Cost and travel time still take precedence over carbon emissions when people book trips. But sustainability is a growing concern among travelers, with an increasing number of consumers citing emissions as a factor in their booking decisions, according to a new study.
Omio, a Berlin-based ground transportation platform, reports these and other findings in “The Omio Mobility Report: Winter Travel Trends,” which compares data from the first three months of this year to the same period four years ago. The Omio Group is comprised of Omio and Australia-based multimodal company Rome2rio.
The comparison of Q1 2019 with Q1 2023 shows a 20% increase in total train bookings and a 54% decrease in total flight bookings, as some travelers find trains are often more hassle-free than airplanes, said Peter Tomlinson, vice president of data at Omio.
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“Travelers are continuing to take a deeper interest in sustainable travel, and we’re thrilled to see that train travel is more than a trend,” Tomlinson said. “This shows us that train travel is not simply a buzzword or popular hashtag but is here to stay.”
While flight prices have increased substantially due to labor shortages and increased fuel prices, train costs have remained level, according to Omio. The report finds that consumers spent 58% more on flights in the first three months of 2023 than in the same period in 2019. Meanwhile, they spent 3% less per train ride than four years prior.
Omio said stable train prices could be due to various factors, including new European Union policy enforcing competition in the rail sector and consumer confidence in making advance bookings.
In another example of government action, France gained approval this spring from the European Commission to abolish flights between cities that are linked by a train journey of less than 2.5 hours. The ban will only affect three routes between Paris Orly and Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux, where there are viable rail alternatives.
When Omio asked consumers the most important factor they consider when booking travel, 55% said cost and 30% said travel time. While sustainability was a distant third, the 12% who cited it as a priority this year was six times higher than the 2% in a 2021 Omio survey.
“Consumers are looking to make more sustainable choices, but ultimately cost is still the main deciding factor for most,” said Naren Shaam, CEO and founder at Omio. “Given that rail prices have been more stable, we believe that consumers will — when given better access to information via platforms such as Omio and Rome2Rio — feel more confident booking train travel of around four hours [instead of short-haul flights].”
More and more rail providers are beginning to operate in Europe, and this heightened competition will likely help to keep train prices stable and entice more people to travel by train, said Darren Williams, commercial director at Omio.
The new report’s findings are in line with Omio’s EU Mobility Report: Summer Travel Trends 2022, which also showed an increase in ground transport bookings. Read about Omio raising $80 million in summer 2022 to build its digital platform.
To help keep up with consumer demand, Omio is seeing the rail sector “slowly digitize,” Tomlinson said.
“At Omio, we work tirelessly to integrate train, bus, ferry and plane booking services on one digital platform so we understand firsthand how complex and laborious it can be to secure and digitize data from train operators,” he said. “Thirty years from now, we forecast digital mechanisms will understand and lead journey bookings.”
Rail Europe, a platform for people around the world to book European train travel, says it is responding to the rise of digital technologies and an increased focus on convenience, flexibility and personalization. The “flygskam,” or flight-shame movement that emerged in 2017, has fueled demand for clean, efficient and sustainable transportation. Traveling by train from Paris to Rome means emitting more than 20 times less CO2 than flying between the two capital cities, according to Rail Europe.
“We are proud to promote sustainable and easy train travel in Europe,” said Bjorn Bender, CEO of Rail Europe. “Our recent expansion into offering booking solutions also for the European tourism industry reflects our commitment to making train journeys more accessible and meet the rising demand for environmentally responsible travel.”
But infrastructure upgrades are needed to support the increased demand for train travel, especially high-speed train, Rail Europe said. Improved infrastructure will also help to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The company said railway carriers must invest in “new technologies and innovative solutions that support decarbonization and improve the passenger experience.”
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that flygskam means flight shame.
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