Security ‘kitemark’ idea ‘deeply flawed’ and ‘misleading’, says Abta

Calls for a new security ‘kitemark’ system for hotels, airports and tourist attractions have been dismissed by Abta as “deeply flawed” and potentially “misleading” for holidaymakers.

A Travelzoo study released this week suggested a security certification system should be implemented.

Richard Singer, Travelzoo’s Europe president, said the ‘State of Play: The Impact of Geopolitical Events on International Tourism in 2017’ report proposed something similar to government cyber security kitemarks as a quick and simple way of assessing standards.

“It would work in tandem with improved destination advice for consumers on government websites, as well as the travel industry showing consumers this advice ahead of purchase,” he said.

However, Abta said it “seriously questioned” the value of Travelzoo’s findings and claimed a safety and security certification for hotels had previously been considered.

A spokesman added: “Abta believes it is a deeply flawed concept and could be very misleading for holidaymakers.

“Safety and security is a complex matter: security measures do not rest with hotels alone; the police and other security agencies in destinations play a pivotal role in helping to protect holidaymakers.”

He said there would be no international enforcement body that could regulate the ‘kitemark’, leaving it open to misuse.

Currently, the UK travel industry relies solely on FCO advice, and Abta members are required to direct customers to it.

During the inquests into the deaths of 30 Thomson customers in Sousse, some victims’ families said their relatives would not have gone to Tunisia if they had been aware of the FCO warnings.

Tui said its staff were now trained to direct customers to the FCO advice, while Thomas Cook said it had made similar changes.

During visits by Travel Weekly reporters to Cook, Thomson, Barrhead and STA Travel stores last week, only STA directly mentioned the FCO website when concerns about safety in Turkey were raised.

Thomson, Cook and Abta accepted there was more work to do, while a Barrhead spokeswoman said: “We ensure our wider sales teams are fully aware of where to find destination advice.”

Midcounties Co-operative Group travel general manager Alistair Rowland said its agents were directed to flag FCO advice.

He added that the group had turned down operator incentives to sell Turkey in the last year, not wanting to “over-promote” a destination where security was a concern adding clients come to the firm for independent advice.

John Sullivan, head of commercial at Advantage, said a link to the FCO’s Travel Aware website had been introduced to its Advantage Holidays selling system.

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