March 2021

Towards a greener future

March 2021
Editor’s letter

Rebuilding for a sustainable future

As Mark Tanzer writes in the introduction to ABTA’s Tourism for Good report, the world’s unexpected standstill has given us a unique chance to reflect on the type of industry we want to rebuild. “Future prosperity depends on putting sustainability at the heart of tourism’s recovery,” he writes. “This can only be achieved by operators, governments, destination managers, partners and communities working together.”

In this special edition of ABTA Magazine, we’re taking this chance – while the short-term return of travel is yet to be fully planned out – to explore the topic of sustainability in more depth, considering the obstacles the industry must overcome, the successes it has already achieved and the opportunities it has to effect change.

As Kasia Morgan, head of sustainability and community at Exodus Travels, tells us: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for all of us as to the vulnerability of our society and systems to global crises, and the huge impact they can have on our health, communities, economies and ecosystems.” Although the challenges posed by Covid-19 and climate breakdown differ greatly, the global disruption the former has caused has made many of us focus our minds on the even greater challenges of the latter.

Even after the vaccination process helps us to return to some semblance of normality, governments will have to remember the lessons from the pandemic, while we as individuals and organisations must continue to consider what impact our choices have on the wider world. Like the Tourism for Good report, in this issue, we’re considering different areas of the question around sustainability: community tourism and destination management, decarbonisation and waste reduction – speaking to a range of operators, experts and tourist boards. As Tanzer says: “This is an opportunity to purposefully build back better for a responsible and resilient tourism industry, fit for the challenges we face and a contributor to the global good.”

We hope you enjoy reading.

Contact

Get in touch with the team

ABTA Magazine is produced by Waterfront Publishing on behalf of ABTA, The Travel Association.


Contacts

Editorial
Anthony Pearce, director
anthony@waterfront-publishing.com

info@abtamag.com
020 3865 9360

Design
DJMWeb, The Studio

Sub-editors
Nathaniel Cramp, Emily Eastman

Sales and partnerships

Sam Ballard, director
sam@waterfront-publishing.com

Bryan Johnson, senior sales manager
bryan@waterfront-publishing.com
0203 865 9338
075 3270 9734


About ABTA

Waterfront Publishing is an independent publisher based in central London. It has an in-house magazines, Cruise Adviser, which is aimed at the travel trade. It has also produced magazines on behalf of ABTATravelzoo; and Emerald Waterways. Its design agency The Studio by Waterfront offers copywriting, proofreading and design for print, digital, advertising and branding.

Get in touch

Waterfront Publishing
Hop Exchange,
Southwark Street,
London, SE1 1TY
info@waterfront-publishing.com
020 3865 9360
News

Industry reacts to Budget

Leading figures say Budget does not go far enough to support travel and tourism businesses


The chancellor must move beyond the government’s “blind spot” concerning the impacts of international travel restrictions, ABTA has urged after Rishi Sunak revealed his Budget on March 3.

The Job Retention Scheme will be extended until the end of September, while the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has been extended. The fourth grant will cover February to April, worth 80 per cent of average trading profits up to £7,500; a fifth grant will be available from July.

Meanwhile, corporation tax is set to rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent from April 2023, but companies with profits of less than £50,000 will still pay 19 per cent.

However, leading figures in the travel industry said that the measures do not go far enough to support travel and tourism businesses.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “We’re pleased to see the government has responded to many of our calls to extend furlough, business rates relief and VAT reductions. This will help to support jobs and businesses over the coming months. However, the chancellor must move beyond the government’s blind-spot concerning the impacts of international travel restrictions, and make support available to all travel companies whose business has been effectively closed by public health policy.

“The chancellor said there are extra grants for struggling businesses, yet many travel companies remain excluded from this critical support, despite not being able to generate income over the last 12 months. By focusing the grants on retail outlets, businesses including tour operators, online travel companies and home-based workers remain shut out of this much needed support. It is also worth remembering that, with overseas travel still closed, in the short to medium term, the income retail travel agents can generate will still be limited. As such, it’s important they qualify for higher levels of support.

“We urge the government to reconsider this approach by making grants available to all travel businesses, not just those with retail premises, recognising that the reopening of overseas travel will come later than the other sectors and will likely to be gradual. The chancellor has said he will do all that is necessary to support struggling businesses and these words should be matched with action to support the whole travel sector.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “While the extension of the furlough scheme will be positive news for many sectors, travel businesses continue to be unable to take full advantage of the support package in its current form. Travel agencies do not make any money until their clients travel, but they still have to employ people to facilitate bookings and amend cancellations and refunds when required. Therefore, even while there is no money physically coming through the door, furlough simply doesn’t work for employers in this sector by the very nature of the business.

“The criteria that needs to be met by businesses to be entitled to the government grants means that 50 per cent of our members do not qualify because they work from home or an office and do not operate from a retail premises. Support with deferral of business rates and grants for all travel agents, regardless of their operating environment, are what we need to help travel agents survive. There is an immediate pressure on these businesses because they have been unable to earn any income due to government-imposed restrictions for 12 months now.

“While the plan to ease lockdown has initiated some positive signs of recovery in terms of enquiries and bookings, travel agents are in a state of financial limbo because the details of how and when we will travel is still fuelled with uncertainty and restrictions. We know testing is critical to the recovery of travel, and we need government to take a lead on bringing down the cost of testing so that a future holiday is still affordable for families. The media focus to date has been on leisure travel, however the government must not forget the lucrative business travel sector which will be intrinsic to the recovery of many other important sectors to the economy.”

Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound said: “The extension of furlough is very welcome news for our industry, as is the business rates holiday and its further cut. We’re also pleased that leisure grants of up to £18k will be available for businesses that need to stay closed for longer, but we urgently need confirmation from government that tour operators, coach operators, language schools and event organisers will be eligible for these grants, having been unfairly excluded to date.

“It was however disappointing and a huge missed opportunity to hear that sector-specific support, which has been rolled out in Scotland, will not be provided. The VAT cut will be beneficial to hospitality and domestic tourism businesses, but its impact on inbound tourism, and the export value it delivers that will take longer to restart, will be minimal.

“The inbound tourism industry still has a long road to recovery and the government needs to recognise this. International inbound tourism to the UK can play a crucial role in supporting the country’s economic recovery and its levelling-up and Global Britain agenda, but this will only be possible when it’s safe to travel again. Until then we need government to continue its dialogue with the industry and understand that further support is urgently required.”

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News

‘Huge opportunity’ for agents

Advantage CEO says the future looks brighter following the government’s roadmap announcement


 

Travel agents have a huge opportunity to offer a “balanced, honest perspective” as travel reopens, the CEO at Advantage Travel Partnership, Julia Lo Bue-Said, has said.

It was announced last month that holidays could be taken as early as May 17, as the government laid out its roadmap for exiting lockdown. A Department for Transport (DfT) review into how to allow inbound and outbound travel to restart will report on April 12.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said the resumption of travel is “vital for many businesses which have been hardest hit, including retail, hospitality, tourism and aviation”, but would be subject to a review to resolve “key questions”. He said the DfT taskforce will enable Britons to “plan for summer”.

