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Will climate awareness spell the end of smug holiday posts?

Thursday, February 20th 2020, 12:25 pm - People love to brag about their holidays. But with climate consciousness growing around the world and the flight-shame movement gaining traction, could smug holiday selfies on Instagram soon be a thing of the past?

Whether it's snapping a quick selfie on the plane before take-off or posting a glamorous shot of yourself on a sun lounger, cocktail in hand and hotel pool in the background, smug holiday posts have been making the rest of us jealous since the dawn of social media.

But such posts are also inspiring a different feeling these days, as people begin to ask whether recreational travel is warranted when the world is burning.

Growing climate consciousness is changing how people talk about travel. Instead of discussing the cheapest and fastest way to get somewhere, the focus is now often on getting somewhere sustainably - or even on whether the trip is warranted in the first place.

German vacation researcher and consumer psychologist Martin Lohmann says general travel shame has not hit the mainstream just yet, but flight shame has certainly grown.

According to a study led by Lohmann, almost three quarters of plane passengers feel bad about climate change and greenhouse gases; only 27 per cent don't feel this way.

But that doesn't mean they will necessarily choose not to fly.

"Flight shame is an expression of an internal conflict, not a solution," he says. "On the one hand, people want to travel. On the other hand, they don't want to influence the climate."

"We're currently researching how people deal with this conflict. Not talking about it would be a temporary possibility, but travel is also a great conversation topic - hence a new conflict," says Lohmann.

REUTERS - Vacation photo A woman takes a selfie on a boat near the Faraglioni of Capri island, Italy. Photo courtesy: Reuters

Based on travel figures predicted for 2020, despite the spread of flight shame, no sharp drop in the number of passengers travelling by plane is expected in the short term. However, there has been an increase in the number of passengers willing to pay to offset their carbon footprint.

Cruise ship expert Matthias Morr has also noticed a change in how people talk about travel these days in light of the ongoing climate discussion and demonstrations. "A cruise is something that people used to brag about. I've heard from many people now that they would rather not talk about it at all to avoid being criticized for it."

The cruise ship vacation is "essentially the SUV of the travel industry," says Morr. Cruise ships symbolise everything the Fridays for Future movement is opposed to.

Shipping companies are trying to address this, says Morr. They are ordering new, more climate-friendly ships - but it's a huge challenge to change the tide of opinion.

But Morr says he's also observed a kind of defiance. "I'm also seeing an attitude somewhat along the lines of: 'I don't want to personally limit myself while things go on as usual in other countries or branches.'"

There are a lot of people, including many single people who live in big cities, who don't have a car but invest their money in travel, he says. "It's an essential part of their lifestyle for many of them, and I don't think many of them will want to do without it."

The post-materialism movement has been gaining fans for some time, the advice being to invest in experiences, not things. But are experiences now off the table as well? "If travel is now frowned upon, what can you spend your money with a clear conscience?"

VIDEO: CLIMATE PROCRASTINATION A LOOMING THREAT

Lohmann doesn't expect to see an end to tourism any time soon. "Travel has a whole range of positive aspects: Recreation, experience, learning, happiness."

Travel creates experiences that are worth talking about. "I don't consider it a disadvantage for people to now have to justify the possible climate-damaging effects of their travel to themselves and others," Lohmann says. "A bit more prudence in planning tourism activities certainly can't hurt."

In his view, for most people, the prestige that they get from travelling is not a central reason why they do it.

"People who have experienced the world" have always been valued. "But this aspect doesn't just disappear if you consider the climate when you travel," he says.

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