Intrepid poster for ‘planet-friendly’ adventures criticised by advertising watchdog

Intrepid's misleading ad
By Linsey McNeill
31/05/2023
Home » Intrepid poster for ‘planet-friendly’ adventures criticised by advertising watchdog

An Intrepid Travel poster seen on London’s Underground contained misleading environmental claims, according to the advertising watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority has since told the adventure tours company the ad must be changed.

It has also warned Intrepid that future adverts must not ‘give a misleading impression of the impact of their holidays’ and that ‘robust substantiation’ must be held to support them.

The poster featured two women in front of the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, alongside the text ‘People & planet-friendly small group adventures since 1989’.

A complainant challenged whether the claim ‘people & planet friendly small group adventures’ misleadingly minimised the impact of Intrepid’s holidays on the environment.

The ASA upheld the complaint on the grounds that Intrepid didn’t make it clear that the term ‘planet friendly’ excluded the environmental impact of flights.

In its defence, Intrepid argued that ‘the average reader’ would realise the claim related only to its small group tour offerings, ‘rather than an absolute environmental claim which included travel to and from the destination’.

It said the use of ‘small group adventures’ made it clear the claim was a narrow and direct reference to their small group tours, and that the inclusion of the pyramids further implied that the ad was a reference to their Egypt tour.

It considered the ad had not misrepresented the impact of international flights or its tours on the environment.

The ad included a link to Intrepid’s website, which contained qualifying information regarding its environmental credentials. It stated that it was certified as carbon neutral by Climate Active for its business operations and services.

Intrepid also pointed out that its greenhouse gas emissions that were measured comprised of tour marketing and advertising, booking and payment systems, tour information materials, tour transport (air, water, public and land), tour accommodation, tour activities, tour waste and tour meals.

It also re-iterated that it offset its entire annual emissions footprint and had been carbon neutral since 2010.

Intrepid also provided details of a number of its environmental schemes, such as its Seven Point Commitment Plan and Science Based Targets Initiative membership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the ASA said the advertising code states that environmental claims must be clear, and warned they can mislead if they omit significant information.

All claims must be based on the full life cycle of an advertise product, unless the ad states otherwise, it said.

“We noted Intrepid Travel’s comments that they did not offer flights as part of their travel packages and that consumers would therefore understand that the claim was a narrow reference to their tour offering only. However, we considered that the claim was not qualified with that information,” it said.

“We considered that the presentation of the Giza Pyramids in Egypt within the ad, together with the claim ‘planet-friendly’, indicated that such tours were international and that it would be necessary to travel, in most cases by flying, to take part in their tours.

“We considered that this impression was further reinforced by the claim not referring specifically to the tours offered by Intrepid Travel, and considered that, in the absence of qualifying information, ‘adventures’ was likely to be interpreted by consumers as referring to holidays as a whole, which would include flights to and from the destination country.

“We considered that the claim ‘people & planet-friendly small group adventures’ was an absolute claim, which would be understood to mean that taking part in an Intrepid tour caused no environmental damage throughout its full life cycle.

“We therefore expected to see evidence which demonstrated that taking part in an Intrepid Travel tour, including the necessary travel to and from the destination location, caused no environmental damage over its full life cycle.”

It said that it considered Intrepid’s environmental initiatives and targets were ‘targeted to deliver results years into the future’. “We therefore considered that they did not relate to the claim as it would be interpreted by consumers,” added the ASA.

“We understood that Intrepid Travel were certified as carbon neutral regarding their business operations because they offset the carbon emissions generated during their tours, such as emissions related to accommodation, meals and transfers, by purchasing carbon credits.

“In any case, we understood that Intrepid Travel did not calculate all greenhouses gases produced by their consumers travelling to and from their tour locations, nor did their offsetting programme take account of those emissions.

“We therefore considered that their carbon offsetting did not take account of all emissions attributable to the way in which consumers would likely interpret the claim ‘planet-friendly adventures’.

“Because air travel produced high levels of both CO2 and non-CO2 emissions, which made a substantial contribution to climate change, and those emissions were not accounted for by Intrepid Travel, we considered that the absolute claim ‘people & planet-friendly adventures’ had not been adequately substantiated.

“Because the basis of the claim had not been made clear and we had not seen evidence based on the full life cycle of the product to support the absolute claim ‘people & planet-friendly small group adventures’ as it would be understood by consumers, we concluded the ad had misleadingly minimised the impact of Intrepid Travel’s holidays.”

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