“At long last we have had some positive news for the industry and we welcome the fact that travel businesses are reporting a surge in bookings and enquiries after the PM’s announcement,” Lo Bue-Said said.

“While we are optimistic at the pent-up demand from consumers and the plan to get the UK out of lockdown, we need to be mindful that the dates outlined are not set in stone and there is a need to err on the side of caution for summer departures. Clarity is still needed from government on quarantine hotels, quarantine periods, testing and vaccine passports, and until further details have been received from the Global Travel Taskforce and we have a better understanding of the protocols that may be in place, it is highly probable that travel for this summer will be restricted in some way.

“Travel agents have a huge opportunity to offer that balanced, honest perspective, which is why we created our Keep Calm & Dream of Travel campaign, to highlight a customer commitment for agents to present to their customers for when the time is right to travel again. Travel agents have access to flexible booking options and, with the knowledge and guidance that a local travel agent can offer, there has never been a better time for consumers to book a holiday using an agent – but cautious optimism is needed.”

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “The prime minister’s announcement sets an ambition to get people travelling before the summer – which will not only be crucial for travel businesses whose revenues have been wiped out, but also for the millions of people who are desperate to travel again, whether to see friends and relatives based overseas or for a much-needed holiday.

“We’re pleased to see the government has responded to our calls to engage with industry on a specific roadmap for travel, and we welcome that the Global Travel Taskforce will reconvene to work with ABTA and the wider travel industry on a plan for reopening travel.”

News

Bookings spike as roadmap is revealed

The announcement that travel could restart as soon as May prompted a huge increase in bookings


Travel businesses have been reporting a boom in sales following the government’s announcement that travel could restart from May 17.

The Personal Travel Agents at Co-operative Travel, part of The Midcounties Co-operative, reported an increase in bookings of 293 per cent on February 23, compared with the same day the week before, and bookings were up 317 per cent compared with the same day in 2020, pre-pandemic. Jet2.com and Jet2holidays reported that summer 2021 bookings increased more than 1,000 per cent in the 24 hours following the announcement.

UKinbound’s CEO Joss Croft said: “We’re really pleased that the prime minister listened to the industry and included international inbound tourism in the country’s reopening roadmap. It is critical that dialogue continues and that government consults with the industry when preparing its review on reopening international travel, due on April 12.

“As part of its review, we would ask the UK government to work with the devolved nations, as a fragmented approach will hinder recovery. To save the summer business, government needs to move quickly as it will take time for consumers to regain confidence to book a holiday to the UK and for the industry to prepare.

“However, it’s very clear that we are still months away from restarting international travel, and many more months before we see a significant recovery, and the industry therefore needs continued support.”

News

Greece considers vaccination certificates

The Greek tourism minister said that they could mean the country will be able to enjoy a “semi-normal summer”


The government of Greece is in talks with the UK to see if vaccination certificates could be introduced, the country’s tourism minister has said.

Tourism minister Harry Theoharis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are in very preliminary discussions. I’m very hopeful we can reach some sort of solution.

“We certainly hope that with the vaccination programmes under way, and the UK is one of the leading countries in that respect […] we can have a semi-normal summer,” he said, adding: “We could recognise they have chosen to get vaccinated so there is no need to test them again and again.”

Greece is one of the most popular destinations for Britons, with more than four millions visits each year.

“The vaccination certificates are issued by governments, by single authorities, not by various labs in various countries, so again it’s a step forward, that is why we are starting these discussions early in order to be able to solve any technical issues,” Theoharis said.

It follows comments by ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer about the possibility of vaccination certificates.

“Having the option to obtain some sort of vaccine certificate will be important because this evidence, alongside testing, is likely to be part of the way to reopen travel,” he said.

“We would like to see the government work with the industry on how we can have a voluntary certificate that will be able to demonstrate that you’ve been vaccinated, meaning you don’t have to test or quarantine. That would be a real incentive to get people travelling again. We already know that some overseas governments such as Greece and Cyprus are looking at proof of vaccination as a way for travellers to avoid testing and quarantine requirements.”

“We should also remember that having a vaccine certificate isn’t a new idea. There are examples that already exist for viral diseases, such as yellow fever, where there is an internationally recognised standard of certification that you have been vaccinated,” Tanzer added.

In a blog, he wrote: “I understand concerns around discrimination and data privacy, which is why any vaccine certificate should be optional. The government has asked people to participate in the vaccination scheme and in the test and trace programme; people who have done so have the right to their personal data.

“While I strongly believe that being vaccinated, and having evidence of it that is recognised internationally, must be part of the solution to reopening travel – it cannot be the only route. There need to be other ways, such as a practical and cost-effective testing regimes, to allow those who are yet to be vaccinated to travel.”

News

More cruise lines make vaccinations mandatory

Ultra-luxury line Crystal joins the likes of Swan Hellenic and Saga in asking for proof of vaccination before sailing


Crystal has announced that it will now require all guests to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at least 14 days prior to embarkation.

Guests will need to provide proof of vaccination before sailing and must have received both doses of the vaccine if recommended by the manufacturer. The ultra-luxury line joins the likes of Swan Hellenic and Saga in making the measure mandatory.

The vaccine requirement is part the company’s comprehensive Crystal Clean+ 4.0 measures, including negative Covid-19 tests for guests and crew, temperature checks at the terminal prior to boarding, a “nimble” mask policy, social distancing guidelines, enhanced cleaning and disinfection measures, reduced capacity and more.

“We are encouraged by the progress being made with the Covid-19 vaccines and what this means for our Crystal Family and the travel industry as a whole as we eagerly look forward to exploring the world again,” said Crystal’s interim president and CEO, Jack Anderson.

“We know that peace of mind is the greatest luxury; and the vaccine requirement is simply the best way to ensure the safest possible Crystal Experience for all on board. This sentiment is underscored by conversations with our guests and travel partners and a recent Cruise Critic survey of cruisers that revealed more than 80 per cent of respondents would cruise if a vaccine were required.

“As part of the company’s Crystal Clean+ 4.0 measures, crew members will be tested for Covid-19 prior to leaving their home location to join the ship and must receive a negative result. They also will take a Covid-19 test at embarkation; quarantine for seven days upon arrival; be tested again at the end of that seven-day period and must receive a negative result before beginning their duties,” Anderson said.

“When vaccines are widely available, they will be a requirement of employment for crew which must be completed at least 14 days prior to service.”

In addition to providing verified documentation of their Covid-19 vaccine at the time of boarding, guests will complete an online form acknowledging this requirement before their cruise tickets will be issued. Crystal has published a frequently asked questions document on the advisory alert section of its website for further reference.

Crystal said it will continue to evaluate and update its Crystal Clean+ 4.0 health and safety protocols for its luxury brand experiences – Crystal Cruises, Crystal River Cruises, Crystal Yacht Cruises and the upcoming Crystal Expedition Cruises – according to the latest scientific data and expert guidance.

