UK at a glance

The UK has the fifth-highest per capita income in the world, and two-thirds of the population go on vacation, with nearly 40% of these travelling abroad.

With close to 70-million trips per year, the UK is the world’s second-largest outbound market after Germany. It is also the second-largest long-haul market, after the USA, with approximately 20-million trips. Nearly 90% of trips are for leisure purposes.

The majority of British holidaymakers are between 35-64 years old, and over 60% of long-haul trips were longer than seven days.

The UK is South Africa’s largest overseas market, with close to 440 000 arrivals in 2012 (a 4.2% increase over 2011). In addition, British travellers are the biggest contributors to the South African tourism industry and one of the top five spenders per trip. Close to 50% of British travellers to South Africa earn over £40 000 per month.

A majority of British travellers visit South Africa for leisure purposes, with visiting friends and relatives being the second most common purpose of visit. Over 70% travel either with a spouse, or on their own. However, most leisure travellers still purchase all or parts of their holiday through tour operators and travel agents. Visiting natural attractions and experiencing wildlife are the two most common activities for British holidaymakers, followed by beach and cultural, historical and heritage attractions. The biggest reason for satisfaction is scenic beauty, followed by wildlife, visiting family/friends and good hospitality. Over 70% of British holidaymakers visit the Western Cape, 35% visit Gauteng, and close to 25% visit Mpumalanga, KZN and the Eastern Cape.

British consumers bought Fairtrade-labelled goods to a value of £1.5-billion in 2012, up by 18% on the previous year. One of the main reasons for the success of Fairtrade in the UK is that a wide range of products are easily available in major supermarkets. Fifty percent of British holidaymakers believe that their holiday should help the local economy and people, and 54% say they seek a more authentic holiday experience. There is also a growing demand for “adult gaps”, as empty-nesters and adults on career breaks immerse themselves in another culture – expected to drive demand for volunteering and learning breaks for adults and families.

Although political stability of the area visited, financial protection for the holiday, and the weather were the most important considerations when it came to booking a holiday, nearly three-quarters of travellers said that how their company behaves toward local people in destinations is an important factor when it comes to booking their holiday.

Key factors


The main driver cited for buying Fairtrade products is to help producers. However, about a quarter of those not actively seeking Fairtrade products cite price as a barrier. Similarly, research shows price to be a barrier for sustainable holidays. However, 71% believe in getting good value for money but not necessarily the lowest price.

There is some evidence that some tourists may be less price-sensitive when a completely sustainable product is offered. This may hold particularly true in the luxury segments of the Responsible Traveller profiles. However, in the more mainstream segments, there is little indication that consumers are willing to pay a premium for a sustainable holiday.

Awareness and trust

Ninety percent of British consumers trust the Fairtrade mark; a vital component for its successful growth. Given that sustainable tourism products are still in the early stages of their product life cycle, it is crucial to build awareness and trust in a similar way to what Fairtrade did in its early stages, using the support of well-known charities and mass membership organisations, consumer campaigns and celebrity endorsements.


Fairtrade products have moved from being available only in specialist outlets (such as World Shops) to being prominently stocked by major supermarkets and coffee chains. Over 3 000 Fairtrade retail and catering products are available in the UK, and there have been iconic switches of well-known brands and supermarket ranges.

In tourism, availability is still one of the biggest problems. With so many different labels and certification schemes available in tourism, none have a critical mass of supply and even if put together, they only represent a fraction of the products available on the market. Until such time that the consumer does not need to compromise other requirements, sustainable tourism products will remain a specialised niche.

In order to reduce confusion, tour operators should select one or a few certification or rating programmes to support, and encourage as many of their products as possible to adhere to these guidelines. Eighty-three percent of UK consumers say that they look to companies they deal with to help in reducing poverty through the way they do business. Companies who invest in making their business better for the environment stand to gain a competitive edge, with 19% of consumers saying that they are prepared to pay more for a holiday with a company that has a better environmental and social record. Fifty-five percent said they chose a product/ service in 2011 based on a company’s responsible reputation.


