critical. There is confusion as to what sustainability means, and 74% consumers indicate there is not enough information about sustainable products.

People, purpose and philanthropy

Dutch consumers increasingly expect companies to do more towards tackling greed, fair income distribution, poverty and support for marginalised groups. The Dutch are also the most generous in Europe when it comes to making donations to charities. Two-thirds of Dutch citizens donate, compared to only one in five Germans.

The Netherlands also ranks well in the CAF World Giving Index 2012, with a score of 53%. This means that, on average, at least half the Dutch population is taking part in at least one of the three behaviours – donating money, volunteering time and helping a stranger – on a monthly basis.

Willingness to switch

Dutch consumers have expressed a desire to live more sustainably in their personal capacity and a clear need for companies to facilitate this lifestyle by making it easier to make sustainable and healthy choices. An estimated 7.8-million Dutch people are somewhat or certainly willing to change their travel behaviour to become more sustainable. Most willing is the older generation of travellers (55-64).

Responsible Travellers

Luxury Lover

Good sustainable citizens at home but like it when government and companies have made it easy for them. Price is not an issue, availability and quality is. Traditional luxury combined with sustainability will be greatly appreciated when available. When there is a choice between a sustainable and a non-sustainable product or service, the sustainable one will be selected.

However, travel choices will need to tick all boxes as time is precious. Negative impacts of travelling long haul does not bother them as much as impacts on people in destination. Buy their holidays through travel agents and tour operators, but research online. Influenced by mainstream and business papers, peers and popular brands.

To reach this segment, engage them emotionally: they will be sensitive to being able to support people and worthy causes. Luxury accommodations with philanthropy programmes will appeal to them.

Social Explorer

Feel responsible for the state of world and want to help alleviate big problems such as poverty and environmental degradation. Travel to experience new cultures and contribute to a better world for all. Aware and open-minded consumer, actively looking for sustainable options in all aspects of life, including travel. Want travel experiences that benefit others and provide learning experiences.

Flexible and open-minded traveller, enjoys connecting with locals, will appreciate homestays as well as eco-lodges and educational experiences. Happy to get off the beaten track but some destinations may be considered to be too overrun or negatively impacted by tourism already, like the Galapagos. Buy their holidays through soft adventure travel companies or local tour operators, and are influenced by specialist magazines, travel guides, documentaries and editorial content.

To reach this segment, give plenty of responsible tourism information and be transparent about where the money goes. Explain clearly who benefits. Provide opportunity to donate or support/visit projects.

Critical Cosmopolitan

Live ethically at home and happy to spend extra money on sustainable lifestyle and travel. Interested in both budget and luxury responsible travel to unique, special places. Will look for certification and stamps of approval to ensure that they are spending their money wisely. Travel is a great way to explore and learn about the world, but should also be relaxing and fun. Will be happy to pay for luxurious, educational and sustainable travel products.

Biggest barrier is lack of choice and availability of sustainable products. Buy their holidays through specialised (often sustainable) tour operators and are influenced by social media, travel programmes, peers and global labels of endorsement.

To reach this segment, avoid greenwashing and give insight into certification standards where possible. Inform them in detail on sustainability, so they can successfully pass the message on to other friends and family.