News

WTTC: Prioritise return of business travel

The trade body has called on the UK government to “show that they really means business”


The World Travel & Tourism Council has called on the UK government to prioritise the return of international business travel

Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “The WTTC today calls on the UK government to prioritise the urgent resumption of international business travel – in line with the reopening of mobility and the easing of restrictions to domestic travel from the beginning of April.

“We need to capitalise on the huge success of the vaccine rollout and unblock the myriad of confusing rules and regulations, which has stalled essential business travel. Now is the time to show that the UK government really means business.

“The resumption of safe international business travel will generate a much-needed revenue boost for businesses up and down the country and provide a critical economic lifeline to the government and enable the chancellor to begin balancing the books.

“The UK is the fourth biggest G20 economy in terms of international travel and tourism spend from business travel, contributing £7.5 billion to UK PLC in 2019, and will be vital to kickstarting the country’s recovery.

“Resuming international travel also means the country’s economy can reopen more quickly, giving the UK a distinct competitive advantage as the globe slowly recovers and emerges from the ravages of the pandemic.”

News

G Adventures launches new ‘Active’ travel campaign

With more demand for active travel, the adventure travel company is helping agents cater to this growing market


G Adventures has launched a month-long ‘Active’ travel campaign to help agents cater to the shift in demand towards active travel.

A recent survey by G Adventures showed that 28 per cent of British travellers plan to take an active trip as part of their next international holiday, with 12 per cent saying they would take a more active break and 27 per cent saying they’re more likely to try a new style of holiday than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The campaign offers a 15 per cent discount on ‘Active’ tours, as well as training, webinars and four trip giveaways for agents throughout this month.

The weekly webinars will focus on educating agents on the best active experiences by region. Each week, agents attending the webinar will be eligible to win a spot on one of G Adventures’ European adventures, including river cruising in Burgundy, hiking the Corfu Trail and sailing the Croatian coastline. Other methods of prize-draw entry can be found on the Agents of Change Facebook page.

To register for the webinars, follow the links below:

Helping agents to encourage travellers to book now for travel later, 15 per cent discount on ‘Active’ tours applies to bookings made before March 31, 2021 and departing up to June 30, 2022. The sale includes the new collection of Active Europe tours, as well as hiking and trekking trips further afield, from South America to Africa.

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Discover a different side to Tokyo

Tokyo is a city of incredible contrasts, that defies all the stereotypes as much as it blows your mind, writes Rob Goss


Think of Tokyo and you conjure up images of a busy and ultra-modern city, where neon-lit futuristic skylines seem copied and pasted straight out of Blade Runner. It is all of these things, but there’s so much more to Japan’s capital. In the 23 special wards that make up the city’s urban core – that among them are home to nine million Tokyoites (there are 14 million including the wider area) – visitors also find traditional gardens and quiet temples. For every busy main street, there’s a warren of becalmed side streets waiting to be explored. For every skyscraper, there’s a low-rise and low-key residential area, where even elementary schoolers can safely walk to school without their parents.

Tokyo is known for its incredible food scene (Credit: TCVB)

 

Go beyond the city centre into the Tama region and you’ll find more differences between real Tokyo and the capital’s stereotypes – it is nothing like the world of Lost In Translation. There are mountain ranges for a start, with trails for all levels of hiker. There are ancient temples deep in nature. There are sprawling parks and laidback suburbs. Farmland as well. Look south and Tokyo has an island chain, too, stretching hundreds of kilometres into the Pacific and offering travellers the chance to dive, surf and even trek around active volcanoes. In Tokyo.

One thing often said about Tokyo that is true: the trains do tend to run on time. And they are clean. Another that holds up is that the food is on a different level. It’s not just that Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world – 212 at the latest count, including 12 with three stars – it’s the dedication chefs from every culinary walk of life seem to give their craft, whether they are perfecting a ramen stock or crafting kaiseki-ryori, the artistically arranged haute cuisine of Japan with its focus on seasonal produce and techniques that enhance natural flavours. And just as there’s far more to Tokyo than concrete and crowds, there’s also an incredible depth and breadth of flavours on menus to discover – not only sushi, noodles, tempura and wagyu.

Hama-rikyu Gardens (Credit: TCVB)

It’s become a cliché to say that old meets new, but that’s true at times, too. Sometimes its striking – like the skyscrapers of Shiodome rising above the traditional garden of Hama-rikyu Gardens. Sometimes its subtle – like the traditional approach to hospitality even in the most contemporary of galleries, bars or restaurants. The takeaway is that, with Tokyo, there’s always something new to learn, something that will surprise and go beyond expectations. First visit or fifteenth, it’s a city that keeps on blowing minds.

Main image credit: TCVB 

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Further afield: Tama

Harmonica Alley, Kichijoji (Credit: TCVB)

Rob Goss explores the Tama region, which covers the western area of Tokyo, and has everything from mountains and ancient temples to glamping


If the 23 special wards that make up the heart of modern Tokyo defy stereotypes with their diversity, then the Tama region goes even further: covering more than 1,500 square kilometres and home to just over four million of Tokyo’s 14 million residents, it blows the concrete jungle stereotypes out of the water.

Exploring Tama from central Tokyo, the region begins with suburbs before becoming gradually more rural and even remote, providing a varied range of experiences and attractions. Almost bordering the 23 special wards, Kichijoji has a hip reputation because of its independent cafes, cool bars and street fashion, as well as being one of the neighbourhoods connected to the chilled-out Inokashira Park – a lovely spot to picnic, watch street performers or have a paddle in a rowboat. Going ever so slightly further into Tama, but still easy to access thanks to Tokyo’s extensive rail network, you also find the superb Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum and its collection of 30 historic structures in Koganei Park.

In Chofu, other Tama standouts often overlooked by travellers are the Jindai Botanical Gardens and neighbouring Jindaiji Temple. The gardens mix roses, cherry blossoms, azaleas and other seasonal blooms, as well as a greenhouse full of orchids and aquatic plants. In a lovely, wooded grove next door, Jindaiji Temple is said to have first been built in 733 and still has some structures dating as far back as the 1600s. It’s easy to while away an hour or two here in the old stores and restaurants by the temple’s main gateway, and it’s worth planning a lunch stop at one of the rustic restaurants serving handmade soba noodles.

Going further west, it doesn’t take long for the Tama region to transition from suburbs to scenic. Just an hour by train from central Tokyo, the 599m Mount Takao has trails (and a cable car) that lead to the mountainside Yakuo-in Temple – first built in the 700s – and then to a summit that delivers a distant glimpse of Mount Fuji. More challenging and more tranquil are peaks such as Mount Otake, Mount Hinode and Mount Mitake, the latter of which is home to a shrine as well as traditional lodgings. For a bit of the outdoors with a bit of style, glamping has taken off in Tama in recent years, with options including the luxurious Keikoku Glamping Tent in Hinohara.

