Brits lag behind on environment issues

New study finds

New research from travel insurance specialist Columbus Direct reveals Brits refuse to reuse towels on holiday, even when staying in water conversation areas such as California, with almost a third (31 per cent) of travellers insisting they have a new set of towels every day.  The desire for fresh linen can be explained by Brits cynicism about hotels’ motivation for seeking to encourage guests to reuse their towels. Almost one in five (18 per cent) holidaymakers thinks hotels only want them to reuse towels to save money. With laundry a major operational expense for every hotel, some travellers think hotels are simply seeking to save money from guests, while still using vast quantities of water on grandiose water features and sprinkler systems for manicured lawns and golf courses.  

A further  seven per cent of Brits ensure they not only have new room linen but also additional towels every day, taking them from the pool area or requesting new ones from room service. Only five per cent of Brits reuse the same towel for the full duration of their hotel stay. Washing linen in hotels is estimated to take huge volumes of water. A study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated hotels and lodgings used about 15 per cent of the total water taken up by commercial and institutional facilities in the United States.

Table 1: British travellers’ towel usage abroad 

Attitude to water usagePercentage of respondents
I use new room towels every day31%
I use new room towels every other day19%
I use new room towels every couple of days18%
I reuse towels before requesting new ones because I don’t want to be wasteful with water14%
I use new room towels and additional towels every day (e.g. taken from a pool area or requested from hotel services)7%
I use the same towels for the duration of my holiday5%

Source: Columbus Direct, 2017

The research shows that when on holiday many Brits’ ethical credentials get thrown out of the window, with 29 per cent of holidaymakers stating they like the thought of being environmentally friendly but their actions don’t always reflect the desire. 

Almost one in five (19 per cent) travellers say once they have paid for their room they feel entitled to use as many towels and as much water as they like. One in ten Brits ignore signs about being careful regarding water usage and the same number don’t care if hotels have any particular environmentally-friendly policies as long as they suit their budget. 

Table 2: British travellers’ attitudes to water usage abroad

Attitude to water usagePercentage of respondents
I like the thought of being environmentally friendly but my actions don’t always reflect the desire29%
I haven’t been aware of signs about being careful about water use where I have stayed20%
I’ve paid for my room so can use as many towels and as much water as I like19%
I only think hotels want me to reuse towels so they can save money18%
I am more inclined to recommend hotels that are environmental-friendly to other people16%
I take more baths than usual (or multiple showers a day) as I don’t have to pay for additional water usage12%
I don’t pay attention to signs regarding being careful about water use10%
I don’t really care if hotels have any particular environmentally-friendly policy as long as they suit my budget10%

Source: Columbus Direct, 2017

Alison Wild, Head of Travel Insurance at Columbus Direct, said: “When many hotels even in water conversation areas have grandiose water outdoor features and vast sprinkler systems across lush golf courses, a cynic could argue that reusing towels is less about saving the planet than saving the hotel money. However, even in some of the most prosperous and popular holiday destinations water access is a real environmental concern. Hotels do use vast quantities of water on commercial laundry so guests wanting to help the environment can hang up their towels rather than throwing them on the floor to be washed if they wish to do their bit for water conservation.” 

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