Persuading Generation Z to take holidays at home is one of 18 initiatives being championed by the German government to revamp tourism for a climate-conscious age.
The government-backed projects for the “tourism of tomorrow” include a push for holidays in disused farmland buildings and teaching athletes about the potential impact of outdoor sports.
Tourism typically brings in about €124 billion ($131bn) a year to Germany’s economy, the largest in Europe, but the sector also produces 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.
Globally, tourism accounts for about 8 per cent of carbon emissions and last year’s Cop26 summit led to a series of commitments to reduce the effects of long-distance air travel and biodiversity loss.
Insiders warn that the tourist industry itself would ultimately be threatened by a failure to tackle climate change, as coastal resorts are overrun by rising sea levels and natural wonders of the world come under threat.
Germany’s array of new initiatives is backed by public funding and aims to bring about a green recovery from the dire straits in which the tourism industry found itself during the coronavirus pandemic. The country hopes to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, a drive given extra momentum by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“More sustainable, climate-friendly and innovative concepts are indispensable for a successful rebirth of the tourism sector,” the government’s tourism co-ordinator Claudia Mueller said.
Researchers behind one project called Next Generation said the growing market of holidaymakers from Generation Z, born in the late 1990s and 2000s, created an opportunity to reshape public attitudes.
“The potential for the young target group to choose holidays in Germany is large,” they said. “If young people find attractive offers in Germany that meets their needs, most of them would take holidays here.”
But current holiday packages were mainly aimed at tourists born between the 1950s and 1980s and no longer appealed to younger people, they said.
Domestic holidays enjoyed a boom during the pandemic, when overseas travel was often banned or restricted, although longer-haul trips have undergone something of a recovery in recent months.
One idea to keep building up domestic tourism in Germany is to promote sustainable holidays on agricultural land, especially in disused farm buildings rendered obsolete by modern technology.
But many of those structures do not meet modern environmental standards and a growing awareness of ecotourism has yet to be matched by public demand, organisers of the project said.
Another project is aimed specifically at outdoor sports such as cycling and hiking, and aims to inform people about the environmental footprint they leave behind.
If this information were better communicated and understood, for example via a digital app, people might be more willing to accept restrictions on what they do in the natural world, researchers said.
Other aims of the projects announced on Tuesday include selling regional wares from various parts of Germany and promoting health tourism and thereby economic productivity.