Travel industry giants TUI Travel, Thomas Cook, British Airways and Carnival UK have joined ABTA, The Co-operative Travel and Advantage in pledging themselves to a 14-year project to transform the sector.

The companies, which carry 45 million passengers a year, have signed up to a vision of sustainable tourism in a document entitled Tourism 2023.

The signatories agree: “The future is likely to be dramatically different from today” – not least because of climate change, which threatens “major risks to the way we operate”.

Tourism 2023 was launched at the The Travel Convention in Barcelona today with the support of Sunvil Holidays, industry charity the Travel Foundation and sustainable development organisation Forum for the Future, which led the project.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Tourism 2023 sets out the direction we must follow.”

The document commits its signatories to deliver “measurable socio-economic benefits” to destinations and to working with local governments to ensure tourism development is sustainable.

It pledges to use renewable energy, conserve water, minimise waste and protect ecosystems. The document states: “It makes commercial sense to commit to ambitious efficiency savings, to prepare for environmental shocks and to add to the natural environment, not detract from it.”

The signatories also commit to lobbying governments for sustainable policies, and to spreading awareness among customers and staff.

ABTA will lead the next phase of the project, co-ordinating the measurement of activity and encouraging more companies to sign up.

Thomas Cook director of external and government affairs Andy Cooper said: “Tourism 2023 is a major step towards a more sustainable UK outbound industry.” And ABTA chairman John McEwan said: “We are in an ideal position to help raise awareness and promote the importance of sustainable tourism to travellers.”

Sunvil Holidays managing director and ABTA board member Noel Josephides hailed the declaration as a bold step. But he said: “We must convince our industry to believe in the science [of global warming], and to join in making a difference to the way we operate.”


About Tourism 2023

The Tourism 2023 project outlines four starkly different – but possible – scenarios for the industry, developed through workshops with industry experts.

These examine whether developments in the economy, politics, technology and energy will combine “to encourage or restrict overseas travel”, and whether increasing environmental awareness will make travel more or less attractive for consumers.

The possible outcomes by 2023 range from a booming sector to destinations devastated by the impact of climate change.

The report identifies six principles:

  • Protecting the environment
  • Developing employees
  • Providing sustainable mainstream products
  • Ensuring destinations benefit
  • Creating sustainable transport and resorts
  • Developing a sustainable business.

It asks: “Will mass tourism see overcrowded destinations herding visitors from attraction to attraction on timed tickets? Will there be new types of fuel or aircraft design?”

The signatories hope the project will “catalyse action in the wider UK industry”, and invite other organisations to sign up.

Forum for the Future director Stephanie Draper said: “The founders recognise the best way to create a commercially sustainable future is to take social and environmental responsibilities to the heart of their businesses.”

TUI Travel UK managing director Dermot Blastland – who spoke to Travel Weekly about climate change in an exclusive interview this week – said: “We hope to set industry-wide goals on issues that cannot be tackled by individual tour operators.”

The research suggests the industry focuses on:

  • Sustainable destinations: “The industry needs to demonstrate the economic benefit tourism delivers to destination communities.”
  • Low-carbon innovation: “We urgently need to make tourism a low-carbon, low-impact industry.”
  • Driving customer demand: “The industry has an opportunity to increase the market for sustainable tourism by promoting its benefits to customers.”


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