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The impacts of flight shaming

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One of today’s most heated topics, global warming, has had clear impacts on Nordic consumer behavior. Awareness of alternative, greener solutions are widely known in the fashion, food and services industries, but when it comes to travel, there is a unique phenomenon emerging. Most common in Sweden, "Flight Shaming" is having noticeable affects on tourism industry, but not all are negative, and there are some surprising twists.

We have known for a long time that flying has detrimental effects on the environment. But in recent years consumers have woken up to the real consequences, and have begun to adapt their behavior to improve personal impact on global warming. In Sweden, the power of language is being used to combat climate change; “flygskam”, means feeling guilty when flying on a plane. “Smygflyga” describes flying in secret and “tagskryt” is about bragging when using train instead of a plane.

Flying shame is an image statement for some, but the trend has had a real impact on the travel industry. Last year Swedavia announced, that Swedish airports saw the amount of international passengers drop by 2 percent, while with domestic passengers the decrease was a whopping 9 percent. Flight shaming, together with the aviation tax Sweden implemented in 2018, have impacted positively on the train industry; SJ (Swedens National Railroads) announced that in 2018 the number of journeys increased by 1.5 million, from 36.5 million journeys to 38 million.

Cross border differences

While the phenomenon is making a noticeable impact in Sweden, other Nordic countries are showing quite opposite results. According to Finavia, during the first quarter in 2019, Finland saw a 3.1 percent increase in the amount of passengers, compared to the previous year.

And in Norway, according to a survey published by NRK, three out of four Norwegians do not feel flying shame. This can be explained to the complex geographic of the country; when one can choose a 75min flight from Bodø to Oslo, a 16h train journey does not sound so inviting.

Sustainable traveling in the Nordics

Although flying shame is somewhat affecting the travel industry, it does not mean people don’t yearn for a holiday away from home. And this is great news to domestic travel industry.

The Nordic people do not only travel across the country, but also enjoy “staycations”. The staycation trend has grown in popularity so much so, that just in Helsinki the number of hotel overnight stays grew by 13 percent between 2017 and 2018. Staying the weekend in your home city can be less hassle, often cheaper, and provides a shift in the perspective toward your home. New appreciations, passions and insights can be drawn from a simple night stay, whilst supporting local businesses.

If you are a hotelier or another type of business owner in the travel industry, now its more important than ever to offer those special experiences – whether it’s the unique interior style, the way you communicate your brand or the small complementary extras you offer for the guests. Accommodation is not only a shelter for the night, it needs something extraordinary and memorable to capture the new consumer market emerging in your area.

What about the future?

Even though we call flight shaming a phenomenon and staycations a trend, global warming is a serious crisis and everyone will have to make a change. Luckily some airlines have worked towards more sustainable traveling. SAS have announced their goal to reduce emissions by 25 percent by 2030, mainly by modernizing the fleet, investing in electric aircraft and using more biofuels.

And although this is great news and a correct direction, by having more domestic holidays we are not only making environmentally friendly decisions, but we will also support domestic businesses.

So what is your plan for the summer – is it time for a domestic holiday?