Travel Agencies Can Help Climate at no Extra Cost

  • On March 6, 2017

Travel agencies have small carbon footprint but some of the core services they facilitate are emission-intensive. Acting responsibly can have a great environmental impact and is a valuable new way to engage with clients.

The impact

About 85 per cent of the tourism industry’s greenhouse emissions are due to aviation. Overall, aviation emissions are growing rapidly world-wide. The gains of technological advances that are making planes more efficient have been wiped out by the fact that more people are flying. In the UK, for example, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have doubled since 1990 and currently account for about six per cent of all CO2 emissions in Britain.

Not all aviation emissions are associated with the tourist sector. Yet, a growing number of people go overseas for vacations and travel agencies can inform them about green choices such as emissions offsetting. When making online ticket purchases, customers can be shown the climate change impact of their trips and given the option of purchasing offsets.

Building customer loyalty

Providing a platform for customers to offset carbon emissions does not add to operational costs yet brings significant value in terms of brand recognition and customer loyalty. This is among the findings of a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The study, titled Online purchasing creates opportunities to lower the life cycle carbon footprints of consumer products, found out a significant number of people showed willingness to purchase carbon offsets when given the chance. In addition, for one of the companies studied, 40 per cent of people said they would think better of the company simply for being offered the opportunity to buy offsets.

Companies who wish to go further can differentiate themselves through eco offerings, partnering with clients in climate change campaigns. One example is to offer to match offsets by clients for a given period of time.

Yavor Vassilev, CEO and founder of CO2 Cards, a company that offers carbon-offsetting services, shares some of the key ingredients for a successful carbon offsetting programme.

Seamless integration

It is important to provide a user experience that is focused on the core business yet gives customers the chance to make a green choice should they wish to. A commonly-used option is to inform users about the possibility of buying emissions offsets as they are finalizing payment.

Communicating the impact

Clear and reliable emissions data is key and so is putting the numbers into context. Informing a person that an economy-class roundtrip between Madrid and Berlin results in an estimated 313 kilograms of CO2 may not mean much to them. Adding that this is equal to the emissions associated with the energy use of an average house over a nine-day period makes the impact more palpable.

Ensuring transparency

Even in markets familiar with emissions offsetting, clients still question whether their money is contributing to meaningful change. Choosing partners with projects, reviewed by objective third parties, will help win clients’ trust and ensure the long-term success of an initiative.

One trustworthy example are Certified Emission Reductions. These are issued to projects in developing countries by the Clean Development Mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. To achieve certification, projects follow a number of technical criteria and undergo stringent auditing. Another reliable scheme is The Gold Standard, established by a number of reputable non-governmental organisations.


It is a good idea to follow up with clients who do choose to offset their emissions. This can be done via a simple email confirming the offset purchase and providing more information about the project benefitting from the transaction. Such clients may also be interested in information about additional green offers by the travel agency.

CO2 Cards offers end-to-end sustainable solutions for travel agencies. CEO and founder, Yavor Vassilev, is available to meet travel industry professionals during ITB Berlin, from 8 to 10 March 2017. Contact us or fill in the form to get details:




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