Safer Tourism Foundation keen to work with more travel agents

The Safer Tourism Foundation is keen to work with travel agents to get in touch to talk about its message of health and safety for holidaymakers.

The Safer Tourism Foundation was formed in 2016 following the deaths of two young children, Christi and Bobby Shepherd, who died while on holiday with Thomas Cook in Corfu in 2006.

Backed by the former travel giant, it aims to cut the number of avoidable deaths, injuries and illnesses among Britons on holiday.

More than 20 tour operators have signed the Safer Tourism Foundation Pledge so far, committing to providing safe holidays, and now the charity wants to broaden its scope.

Kathy Atkinson, chief executive of Safer Tourism Foundation, said: “We are really keen to talk to more travel agents.

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“Mostly we work with tour operators, as that’s how we started, but talking to more agents is a priority for next year.

“We can’t meet all the agents physically, but we want them to get in touch.”

She hopes that having more agents aware of issues facing holidaymakers will keep tourists safer.

“Some people are blasé about risks; some need more hand-holding. It’s all about trying to talk to that customer without scaring them off,” she said.

“Agents are a very important conduit.”

The charity has been meeting operators which have signed the Safer Tourism Pledge to find out about trends in safety issues and how firms talk to customers about managing risk.

“It is a hard set of messages to get across to people who are going on holiday so we’re thinking about new ways of talking to customers,” she said.

“The most effective way is face-to-face communication such as on group tours where you can deliver a message in a relevant and timely way.

“But that doesn’t apply to all holidays so you need to communicate in other ways such as digital – for example, apps that people can use, or messages online, or printed material. It can be different, depending on the demographic.

“We did an Instagram campaign this summer with five 30-second films featuring bar workers in Majorca talking to travellers about staying out of trouble in a party destination.”

Mental health

Atkinson also said there is an increased focus on customers with mental health issues and crises on holiday.

“Holidays might exacerbate their problems. Holidays can make a vulnerable person feel worse [if you are] sitting by people who are all having a good time,” she said.

“It can have an impact on others if people are travelling in a group.

“Operators are seeing more need for mental health first aid for staff and tour leaders who need a basic level of training to deal with mental health and signpost the customers to support services.

“There have been more than 50 suicides by British travellers abroad so far this year, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”

The charity is also exploring ways to help customers assess their own abilities ahead of booking a trip.

“How do you gently suggest a trip might not be suitable, especially if they are going in a group?” she said.

Other messages the foundation is keen to highlight surround water safety and roads.

“In 2018, we did a campaign about swimming pools with Mumsnet and the Telegraph, and we are looking to extend that to safety in the sea,” she said.

“Almost half of British travellers who drown abroad are aged over 50, and most are men.

“Our research shows people are not visiting swimming pools at home but then they get to the sea on holiday and overestimate their fitness or underestimate the currents and temperature in the seas.”

With the road safety issues, the charity hopes to target those behind the wheel and pedestrians.

“We’re talking to different bodies, beyond the tour operators, such as motoring organisations and car rental firms about this,” she added.

For more information about the Safer Tourism Foundation, visit its website here

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