As customers become more adventurous, travel companies have a responsibility to do all they can to ensure their safety, writes Nikki White

When customers go on holiday, how much are they thinking about health and safety?

Hopefully not too much, but the health and safety of customers is an essential consideration for travel companies and a key part of any sustainability strategy.

Over the years, customers have got more adventurous and want new experiences, and travel companies have responded to this demand. Companies providing activity and adventure holidays face a special range of health and safety challenges due to the nature of their businesses and the fact they typically operate in areas of higher risk.

For these companies getting it right is vitally important. They must ensure the safety of customers and protect the reputation of the destinations where these activities take place.

Last month we saw a case that highlighted this issue. Four employees of a white-water rafting company in Turkey received substantial prison sentences following the death of a nine-year-old British tourist on one of their trips in 2010.

The excursion was booked locally. Many British companies had decided this particular river was unsuitable for young children.

This totally avoidable event highlighted the responsibilities we all have as an industry to our customers and how incredibly important good health and safety practices and risk assessments are for activity and adventure holidays.

To help UK companies understand their responsibilities, in 2007 the British Standards Institute (BSI) produced the standard BS 8848 for the provision of visits, fieldwork, expeditions and adventurous activities outside the UK. Abta, together with a panel of experts, helped shape the outcome and it has proved an essential tool for companies.

The standard outlines the necessary requirements to ensure that the level of risk for adventurous activities abroad is reasonable and acceptable.

Its main aim is to help in the planning of successful trips, giving customers the confidence that their travel company is following good practice.

The guide doesn’t just give advice on the proper management of tour parties and suppliers, but also how best to offer adequate assistance and supervision to staff, who often will be operating in remote and demanding environments.

The guide is being revised and BSI is accepting suggestions online. We are encouraging businesses operating adventure trips to share their feedback at:

Additionally, Abta has produced a variety of tools and guidance to demystify health and safety procedures, helping Abta members identify key safety hazards.