Cruise and air travel: the consequences of travel shame


Immediately after getting up she went splashing in the sea and then had a leisurely breakfast by the pool. Youtuber Bianca "Bibi" Claßen ("Bibis Beauty Palace") recently wrote this on the Maldives, about 8000 kilometers from Germany. It is probably a question of type, whether one grabs a feeling of patronage with such an Instagram post or else foreign shame, even transferred flight shame. In any case, many now look at vacation postings differently than they did two years ago. The travel shame goes around.

Bad conscience on cruises?

But has this really started a new era and is bad conscience on the rise? Will flying, long-distance travel and cruising become something to be justified for – instead of something to brag about? Quite a few report at least conversations and situations in which CO2 is suddenly an issue in which it would not have been in the past.


The vacation researcher and consumer psychologist Martin Lohmann does not yet find a general shame for traveling, but he does find greater shame for flying. In Kiel, as head of the Institute for Tourism Research in Northern Europe (NIT), he is responsible for the annual "travel analysis" of the Association for Research on Vacation and Travel (FUR).

"Flying shame is the expression of an inner conflict"

According to the latest – in November – almost three quarters (73 percent) of air travelers said they had a more or less bad conscience because of the climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. 27 percent did not share this feeling. "Apparently there is a 'change in values' here," says Lohmann. "Flugscham is the expression of an internal conflict, not its solution: you want to travel on the one hand, but you also don't want to influence the climate on the other", says the psychologist, who is a professor of business psychology at the University of Lüneburg.

"We are currently researching how people deal with this conflict. Not talking about it would be a provisional option, on the other hand, travel is a great topic of conversation, so a new conflict."

With cruises you could show off earlier

According to the researcher, the travel plans for 2020, despite the spread of flight discomfort, are unlikely to see a short-term decline in the number of vacation trips by plane. But there is a greater willingness to compensate for the associated CO2 emissions, says Lohmann.

In view of the ongoing climate discussion and the Friday demos, Hamburg-based youtuber and cruise expert Matthias Morr also observes a change in the culture of conversation: "A cruise is something you could show off with earlier. I have heard from many that they prefer not to do that anymore tell when they go on cruises so as not to be denounced for that. " The cruise ship is "quasi the SUV of the travel industry". Such a huge ship is a strong symbol for many things that the Fridays for Future movement denounced.

Ships are getting cleaner

Shipping companies are not in a favorable situation right now, says Morr. New ships have been ordered – and it is a huge challenge to turn the anti-sentiment. "Many shipping companies have also recognized this problem – ships either sail much cleaner with liquefied natural gas or the provider compensates for the CO2 emissions."

But Morr also observes a kind of defiance in the population: "I also experience a 'now more than ever' for many – according to the motto: 'I don't want to restrict myself personally, while in other countries or industries everything continues as usual'. " There are a lot of people, including a lot of big city singles who don't have a car but invested a lot of money in travel. "For a lot of people that is an essential part of the lifestyle and I think that many will not want to do without it." Post materialism had been proclaimed for a long time – the motto was that it was better to invest in experiences than in things. "If travel is frowned upon now, what can you conscientiously spend money on?"

"Travel has a number of positive aspects"

Travel researcher Lohmann sees all of this less problematically and he also sees no end to tourism. "Travel has a number of positive aspects: relaxation, experience, learning, happiness." They bring experiences about which it is worth talking about proven social exchange. "I do not consider it a disadvantage that you have to justify yourself and other potential climate-damaging effects of your travel," says Lohmann. "A little more prudence when planning tourist activities can't hurt."

From the economic psychologist's point of view, gaining prestige through travel has so far been a side effect. In fact, "experienced people" have always been valued. "But this aspect is not lost if you pay attention to the climate when traveling."