Main image credit: TCVB

News

P&O introduces short-break UK cruises

The ‘ultimate escape’ staycation breaks go on sale this month, but the line has cancelled other cruises until the autumn


P&O Cruises is to offer a series of short-break and week-long UK cruises this summer. They will go on sale this month.

However, the line also announced that cruises on Arcadia, Aurora, Azura and Ventura have been cancelled until the end of August and on Britannia and Iona until the end of September.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “Following recent government announcements and as the vaccine programme is rolled out across the globe, we can all begin to feel a sense of reassurance and hope that this current lockdown period in the UK will come to an end. Life can, we hope, slowly return to some semblance of our previous normality as hospitality opens up and summer holidays can be booked with confidence.

“While holidays here in the UK will be the first to become a reality, we will, of course, gradually see the return of international travel, but first we want guests to be able to enjoy a proper summer holiday at sea with the best in relaxation, entertainment and dining choice.

“These sailings will leave from our home port in Southampton and sail around UK coastal waters enjoying the summer sunshine. More details of dates, prices and the experience on board will be announced later this month, but they will, of course, all have flexibility, so guests can book with confidence.

“We hope that the UK ‘ultimate escape’ staycation option will have wide appeal and we will do our utmost to make it a very special time. There really will be something for everyone and the opportunity to spend precious and much longed-for time with family and friends.

“In order to offer these UK breaks it does mean that, unfortunately, we need to cancel some of our current published programme of holidays this summer.

“We remain in very close contact with the UK government and associated bodies as we monitor the latest situation and guidance on travel. From the moment we see travel restrictions lifting we will begin the significant logistical task to restart our operations. It will take some time for the first ship to return to service, followed by the phased return of the remaining fleet. We cannot wait to welcome everyone back on board with the protection of effective protocols to safeguard the health and well-being of all crew and guests.

“I really am so sorry for the disappointment these cancellations will cause, but hope that the new UK cruises will enable everyone to enjoy a wonderful holiday this summer.”

All guests whose cruises have been cancelled will automatically receive a future cruise credit (FCC) worth 125 per cent of what they paid. This can be redeemed against any new booking made by the end of December 2021, on any cruise on sale at the time of booking.

Alternatively, a 100 per cent refund is available through the form on pocruises.com and may be requested until December 2021.

Feature

Take me to the river

Linda Reynolds, a Personal Travel Agent at Co-operative Travel, enjoyed a fabulous self-drive river boat holiday on the Thames in 2020. This is her snapshot of some of the areas you can visit while “messing about on the river”


Leisurely and lovely
Imagine having your own river boat cruiser and regally sailing along the River Thames. Bliss! Cruising from Benson in Oxfordshire showcases the best of the great British countryside. This UK break will bring tranquillity, pretty stretches of water, and acres of open fields, hills and farmland.

Boating holidays offer families, multigenerations, groups and couples the opportunity to enjoy the UK’s beautiful riverbanks, as the ever-changing views continuously glide past. Activities to enjoy along the way include swimming, fishing, bird-watching, riverside pubs and historic sights, as well as the relaxing experience of being on the river. Dogs are welcome, too. This really is a holiday for all the family.

Le Boat
The staff at Le Boat are excellent. As well as explaining the steering and safety manuals, they provide maps, lock information, tips and pub recommendations! Many of the locks are electronically operated – help is available, during summer months, from lock keepers, and fellow cruisers are happy to advise. You will get the hang of it in no time.

Groups and families can hire a self-drive cruiser to accommodate between two and ten people, which features en-suite cabins, galley kitchen, seating and upper steering and seating deck, plus areas to sunbathe and view the river.

The three-night route would allow you to cruise and easily stop at four of the following areas – Benson, Wallingford, Moulsford, Goring, Pangbourne-on-Thames, Reading, Sonning and Henley-on-Thames.

You can also pick a seven-night boating holiday to take in the Historic Royal Palaces of Windsor and Hampton Court, or pick up a boat at Chertsey depot.

Benson
While near the village of Benson, I recommend enjoying a long lunch at the pretty riverside Waterfront Café. From Benson you can also visit the Aston Martin Heritage Museum.

Wallingford
This historic market town has independent shops, cafes, restaurants and a market. The Castle Gardens are a great place for a picnic. Wallingford is perhaps most famous for being the home of Agatha Christie and the setting of many of her stories.

Pangbourne
The Swan Pub offers a sunny terrace overlooking the Thames and, with a dock for boats, it’s a perfect location to enjoy drinks and the all-day food menu. There are local shops and the village to explore, and Beale Wildlife Park is a must-visit for children, offering paddling pools, play areas and train rides alongside the monkeys and meerkats.

Caversham and Reading
It’s easy to find a dock in this area to visit one of the UK’s largest retail shopping centres. Cycling makes this area accessible along tow paths – you may bring your own bikes or hire from Le Boat. The village of Caversham was voted one of the best places to live in the UK in 2020. I recommend checking out the local family bakery, Warings, which does a marvellous selection of savouries and takeaway afternoon teas.

Henley-on-Thames
Henley is synonymous with the Henley Royal Regatta, an annual four-day series of rowing races, normally held in the first week of July. Visit the River & Rowing Museum and find the time to explore the many pubs and eateries of this picturesque town.

Linda uses her 32 years of experience and expertise to create the perfect holidays for her clients. She works to take away all the stress when it comes to travel booking, and the service provided is personal, tailored and complimentary. See  thepersonaltravelagents.co.uk/?pta=linda-reynolds 

News

Action Fraud urges public to remain vigilant

ABTA is reminding the public to think twice before handing over their money when booking


Action Fraud is warning the public to remain vigilant against holiday and travel related fraud, as holiday bookings surge, following the government’s announcement on how lockdown restrictions will be eased.

The national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime and ABTA are reminding the public to think twice before handing over their money and personal information when booking holidays this year.

In previous years, criminals have targeted unsuspecting holidaymakers booking airline tickets, holiday accommodation and religious trips.

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: “We are all more eager than ever to go on a holiday and relax with family and friends after the year we’ve all had. However, the surge in holiday bookings provides criminals with an opportunity to defraud innocent people out of a well-deserved break and their hard-earned cash.

“Criminals are increasingly using more sophisticated ways to trick their victims, which is why it’s important that we all do our research when booking a holiday and making travel arrangements. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

What is holiday fraud?

Holiday fraud can vary from fake accommodation listings advertising hotels, and self-catering properties that simply don’t exist, to “too good to be true” offers with flights being particularly targeted.

Criminals can approach you over the phone, via text, email and social media, offering incredibly cheap deals to tempt you into booking a holiday with them. In reality, the holiday you’ve booked, or parts of it, don’t exist at all.

Graeme Buck, ABTA Director of Communications, said: “As travel restrictions begin to lift millions of us will be looking to book holidays both at home and overseas, which may place pressure on both availability and prices. Fraudsters will take advantage of the fact that customers will be looking for good deals and they use increasingly sophisticated methods to target destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited.

