Edward Robertson reporting from the AITO Conference

The travel trade is talking too much about green issues and doing too little about them.

Speaking at last week’s Association of Independent Tour Operators conference in Estoril, Portugal, Guardian editor and author of The Final Call Leo Hickman said: “This industry is simply awash with green wash. There’s a lot of talking and not a lot of working on anything.

“If anyone in this room thinks they´ve done their bit by introducing carbon off-setting schemes then we´ve really got our work cut our over the next couple of days.”

He said travel companies often do more harm by supporting a trade responsible for low waged hotel staff in developing countries, pollution in the Alps caused by snow cannons and using large amounts of water for golf courses and swimming pools in arid areas, thereby depriving the local population.

However, head of tourism and director for International Tourism Research, CITour at Sheffield Hallam University John Swarbrooke urged delegates to remember the good that can come of tourism, particularly in developing countries.

He said tourism gives people with few qualifications the opportunity to work as many of the jobs are relatively unskilled while it also allows locals in popular destinations to set up their own businesses, such as guided tours, with relatively little initial investment.

However, Swarbrooke urged operators to try and apply more pressure on hoteliers to ban tipping and instead pay staff better wages.

He added instead of investing in schools in developing countries, travel businesses consider setting up travel education schemes to give local people in popular destinations the chance to end up running their own tourism businesses.