Comment: The drive for sustainability is an opportunity

Agents can help customers make responsible tourism choices, says Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson

Since Blue Planet exposed the extent of the plastic waste that is plaguing our oceans, industries across the globe have been making it their mission to reduce their plastic consumption and increase recyclables. It has also allowed conversation to segue towards wider issues surrounding responsible and sustainable tourism – both of which are very welcome topics for the travel industry.

Prior to this, many of us within the industry had already been actively pursuing sustainable travel strategies and propositions. But the shocking footage of our oceans has been pivotal in helping to create the next wave of change for sustainable travel.

Footprint focus

Our collective efforts to implement responsible tourism practices are not going unnoticed by prospective clients.

According to Abta’s ‘Travel Trends 2019’ report, sustainability is at the forefront of holidaymakers’ minds, with 45% saying it is an important factor in their booking choice. Given the focus sustainability has had in the media, it is little surprise that this figure is up six percentage points on the previous year.

Clients are proactively concerned about their environmental footprint when they go on holiday and it’s our job to help provide them with the right resources to make informed decisions.

Focusing on sustainable and responsible travel is high on the agenda at Barrhead Travel. We support the Travelife sustainability scheme, which audits hotels against a range of criteria to ensure they meet requirements for sustainable and responsible tourism. This year, we are also pledging to commit to training for our teams across the business to provide them with the tools and resources to better understand how we can play our part in promoting responsible tourism to clients.

Overtourism challenge

Another area we are also making a commitment to addressing this year is overtourism. Abta’s trends report reveals that 86% of the UK population took a holiday of some sort during 2018 and the demand shows no sign of slowing down. Our own booking trends show that our customers are taking shorter but more trips, meaning the most popular destinations are becoming more crowded during peak times.

Tackling overtourism is a challenge worth embracing. It not only aligns with our commitment to supporting a more sustainable future for the world in which we travel, but can also open doors to offering new and exciting product to customers. Rather than sending clients to the same destinations, it’s our job as travel advisors to open up the gateways and showcase the diversity of off-the-beaten-track destinations or suggest heading to a favourite destination during off-season.

Helping to combat overtourism can start with us, the travel advisor. Continuous product training for our sales consultants mean we can stay on top of travel trends, interesting itineraries and authentic experiences. Gone are the days when most Brits  sought mainstream tourist traps and overcrowded beaches. The authentic culture-seeker is here to stay and it is a fantastic opportunity to help preserve the world for future generations.

MoreBig Interview: Jacqueline Dobson, president of Barrhead Travel


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