Demand for Long Distance Travel - A Fast Increasing but Scarcely Documented Travel Activity. Illustrated by Danish Travel Behaviour and Compared with the Few Other Analyses

Demand for Long Distance Travel - A Fast Increasing but Scarcely Documented Travel Activity. Illustrated by Danish Travel Behaviour and Compared with the Few Other Analyses


Linda Christensen, DTU Transport


Long distance travel is one of the fastest increasing travel activities with a very high impact on the climate. Nevertheless the demand is scarcely documented and policies to reduce the increase in demand are seldom addressed


Continued growth of car transport, rapid expansion of air travel, and increased freight transport makes transport the fastest growing significant source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The contribution from the daily travel to the greenhouse gas emission as well as the structure and development in demand are well documented. The contribution to the emissions and the structure and development in demand from long distance travel is at the other hand scarcely documented. The current paper shows that the CO2 emission from passenger transport is increased by 42% when adding international travel to the domestic travel.

Literature about long distance mobility and travel is scarce and most of the European wide literature is methodological as in the case of the two European Union’s projects MEST and Kite. The most important cross-country database is Dateline collected by Eurostat in 2001/02 covering Switzerland and 15 member states. According to Dateline the Europeans make 0.5-1 journey longer than 400 km and more than 50% of these goes by air (Kuhnimhof, Collet, Armoogum, & Madre, 2009). Eurostat will regularly publish results from the tourism survey ‘Holiday and business travel survey’ but the published material is not including distances and the first broad EU-28 publication report is for 2012.

A few national analyses of the development in long distance travel based on surveys conducted as a part of the NTS exists but they are typically only documented in national reports, e.g. (Denstadli & Rideng, 2012; Frick & Grimm, 2014; Vågane, Brechan, & Hjorthol, 2011) or as more fragmented results (Frändberg & Vilhelmson, 2011). Only British long distance travel is well documented in journals but it only covers domestic travel (Dargay & Clark, 2012). The conclusions of these studies about long distance travel demand are quite diversified which might very well stem from differences in in study area, definition of long distance travel and available data.

The purpose of the suggested paper is to present an overview of long distance travel by Danes as presented in the forthcoming report (Christensen & Knudsen, 2014). The paper will relate the results for Denmark to available literature form other European countries and discuss the different conclusions reached in the studies.

The analyses are based mainly on two surveys and two databases. The two surveys are both retrospective surveys reporting journeys during the last 3 month, a dedicated survey conducted in 2010-11 by DTU Transport and the continuous Holiday and Business Travel Survey conducted by Statistical Denmark since 1997. The two databases are the worldwide ticket database Sabre and a national airport database which altogether show the development in air travel and fares since 2002. Combined with emission data it has been possible to calculate emissions from air travel per Danish passenger or Dane.

A few of the results are:
On average Danes had 5.5 low frequent travel activities with overnight stays per year in 2010-11. They are in average travelling 7,700 km corresponding to two yearly journeys to Rome.

Roughly, one third of the trips are international, one third are trips to domestic second homes, and one third are other domestic trips. Holiday journeys and other long duration journeys (at least 6 nights) only represent 20% of the journeys of which three-fourths are to international destinations. Half of the journeys are short duration trips of which only one third are international. However, 90% of the mileage is bound for international destinations and nearly 2/3 is related to long duration journeys. Only 5% of the mileage represents trips to second homes of which 40% is for internationally located second homes.

The number of journeys with overnight stays has increased by 2.9% p.a. and the kilometres increased by 4.2% p.a. in the seven year period from 2002/03 to 2009/10 when excluding visits to friends and relatives (for which the development is unknown due to methodological changes).

Car is the most used mode for domestic trips, representing 67% of the mileage, public transport represent 28%. For the international travel car is only used for 12% of the mileage and air travel for 83%.

The increase in long distance travel takes place for both car and air travel for which the yearly increase in mileage per capita around 6% in the seven years period from 2002/03 to 2009/10 whereas public transport is decreasing by 1.8%.

The increase in long distance travel is most important driven by increase in income with income elasticity well above 1. One of the analyses shows income elasticity around 2 and price elasticity at -0.35-0.40 for air travel.


Association for European Transport