Why every tourism company should join the new Climate Perks holiday scheme

Why every tourism company should join the new Climate Perks holiday scheme

Climate Perks is a new pilot scheme that has just been launched by 10:10, the UK-based climate solutions NGO. As its new website explains, “Climate Perks employers offer paid ‘journey days’ to empower staff to live their values and choose low-carbon holiday travel”.

The premise is as simple as that. It often takes longer and costs more to get places by train or boat than it does by plane. Therefore, when people choose their holidays, they go by plane.

Any employer who signs up to Climate Perks commits to offer their employees 2 ‘journey days’ a year, so long as they travel overland or sea. These are not holiday days, and they aren’t part of your annual leave. They are extra days, only given out so long as you choose not to fly. And they are paid days, so depending upon what you earn, and how far you travel, they are more than likely to cover the extra cost of taking the train.

It’s a wonderfully simple idea, and one already being used by organisations such as the insurer Naturesave, and the Swedish train company MTR Express. It is an idea that I strongly believe the travel industry should be pioneering. And here’s why…

1 – It works

When people take the train rather than the plane, it greatly reduces the actual climate change-related emissions caused by going on holiday. We aren’t offsetting them in the future. And by transferring our money from aviation into rail, we are directly funding a sustainable alternative.

2 – It’s good for staff wellbeing and morale

Struggling to attract high quality young people? These are the sort of job perks that communicate very clearly what sort of business you are, what you believe in, and what you are willing to support. Furthermore, as the climate crisis becomes an ever-bigger part of our lives, and the backlash against flying grows, it is going to create an ever-greater internal conflict for many people working in the travel industry.

Making it easier for your staff to take time off without facing such dilemmas is looking out for their wellbeing. It also acknowledges that while individual actions matter, it is actions at a wider, structural level that are necessary to make the scale of change required. And rather than make people feel guilty for their inability to always make the most sustainable choice in a flawed system, it’s about designing the system so that the sustainable choice is the easiest and more rewarding option.

If we don’t do this, sustainable travel risks being an inadvertent tool of division. It will be virtue signaling for those that can afford it.

3 – We need to redesign our products. This will help.

I love that this initiative is called Climate Perks. It is positive. It focuses on the benefits to our wellbeing of living a more sustainable lifestyle. Too often the way we frame sustainability focuses only on what we have to give up, rather than on what we might gain by doing so. This makes it harder to engage all but the most committed.

We need to change the narrative. I’ve written before for this blog about how hotel companies like Martins with their Ecobon loyalty scheme, cities like Bologna with its Bella Mossa sustainable travel scheme, and countries like South Korea with its green credit card programme are rewarding people for choosing the sustainable option. Climate Perks does the same.

Big visionary projects defining the coming decades – like the Green New Deal or the UK Government’s Carbon Neutral 2050 goal – require the reimagining of our industries. Tourism will be affected by this requirement to rethink many of our basic principles more than most. The cheap-flight driven, jet-to-the-other-side-of-the-world-for-a-week model will not survive. All those products in your catalogue will need redesigning.

Many of the people who will be doing the redesigning are sitting in your offices. The more time they spend taking their holidays by train, living these experiences for themselves, understanding the challenges, feeling the joys and benefits, the more they will be able to imagine, create and communicate the products that will ensure your business has a future.



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Jeremy Smith is a writer, speaker and sustainable tourism consultant. He is co-founder of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, an initiative that supports tourism organisations in declaring a climate emergency and working together to reduce their carbon emissions in line with the Science Based Targets. He is the author of Transforming Travel - realising the potential of sustainable tourism (2018), and co-founder of Travindy.com, the travel industry sustainable tourism website news site. He consults widely on sustainable tourism strategy and communication, with recent clients including Bruges Ommeland, GSTC, English National Parks, Tripadvisor, the Travel Foundation, and the European Travel Commission. He is a member of Travalyst’s Independent Advisory Board and was a member of Rotterdam’s International Advisory Board in 2019, helping develop a new vision for the city’s tourism.


  1. saskia Griep says:

    This is a great initiative, thank you so much for bringing this to our attention!
    Better Places and https://www.betterplacestravel.com/ decided to join this scheme immediately and we signed up with Climate Perks
    All our employees will receive two extra holidays if they travel by train to their holiday destination. We added this to our secondary employment conditions:
    “If you go on holiday by train instead of by plane, we will reward this with two extra days off (per year). If you go by train and back by plane (or vice versa), you are eligible for 1 extra vacation day. If you replace a flight at a destination by a train journey of at least 8 hours, you are also eligible for an extra day.”

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