Some tourists in New Zealand are happy to pay extra to cover their carbon footprints.
Tourism company Footprint Adventures is getting its customers to pay a carbon emission surcharge for each of its boutique tours.
Company director Robert Thomas told the Herald that domestic and overseas tourists were responding well to the first week of being charged extra for their carbon footprints.
Mr Thomas believes the company is the first in New Zealand to levy tourists for the carbon emissions resulting from their activities.
The move by the new adventure tourism company supports the carboNZero programme. The surcharge paid by tourists is passed on to Landcare Research for investing in native forest regeneration and renewable energy projects.
Mr Thomas said a two-bus day trip from Auckland to Te Kuiti for the running of the sheep at the end of the month would attract just a dollar surcharge per tourist, for 20kg of CO2 emissions per person.
An eight-day return train trip from Auckland to Arthur’s Pass would cost an extra $10 to cover the 300kg of CO2 per person emitted.
“And some activities we are now avoiding, like balloon rides in Waikato, because they use too much CO2.”
Mr Thomas said there was a growing market of local and international tourists who had an environmental conscience.
“There’s an increasing awareness now of the impact of carbon emissions on climate change, and I believe people want the chance to take some ownership of their own actions, particularly in the pursuit of pleasure.”
Mr Thomas said he had witnessed a rising wave of scepticism in Europe of New Zealand’s “clean green image”.
“The foreign press is milking New Zealand’s own public debate over the high level of this country’s carbon emissions and in the process is diluting our Pure NZ brand.
“I believe it is time to be seen to put our money where our mouth is.”
Mr Thomas said the company’s carbon neutral goal had been at the forefront of all its planning and development.
Adventure activities, tour itineraries, transport and even accommodation options had all been selected using criteria to gauge the best choices in keeping CO2 emissions to a minimum.
In using carboNZero’s travel and tourism calculator, Mr Thomas said that in 2008 the maximum surcharge per customer would be around $10.
Footprint Adventures also wanted to include the planting of native saplings as a regular feature of its tours.
As the company grew, it also planned to reinvest in technology that had the least impact on the environment, such as low-emission petrol and hybrid, or electric, vehicles.