It is important to signal to consumers that sustainable tourism is not a “niche”, but rather “a different way of doing business” and that their requirements with regard to quality will not be compromised by selecting a sustainable product. This can be achieved by listing sustainable products in the main brochure (together with a mark to indicate its certification/rating) rather than making them hard to access and increase the perception that these products are “only for tree-huggers and green warriors” by listing them separately. The sustainability mark can then be communicated as an added benefit, rather than a need for compromise.

Willingness to switch

If a Fairtrade option were available alongside non-labelled alternatives, 59% of UK consumers say that they would prefer to buy Fairtrade. This reinforces the importance if listing sustainable products in the main brochure.

Drawing from the above, if given the choice between two similar products of which one has a sustainability certification/rating, it is likely that the Responsible Traveller will select the sustainable product.

The Responsible Travellers

Passive Social Consciousness

This group of consumers is aware of the issues of the environment and fair trade and does care about their own personal consumption. They are likely to be home recyclers and act with the environment in mind, but they do not go out of their way to find fair and sustainable products. They are more likely to feel guilty about harming the environment, than concerned with social issues.

They tend to have green travel attitudes, and are particularly keen on travellers paying for the environmental damage they cause. However, they have difficulty in changing their habits, so any offering has to fit into their lifestyle. They are self-conscious at times about being green (don't want to be perceived as tree-huggers) and will be influenced by their peers to change to do something that is popular. Popular momentum is required. Won't necessarily consider a sustainable travel option. Aware of carbon footprint of flights but do not internalise it as "their" responsibility, but rather as just an additional expense. Would consider a sustainable travel product if it met all their needs and with no premium pricing. Travel is a reward and they don't want to feel guilty about it. They look for good-value package deals, and mostly purchase through travel agents or tour operators.

To reach this segment, highlight the personal benefits and create prompts to move them from thinking to doing. Their latent interests need to be converted into action by showing that other people are acting, and that their actions have impacts. Guilt does not work – must be motivational, easy and everyone is doing it. They are influenced by peers, popular brands and celebrities.

Concerned and Active Consumers

Not only are these consumers aware, but they actively look for sustainable, environmentally friendly options when shopping and consuming. If there is a choice between a non-sustainable product and a sustainable one, they will actively choose to buy the sustainable one. Two in three say they would like to do more. They have greener attitudes to travel than most but still take the most flights per year. Travel is part of their life; they are concerned about flying long-haul and will consider using a carbon offsetting programme.

Will continue with green behaviour on holiday and will respect brands that support this (water wise, recycling, etc.). Becoming more aware of responsible treatment of staff in Third World countries and will be vigilant of negative experiences. Less likely to cite money as a barrier. Barrier is the selection of products available to meet their needs. They will choose a sustainable offering if available, but if they want to visit a destination and none are available – they will still go. Purchase their holiday through travel agents or the Internet.

To reach this segment, use emotional engagement and a range of behaviour-specific incentives. Promoting the variety of offerings to suit their lifestyle will easily convert them. Influenced by editorials and global labels of endorsement.

Fully Integrated into Lifestyle

This segment eats, sleeps and breathes environmentally friendly, sustainable lifestyles. They are well researched and well versed on technical issues of sustainability, and will ensure that the majority of their consumption is sustainable. They will aim to live off the grid and generally will prioritise spend on ensuring a low-impact lifestyle. Most likely group to want to live a more environmentally friendly life than they currently do. Most likely to buy ethical and local products, including local food and fair trade. Forty-four percent have tried to persuade others to adopt more pro-environmental behaviours. Travel is fundamental to their lives as a way to expand their knowledge and worldliness. Seek an educational experience with new things, new frontiers – the quintessential pioneer.

Not motivated by saving money. The primary motivation is for environmentally friendly or sustainable products. Most likely to want more information on what they can do. Eight in 10 (82%) disagree that green is an alternative lifestyle (see it as normal). Sixty percent disagree that any changes they make would need to fit into their lifestyle. They are prepared to change their lifestyle. Buy their holiday through online consolidators, or specialised tour operators.

To reach this segment, give them the information to be opinion leaders and influencers. They want to understand the technical elements of sustainability to a certain degree to avoid green washing and be perceived as experts. Influenced by peers, bloggers, and travel and sustainability experts.