“Victims often find out just before they travel or even while on holiday that they have been defrauded, it can then be very difficult and expensive to obtain a legitimate replacement booking. City of London Police, Get Safe Online and ABTA have put together a list of tips to help customers recognise the warning signs of potential fraud which will help customers avoid both potentially significant financial loss and severe disappointment, at a time when getting away on holiday is more important than ever.”

Tops tip to avoid falling victim to holiday fraud

  • Stay safe online: check the web address is legitimate and has not been altered by slight changes to a domain name – such as going from .co.uk to .org.
  • Do your research: don’t just rely on one review – do a thorough online search to ensure the company is credible. If a company is defrauding people, there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experiences, and warnings about the company.
  • Look for the logo: check whether the company is an ABTA Member. Look for the ABTA logo on the company’s website. If you have any doubts, you can verify membership of ABTA online on their If you’re booking a flight and want more information about ATOL protection, or would like to check whether a company is an ATOL holder, visit the CAA website.
  • Pay safe: wherever possible, pay by credit card and be wary about paying directly into a private individual’s bank account.
  • Check the paperwork: you should study receipts, invoices and terms and conditions, and be very wary of any companies that don’t provide any at all. When booking through a Holiday Club or Timeshare, get the contract thoroughly vetted by a solicitor before signing up.
  • Use your instincts: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Get free expert advice: for further advice on how to stay safe when booking or researching travel online, go to Get Safe Online.

For a full list of tips to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, please visit abta.com/tips-and-advice/planning-and-booking-a-holiday/how-avoid-travel-related-fraud.

Those who think they have been a victim of fraud, should contact their bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

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The Welcome Back Series: Saga

ABTA

Ask the experts

Have a burning question you can’t find the answer to? Be it travel trends, a regulatory riddle or destination dilemmas, send us your query for an expert response


With the ‘roadmap’ announcement by the prime minister and the rollout of the vaccination scheme, I am getting an increasing number of enquiries from customers looking to book later in the year, but some are asking what their holiday will be like when they arrive overseas? Are you able to tell me what kind of restrictions will be in place once we start to travel again? Anon

Firstly, it is great news that you are getting customers wanting to book travel arrangements and holidays; there is clearly massive pent-up demand and let’s hope travel recommences as soon as is possible, although clearly public health considerations must come first.

It is fair to say, some of the holiday experiences may be a little different, as we saw in the short window of travel last summer. But, rest assured, as part of the Covid-19 recovery process, destination governments in association with their public health authorities have been putting together their own specific recovery plans and health and hygiene initiatives. To help members navigate this, we have created a dedicated section on the Member Zone of the ABTA website called Country recovery plans, where we are hosting any information received from the country authorities.

In addition, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides comprehensive information on its country travel advice pages, which includes details of any restrictions, entry requirements, coronavirus measures, local laws and customs, and much more. It is essential that customers are signposted to this information before they book so that they can make an informed choice having read the information provided. They should revisit the travel advice on a regular basis.

It is likely that airports, accommodation, local bars and restaurants will continue to have Covid-safe measures in place, but not in a way that would prohibit customers from having an enjoyable holiday.

For example, in accommodations, face masks may be required to be worn in public spaces such as corridors and lobbies, and there may be modifications to meal services, such as waiter service instead of a buffet, and reservations may need to be made for using public facilities. These details are best checked with the tour operator or the accommodation provider directly.

Many local councils may allow bars and restaurants to place more tables outside to enable al fresco dining and socialising, which I think for many people is part of the pleasure of foreign holidays anyway.

At the airport, social distancing measures are likely to be in place as well as the requirement to wear face masks at all times, except when seated at a bar or restaurant.

Check with the airlines that you work with, as many of them have a host of information on their websites. They will be able to provide you with details of any specific requirements, such as the wearing of face masks on board the aircraft when seated and whether queuing for toilets is discouraged. They will also be able to provide you with reassurance of the measures in place regarding aircraft cleaning and disinfection protocols between flights and how the ventilation systems work on board the plane.

Once we start travelling again it will be very important that you help your customers to understand whatever restrictions may be in place. ABTA, the FCDO travel advice pages and tour operators will all be very useful sources of advice to help keep your customers informed.

Angie Hills, head of destinations

ABTA

Meet the team

Each issue we speak to a different ABTA employee about their work. This time: Rachel Jordan, director of financial protection


Since joining ABTA as director of financial protection in late 2020, I’ve had a phenomenally busy first few months. Prior to working at ABTA, I had a financial services background working in risk and regulatory roles at KPMG, EY and the Financial Ombudsman Service – so I am new to the travel industry and have plenty to learn.

My role is to lead the financial protection team of finance and business managers and analysts who manage members’ financial returns, ABTA bonding, and bond and financial failure insurance (FFI) renewals. I also support the membership team with the financial protection aspects of new membership applications.

I work closely with John de Vial, director of membership and financial services, on ABTA Insurance PCC Limited, which provides ABTA’s reserve fund insurance policy as a BEIS Approved Body under the Package Travel Regulations.

A typical day for me is comprised of meetings with external ABTA members, partners or peer organisations; technical case discussions with the financial protection team; managing team operations; and performing ongoing risk-management activity concerning all aspects of financial protection. Occasionally, I co-present or speak at ABTA events such as the recent Refund Credit Note (RCN) Webinar and the Travel Finance Conference.

Bringing expertise and a fresh perspective from outside the travel industry, I have focused my attention thus far on understanding how the industry works, the relevant regulations, building relationships with colleagues, peer organisations, members and partners, and identifying ways in which the financial protection team can improve the experience of members. This has included reviewing and revising bond and FFI renewal communications and documentation, identifying trends in queries from members and developing a financial protection FAQ factsheet to address those (available now on the Member Zone of ABTA’s website), and establishing ways in which to manage new and evolving risks from a financial protection perspective.

Most recently, I have been collaborating with colleagues in ABTA’s public affairs and partnerships teams to understand some of the financial services issues affecting members and to bring these matters to the attention of appropriate external parties in the hope that this will effect positive change.

The Covid-19 crisis has presented a number of new challenges for everyone. My team continue to work remotely, under extended hours, to support members with their financial returns and financial protection renewals, and to respond to the significant increase in queries we are receiving from members who are understandably concerned about their cashflow and what the future will look like for their businesses. We are here to help and I welcome feedback on what more we can do to support members through this difficult time.

Looking to the remainder of 2021, I hope to meet many more ABTA members and partners in the months ahead (albeit virtually) and, like so many of us, I’m desperate to get away. With some much more positive messages coming from the government recently, I’m really looking forward to planning my next holiday, which will of course be with an ABTA member!

ABTA’s virtual conferences and training

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ABTA has postponed its normal events schedule and is running a series of practical one-day events in key areas including travel marketing and PR, travel law, and health and safety.

These events will be brought to you virtually, streamed live via a custom digital platform. Content will be made up of thought-provoking conference sessions and practical workshops.

