Making your next bungee jump a sustainable one

A survey tells us how different generations really think when it comes to the impact of holiday travel on the planet.

How big are those carbon footprints you’re leaving in the sand? Whether it’s running arctic marathons or swimming with sharks, today’s traveler wants experiences. Our risk appetite may depend partly on our age. Does age also influence how we think about our impact on the environment when we travel?

To better understand the mindset of holidaymakers of different generations when it comes to sustainability and travel, Zurich asked market research institute GfK Switzerland to conduct a survey of about 3,000 people in Australia, Germany and the U.S.

Some results were predictable. For example, Gen-Zers (born between 1995 and 2003) and millennials (1982 and 1994) tended to be more adventurous than their elders (born in 1981 or earlier) and more likely to agree with the philosophy that “living just means taking certain risks every day.”

Travelgraphic 01

A thirst for adventure

In fact, like it or not, holidays today tend to include unusual, bizarre or extreme experiences. How else to explain travel offers to go live with Mongolian herdsmen or go ‘zorbing’ (rolling down hills in plastic balls) in exotic locations? Adventure holidays are on the upswing. This is also opening up new vistas, including to the circa 50,000 vacationers who visit Antarctica every year. And, come to think of it, why simply visit the South Pole when there are tour operators offering you the option of skydiving onto it?

Such adventures are also part of the everyday fare on social media, which is especially appealing to younger travelers. Gen-Zers (as well as millennials) in our survey were twice as likely to visit places that their favorite social media stars popularized and go to spots that offered the best selfies. Younger travelers were also far more likely to say that they didn’t mind the risks “if the selfie is great.”

Anticipating trends

With that in mind, it’s not a bad idea to check your insurance cover if you decide to swap the Pooh Bear beginner run at Jackson Hole for Corbet’s Couloir, find yourself confronted with hostile fauna during a shark dive in Cape Town, or go big wave surfing off the coast of Nazaré.

Insurers including Zurich are well aware of the growing demand for adventure holidays. Cover-More, the travel insurance provider owned by Zurich recently augmented its travel offerings with cover for riding motorcycles with greater than 200cc engine capacity, heli- and backcountry skiing, ice windsurfing, ice diving and arctic marathons.

Ideals up in air

Back to our survey: there was one rather surprising finding. As expected, younger people in general were more concerned about the environment, keener to buy fair-trade and organic products, and more apt to feel guilty if they did something that was not environmentally friendly. More than half agreed that “traveling negatively affects environmental health.” But this cohort was scarcely less willing than their elders to forgo air travel.

Travelgraphic 02

Only around one-third of Gen-Zers and millennials said they would avoid traveling by plane to protect the environment, even if air travel was cheaper or faster. How should we – and can we – reconcile idealism and the craving for an adrenalin rush?

Offsetting adventures

There are some things one can do to offset carbon emissions from travel. Planting one tree can make a modest difference to the planet. It’s not everything, but it’s a start. After introducing a plan in the UK to plant a tree for every travel insurance policy bought online, Zurich is now expanding the program to other markets (further information on this project can be found here). Respecting the environment and cultures when traveling, picking up litter and even taking reusable containers can help, too.

So, by all means explore and learn. As insurers, we believe travel can be a positive experience and we’re there to help our customers. As a sustainable business, we want you to live life to the fullest. But please do consider the environment when searching for the perfect backdrop for your vacation. Who knows? Your next selfie might even be with a bunch of trees you’ve just sponsored.

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