European travellers are more likely to offset their carbon emissions than their Asian counterparts

Travellers from the UK and Europe are far more likely to support voluntary carbon offsetting measures than their Asian counterparts, reveals an extensive study of international visitors to Australia. Using data from the government’s Tourism Research Australia, researchers from the Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT) at Griffith University in Queensland analysed uptake over a three-year period and found younger travellers were more likely to offset their emissions than older visitors. ‘Experience seekers’ – those international travellers who value authenticity, adventure, learning and immersion in the local culture and who form an ‘ideal’ visitor segment for the Australian tourism authorities – and nature-based visitors were found to be significantly more likely to offset.

The researchers found that around 2.1% of international visitors to Australia offset their carbon emissions in 2008, with 2.7% offsetting in 2009 and 2.5% in 2010. Despite the reference period taking place during an economic downturn caused by the global financial crisis in 2008, the researchers say the findings reveal a stable carbon offsetting market.

By country of residence, the analysis shows travellers from the UK, Europe and Canada are more likely to carbon offset than those from Asian countries and, perhaps surprisingly, New Zealand. The study says this supports some evidence that social marketing, public discourse and substantial media coverage in the UK and Europe may have performed a role in enhancing climate change mitigation behaviours.

Should future research establish a more formal link between social marketing and carbon offsetting, an implication would be that an increase in carbon offsetting should be driven by government and industry, via marketing, it recommends.

The study’s lead author, Dr Char-Lee McLennan, Research Fellow at GIFT, says: “A better informed population that is more readily exposed to social marketing and media coverage of the issues relating to our carbon footprint is more likely to be supportive of carbon offsetting initiatives.”

The results also show that voluntary carbon offsetting visitors tended to be travelling on holiday and indicates business travellers are less likely to offset their emissions, and therefore corporate engagement in offsetting may be low.