Visit abta.com/abtaevents to find out more and register.

Previous events on topics including customer service and complaints handling, and travel finance, can be accessed on demand here.


Early bird and team discounts
ABTA’s new business rate enables you to train your whole team digitally in a cost-effective manner. It includes five digital log-ins and on-demand content can be shared among your team. Early bird discounts are also available.

Upcoming virtual events

 

Travel Marketing and PR Conference

March 10
09.30-17.00
Join marketing and communications professionals from travel companies of all sizes at ABTA’s major marketing and PR conference and training, taking place next Wednesday. Now, more than ever, you need to be able to adjust, flex and adapt your marketing and PR plans to keep your communications relevant in the current climate. Equip your teams with the practical skills and knowledge they need to react fast and adapt to changes in the travel market.
Find out more

The Travel Law Seminar

May 19
09.30-17.15
The annual Travel Law Seminar – now in its 23rd year – will return to your screens virtually in a one-day format. Exploring lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s conference will focus on traveller, contract and wider business risk for travel companies. Attend this major industry event to get your annual travel law update, and learn how you can manage business risks as the industry begins to recover.
Find out more

ABTA webinars – free for ABTA members

ABTA is running a series of online webinars to provide guidance for travel businesses through the Covid-19 crisis. Focusing on business resilience, the webinars are delivered in collaboration with trusted ABTA partners and are free of charge for ABTA members. Upcoming webinars are listed on abta.com/abtaevents. You can also access the webinars on-demand at abta.com/webinarsondemand.

Feature

How travel is embracing decarbonisation

By Anthony Pearce
In some ways the pandemic has been a dress rehearsal for climate change, and it has made people more aware than ever of the need to reduce their carbon footprint. The industry has responded by aiming to reduce emissions and adopt new forms of power, and being more mindful of its impact on the world it is giving people access to

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It’s easy to imagine Covid-19 as a dress rehearsal for climate change. The ways in which the pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives may be a sign of what’s to come, if emissions are not adequately reduced and global temperatures continue to rise. While many scientists, writers and activists argue that there’s a widespread tendency to consider climate change a distant concern, what we have seen during the pandemic is how societal change can be embraced and how governmental intervention can be wide-ranging, when considered necessary.

Over the past year, the priority for all of us has been simply keeping afloat, but times of crisis can also lead to reflection. “The devastating impact of the pandemic, both on our sector and for destination communities across the world, has prompted us to further prioritise the development of sustainability and long-term resilience strategies,” says Kasia Morgan, head of sustainability and community at Exodus Travels. “This inevitably leads many of us to think even more seriously about how we play our part in building a sector that protects our destinations and supply chains against the effects of climate change, but also helps proactively support recovery and regeneration in the face of these effects.”

Charlotte Wiebe, TUI Group sustainability director, agrees: “The pandemic has been a powerful accelerator – many changes and transformations are being implemented faster now. The growth in tourism numbers will be better managed, and reducing and managing the impact on the environment will be viewed as ever more important. This can only be positive, and was very much the thinking of forward-looking destinations anyway.”

“Our lives have been turned upside down by Covid-19, but sadly, as terrible as the health and economic effects of the pandemic are, the long-term effects of climate change will prove to be far worse for the travel industry,” says Dr Susanne Etti, Intrepid’s environmental impact specialist. “The good news is that we already have the knowledge, tools and skills required to limit climate change and avert another global disaster; we just need the will to act and we must do it quickly. There is no vaccine for climate change – we must act now.”

The reality
It’s always worth repeating the facts and figures. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is seen as offering the gold standard assessment of the global situation; as David Wallace-Wells, author of Uninhabitable Earth, writes, this is in part because it is cautious, only using new data that passes the “threshold of unarguability”. Its current advice is that global carbon emissions must be cut by 55 per cent to below 2017 levels by 2030 to keep the planet within 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. Similarly, the Paris Agreement, which was adopted by 196 countries in December 2015, aims to limit global warming to well below two degrees, preferably to 1.5 degrees, above pre-industrial levels. This may help to avoid the worst of the increased droughts and heat waves in the Mediterranean, more frequent and stronger hurricanes in Caribbean and around the world, and collapse of coral reefs. Wallace-Wells, meanwhile, describes a two-degree rise as “the tipping point for collapse”.

How the travel industry accelerates decarbonisation, then, is a matter of pressing concern. Aviation is thought to be responsible for approximately 40 per cent of global tourism’s CO2 emissions, while more than 80 per cent of British holidaymakers depart the UK by plane, accounting for seven per cent of the UK’s total CO2 emissions. Accommodation emissions make up a further 21 per cent of tourism’s greenhouse gas emissions, while a holidaymaker’s ‘foodprint’ can be significant – in some cases the carbon emissions of food consumed on holiday can be even greater than those of the transport and accommodation elements.

Consumer pressure
The Swedish phrase ‘flygskam’ – meaning ‘flight shame’ – was coined in 2018 and is used to describe the conflict environmentally conscious travellers feel about air travel. There does appear to be some data, anecdotal and otherwise, to suggest consumers are more likely to think twice about flying than before. After surveying more than 6,000 people in the US, Germany, France and the UK, UBS found that 21 per cent had reduced the number of flights they took over the last year – although, in reality, air traffic has been growing by about four per cent a year. However, various studies demonstrate that consumers – particularly millennials and Generation Z – want brands, in all sectors, to be more sustainable, while GlobalWebIndex has reported that, post-Covid, more than half of European travellers believe it’s now more important for them to reduce their own carbon footprint when travelling. “This presents us with both a greater mandate and opportunity to engage travellers through offering them sustainable travel opportunities,” says Morgan, adding that “consumers’ ‘carbon literacy’ and understanding of the carbon footprint of their holidays will grow over the coming decade”. ABTA’s 2020 Holiday Habits research also revealed that half of customers consider sustainability credentials to be important or essential when choosing a company to book their holiday with, which has risen from only a fifth back in 2011. Concerns include animal welfare, waste and plastic reduction, and protection of culture and heritage, as well as climate change.

“Individuals are also starting to personally feel the effects of global warming, through extreme weather events, and they can see the impact of climate change on popular tourism destinations, such the recent devastating wildfires in the US and Australia,” says Dr Etti. “Consumers will increasingly expect their travel company to have a carbon management programme and to take action on decarbonising their business. The industry will have to respond.”

Costa Rica has introduced a national decarbonisation plan

What is being done
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of operators adopt targets to reduce carbon footprints, as well as the emergence of organisations such as Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency and Future Tourism. Last year, Intrepid became the first to adopt science-based targets, which, as Dr Etti explains, will see emissions reduced across Intrepid operations and supply chains, including moving to lower carbon alternatives on trips and adopting renewable energy in global offices by 2025. “Intrepid’s approach has an impact on every aspect of our business, including our trips, offices and supply chain. In our offices, it impacts on how we recycle waste to which energy providers we use. Our office in Toronto has already achieved 100 per cent renewable energy,” she says. “On our trips, we minimise our impact by using public transport where possible, switching internal flights to high-speed trains where possible, staying in locally owned accommodation and eating where food has been locally sourced. We also stay in accommodation that uses 100 per cent renewable energy where possible.”

