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  • Writer's pictureJoAnna Haugen

UK companies turn toward rail travel in 2021/22 recovery

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

by JoAnna Haugen

In the months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, teenage activist Greta Thunberg riled the world up with flight shaming. Going into 2020, the growing stigma against flying appeared to be working, with air passenger numbers dropping across Europe while rail service increased.

Over the past 18 months, the tourism industry has taken the trend one step further. A few travel companies have made updates to old offerings and introduced fresh ground-centric itineraries. Some entrepreneurs have even launched entirely new companies focused on keeping travellers out of the sky.

Cat Jones noted the perfect storm of the climate crisis, an increased interest on local experiences, travellers’ intentionality in making sustainable decisions, and her own frustration at stringing together land-based experiences as her motivation for founding Byway in March 2020. “If there’s ever a time to build a slow travel business and the technology that helps slow travel to scale, this is the time to do it,” Jones said.

As part of its Planet Promise, Exodus Travels announced in April 2021 that it was including rail travel from the United Kingdom as part of 18 of its escorted tours, with more to follow as demand requires. Additionally, Intrepid Travel has pledged to remove all flights that are 90 minutes or less and replace them with low-carbon alternatives from its top 50 itineraries by the end of 2022.

“The pandemic seems to have provided some distance and perspective on the absurdity of the modern air travel process — crowded out-of-town airports, the lengthy security process, the luggage restrictions, the huge carbon footprint for a relatively short journey,” said Catherine Livesley, who launched No Fly Travel Club, which curates experience-focused European rail trips, in January 2021. “I think for some people it’s just reached a tipping point where they don’t want to go back.”

About the Author

JoAnna Haugen is an award winning writer, speaker, and solutions advocate who has worked in the travel and tourism industry for almost 15 years.

She is also founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact, and storytelling.

A returned U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, international election observer, and intrepid traveler, JoAnna is always on the hunt for her next great adventure. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


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