Travelzoo boss hits back after security ‘kitemark’ idea dismissed

The boss of Travelzoo in Europe today slammed at Abta for condemning his company’s suggestion for a new travel security ‘kitemark’ as bring “deeply flawed” and potentially misleading for holidaymakers.

Abta responded after a Travelzoo study covering more than 6,000 consumers across nine countries suggested a security certification system should be implemented following the findings of the inquests into the terrorist shootings of British holidaymakers in Sousse, Tunisia.

The travel association 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.”

However, Travelzoo Europe president Richard Singer today defended the study, which involved working with academics from Bournemouth University to assessing the main concerns raised.

Following the poll, Travelzoo concluded information about risk is not accessible or straightforward enough for consumers, and this is one of the reasons why people are not engaging with official sources such as the FCO website.

Also travel companies cannot guarantee the safety of their customers abroad, but they could help people be aware of the risks they may face in travelling to a particular destination before the point of sale, as this would build trust,

There remains a huge difference in the security level in tourism offerings, and consumers would welcome more assurances that measures have been taken to ensure safety is taken seriously.

Singer pointed to the “irrefutable findings” from the research which found safety and security as being a significant concern for 97% of respondents, and that 40% of people see the travel company they bought a holiday from as being responsible should things go wrong. In the UK this figure is as high as 50%.

“We also found that less than a quarter of British tourists use the FCO website as a resource to assess whether a destination is safe or not,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that Travelzoo’s suggestion that the industry come together to review how we manage consumer concerns over safety and security has been dismissed by Abta.

“These issues affect us all, and Travelzoo believes we as an industry need to collaborate and create initiatives to build consumer confidence and address the challenges we all face.

“The fact our recommendations have been dismissed without fully understanding what we are suggesting, or indeed seeing the research we have carried out over the past few months is a poor reflection of how we deal with important industry issues.”

Singer conceded that kitemarks are complex to develop and the industry would require government support and guidance.

“However, we do not believe it is impossible, and we also believe that the industry cannot take a reactive stance in addressing the wider concerns people have about safety,” he added.

“Travelzoo is not alone in suggesting certification or kitemarking around security in tourism. At ITB this week, crisis management and security expert Jörg H Trauboth presented on this topic and one of the recommendations was the security certification of hotels.

“By way of example, I could envisage the large hotel groups or tour operators coming together to agree a common standard, which could include things such as physical security, staff training, risk assessments and vulnerability tests.

“Of course, this standard would not guarantee a property or resort is 100% safe. Nowhere is. But it would at least provide reassurance and allow companies to show consumers that they are doing what they can to allow them to make informed choices about the risks they expose themselves to.

“We strongly believe that as an industry we need to work together to find solutions to the challenges we face, and we would welcome the opportunity to work with Abta and our industry peers in finding a clear path to addressing safety and security.”

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