For destinations, plans to reduce emissions are usually tied to wider government pledges. As well as its pioneering Certification for Sustainable Tourism plan, Costa Rica aims to achieve zero emissions by 2050 under the National Decarbonisation Plan, which breaks the process down into four key sectors: transport and sustainable mobility, energy, green building, and industry. Closer to home, Visit Scotland recently became the first national tourism organisation in the world to sign up to the Tourism Declares initiative, in line with the Scottish government’s targets to become net-zero by 2045. In Scotland, there’s plenty to admire, from the Isle of Eigg, which is self-sufficient for its energy needs – relying almost entirely on renewable sources – to Glasgow, where its Avenues programme, the biggest project of its type in the UK, will aim to increase active travel, reduce congestion and improve air quality, greening open spaces through features such as trees and rain gardens, and introduce intelligent street lighting to reduce energy consumption. Indeed, it is no longer about simply visiting green destinations, but taking inspiration from the pioneers leading the way.

Wherever you look, change is afoot: from the Republic of Palau, an archipelago of 500 islands in the western Pacific, which plans to become the world’s first carbon-neutral tourism destination; to Argentina, where rewilding efforts have successfully seen jaguars return to the wetlands after 70 years; to Mälmo in Sweden, which is now (almost) carbon neutral and, by 2030, will be provided with 100 per cent renewable energy. In fact, so impressive is its project, it is said to have inspired mayor Sadiq Khan’s London Plan, which is set to implement greening space practices.

Sky’s the limit?
Carbon reduction must take place in cruise, accommodation, excursions and ground transport, and aviation, which must innovate greatly to meet the challenges outlined above. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set a target for the international aviation sector to cap its net aviation CO2 emissions from 2020 (carbon-neutral growth) and to reduce net aviation CO2 emissions by 50 per cent by 2050, relative to 2005 levels.

Meanwhile, Sustainable Aviation, an alliance of UK airlines, airports, manufacturers and air navigation service providers, is working to achieve a sustainable future for the sector. Its Decarbonisation Roadmap sets out actions in five areas, including sustainable aviation fuels, which could save 23.5 million tonnes of CO2 annually; aircraft and engine efficiency improvements, such as hybrid electric, fully electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft, which should save up to 23.5 million tonnes of CO2 annually; and more efficient operations and airspace modernisation, which it is estimated could deliver an annual saving of 3.1 million tonnes of CO2 and a ten per cent carbon saving by 2050.

In the short to medium term is the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). As ABTA’s Tourism for Good report notes: taking action to reduce carbon emissions frequently boosts efficiency and creates cost savings, which will be particularly important for companies as they recover from the effects of the Covid-19 crisis. In 2018, TUI Group identified some €6 million of cost savings as a result of carbon-related efficiencies across its business, including in its airlines and cruise operations.

Roald Amundsen is the world’s first hybrid cruise ship

Electric dreams
So does all this mean we will travel less in the future? Morgan says we don’t necessarily need to reduce the amount we travel to reduce the negative effects that can be associated with tourism – rather, we need to change the way we travel. “We’ll see more consumers choosing to fly less by opting for other modes of transport, travelling more locally, taking longer holidays or making flight choices based on the increasingly visible carbon efficiency of different airlines,” she says. “We’ll see a trend among tour operators and OTAs for ‘carbon labelling’ of holidays, and a trend towards itineraries and trips with a major focus on local food and accommodation with less of an environmental impact.”

Covid has accelerated a move towards domestic or closer-to-home travel, Dr Etti notes that “consumers will be looking to switch to lower-carbon alternatives, such as travelling by train within Europe”. It’s true that many of the societal changes that we will see – such as the move towards electrification of transport – will as be part of the wider picture. Travelife for Accommodation-certified hotel group Valamar Riviera reduced its carbon emissions per overnight stay by more than 70 per cent between 2015 and 2016, and has continued to achieve further reductions. Initiatives include all electrical energy from renewables, replacement of heating oil boilers with heat pumps and investment in electric vehicles, scooters and carts.

Hurtigruten, the Norwegian shipping company, has spent several years investing in various technologies to help lower emissions and was among the first to ban single-use plastic on its ships. The line also recently launched MS Roald Amundsen, the world’s first hybrid cruise ship. “Emissions are cut by sailing with electrical propulsion and our innovative sustainable technology has reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20 per cent on board our hybrid ships,” says Anthony Daniels, general manager UK & Ireland. “Electricity is a key way for our industry to create change for good and move away from harmful fuels that are damaging the natural world. We are also pioneers in shore power usage within the cruise industry, which enables a ship to plug into the national grid immediately upon docking. This eliminates the emissions from its engines while also recharging the batteries for hybrid batteries. In Norway, wind and hydropower are the primary generators of its national grid’s electricity, meaning shore power eliminates emissions throughout the supply chain.”

The line has also looked at ways to reduce emissions beyond just electricity, including introducing biodiesel as a fuel alternative across a number of its ships. According to the line, biodiesel reduces C02 emissions by up to 80 per cent and its environmentally certified biodiesel is produced out of waste from the fisheries and agriculture industries.

“The global CO2 footprint can only be reduced through innovation and alternative energy sources such as hydrogen for ships or synthetic fuels for aircraft – and global alignment of politics and the industry,” says Wiebe at TUI Group. “These technologies are already available but need to be produced at a reasonable price. The scaling up of biofuels and the promising trials of hydrogen as a fuel will lead us to much lower-emission flying, and eventually net-zero flying on some short-haul routes by around 2035. So there will be lots of progress over the next decade as part of this transformation. In the meantime, the aviation industry must address over-capacity to push up load factors and make flying more carbon efficient on a per-passenger basis.”

“We’ll start to see the increasing integration of electric vehicles into itineraries and trips, as infrastructure increasingly allows,” Morgan agrees. “In addition, we’ll hopefully see more of the travel sector proactively engaged in building a more regenerative sector, looking at ways to help their destinations adapt, flourish and become more resilient to the effects of climate change going forward.”

Feature

Managing destinations and expectations

By Anthony Pearce
The phrase ‘overtourism’ has entered popular parlance, but it’s too simplistic a term for such a complicated issue. Tourism largely remains a force for good, and the pandemic has given destinations an opportunity to rethink how they manage their spaces and the people who visit them in ways that are beneficial to local communities and environments

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Images of the deserted streets of Venice and Rome, taken after Italy entered Europe’s first lockdown, were both eerie and beautiful – our first glimpses of a world of tourist-free city centres. Venetians, whose numbers have dwindled to just 53,000 in recent years, were unsurprisingly conflicted: for the first time, they had the city to themselves, but none of the revenue on which many of their livelihoods depend. By and large, of course, the people of Venice will be desperate for visitors to return, while also hoping that this pause can usher in a new kind of tourism in a city that has long struggled with overcrowding.

How these eternally popular destinations manage demand is a complicated but increasingly posed question; the phrase ‘overtourism’ has entered popular parlance, but remains insufficient in addressing the complexity of the issue. As ABTA notes in its Tourism for Good report, destination authorities are increasingly investing in tourism management and marketing methods to sustainably balance the benefits of tourism with protecting natural and cultural assets, safeguarding local traditions and delivering visitor satisfaction. In essence: we need to make sure tourism works for all of us.

Taking to time to reflect
Covid-19 has clearly wrought havoc on communities and the travel industry, but it has provided an opportunity to reflect and plan, both in terms of tourism strategy and wider regional and national projects. A striking example of time well spent is in Barcelona, which is now beginning to imagine a radical, greener future. A ten-year plan for the restructuring of the city will prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over drivers, creating so-called ‘superblocks’, or superilles, with more cycle lanes and 10km speed limits. The logic behind it is clear: as it stands, Barcelona has the EU’s highest density of cars, with 6,000 per square kilometre, according to The Guardian – with many of the journeys made in the city taken by day-trippers. Plans to overhaul the city’s transport systems had long been muted, but the dark days of Covid have provided impetus to actually do it.

In the Czech Republic, in addition to a new promotional focus on the city’s green experiences, Prague is looking to create what it calls “harmonious and stable balance [among] tourists, locals and the city itself”. The city’s mayor has become the latest to announce the intent to limit Airbnb’s presence, as well as regulations for cafés to move to the side streets of the Royal Route and more promotion of events held outside the city centre or in the off-season.

Prague is looking at ways to spread out tourists in the city

 

 

 

Serving the community
Undeniably, there are negative effects of tourism that need to be managed, but it remains in many respects a force for good, contributing more than ten per cent of global GDP and supporting an estimated one in every ten jobs worldwide. Criticisms of tourism too often fail to consider the cultural exchange that takes place between the traveller and those living and working in the destination. Mark Twain’s words, written more than 150 years ago, still ring true: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” But that doesn’t mean that we, as an industry, should rest on our laurels: we must constantly ask, who is benefiting from travel and are the communities we visit properly served by it? As ABTA sets out in Tourism for Good report, this can be achieved by local sourcing; tourism infrastructure planning and management; and safeguarding local culture and the natural environment.

In its most successful iterations, it involves collaboration. One recent example is the PACT partnership among the Panama government, the Panamanian Foundation for Sustainable Tourism (APTSO), Fundación Natura and Planeterra, a non-profit organisation that works with G Adventures. “The aim of PACT is to significantly increase the amount of communities directly benefiting from tourism in Panama,” says Jamie Sweeting, president of Planeterra. “The country is pioneering a new national strategy, designed to increase the number of jobs and revenue opportunities for communities through community tourism enterprises. As travel returns, Panama is seeking to demonstrate how this form of tourism can support rural community development, celebrate its diverse culture and history and support the conservation of its rich biodiversity.”

In essence it means that travellers see a more authentic side of the country they visit, and that money is kept in the destination. “We envisage that experiences will range from community homestay programmes to having a lunch hosted by local women’s cooperatives; tours of the local ecosystem led by indigenous guides and youth-led cultural activities. Essentially, travellers will be better able to see Panama through the eyes and experiences of local people, increasing their enjoyment and knowledge of what makes Panama so special,” says Sweeting.

We live in unequal societies in an unequal world, and it is true that much tourism involves comparatively wealthy travellers visiting destinations in poorer parts of the world – but we must not see community tourism as something that should only exist in developing parts of the world. There are many fine European examples – from the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership in Scotland to the many community-led eco trails in Slovenia, a pioneer of green travel. A new product in the small southern European country, for example, offers travellers a map and a list of suggested accommodations, restaurants and activities, with the route only stopping in cities, towns and villages certified through the Slovenia Green brand and tourism strategy.

In Ireland, the Burren Ecotourism Network in County Clare has been highlighted by Lonely Planet as one of the best community tourism projects in the world, described as “an impressive community collaboration of local enterprises which has transformed Ireland’s Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark into a global leader for sustainable tourism”. The network includes a code of practice with ten key areas of good practice that must be achieved by each member, with a training programme providing enterprises with the tools to establish baseline information and benchmark standards in the areas of energy, water, waste water and waste management.

The Balearic Islands Tourist Board aims to complete the underwater cartography of Posidonia oceanica with a new app

 

 

Travelife, a Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)-recognised label, which is owned by ABTA, has specific requirements around community support and engagement when it comes to accommodation. These include ensuring that information is provided to guests about the local culture and how to experience it respectfully, consultation with community groups on any developments, and protecting and respecting heritage, culture and natural areas of importance that could be affected by their operations. Claims are verified through an onsite audit every two years, and have included examples ranging from joining together hotel guests and locals on voluntary beach cleans to setting up programmes to provide food to local people in need.

Wider goals
Tourism doesn’t have to be badged as community tourism to provide great benefit. One great example is that of the Balearic Islands. It is now five years since the sustainable tourism tax was launched, which applies to all stays in tourist accommodation. In that time, 170 sustainable tourism projects have been initiated to promote ecotourism, protect the environment and restore cultural heritage sites in Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. These are far-reaching and hugely impressive – recent projects include a new app to help protect the marine biology of the islands and a new eco hut in Mallorca’s Serra De Tramuntana, which will offer hikers 52 beds divided among 12 rooms.

The tourism industry accounts for around 35 per cent of our islands’ GDP and it is essential that we bring visitors back,” says Iago Negueruela, the minister of tourism. “However, our ambition is that we do so in a sustainable way, continuing to roll out sustainable initiatives to counteract any negative environmental impacts. Our visitors have directly helped us fund a huge number of initiatives to promote ecotourism, help preserve the environment and restore our cultural heritage. Behind the scenes, we continue to work intensely with the private sector, including businesses and trade unions, to restart the tourism season and its activities as soon as restrictions are relaxed.”

At a time when holidaymakers are unable to visit destinations, Tui Group has set up the Corona Relief Fund through its Care Foundation. Its focus is on two key areas: a food-security initiative supports local people in holiday destinations such as Mexico, Jamaica and the Cape Verde islands and distributes food and hygiene packages to local communities; and the 100 Helping Hands initiative, which works with local aid organisations on the ground in holiday regions to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic and provide disadvantaged communities with emergency support.

These examples are proof that sustainable or community-led tourism doesn’t simply mean luxury eco-lodges or high-end holidays – they’re evidence that all tourism can benefit communities in the host destination. “Travelling responsibly doesn’t have to mean it’s less affordable,” says Dr Susanne Etti of Intrepid Travel. “Sustainable travel can often be linked to high-end eco-travel [and] people think it means far-flung, expensive holidays, but the reality is that travelling responsibly does not mean breaking the bank. A lot of responsible options are actually more affordable, such as taking public transport, eating local or staying in locally owned accommodation.”