A new sustainability initiative has been introduced by the Association of Independent Tour Operators three years after dropping a star classification system.
Project Protect (People, resources, outreach, tourism, environment, conservation, tomorrow) will be led by Professor Xavier Font, of the University of Surrey, over the next five years.
AITO has engaged the support of A PhD student who will run the project on a day-to-day basis, with the final study forming the basis of their thesis.
University of Surrey will develop a system to train, mentor, collect data and analyse the results of sustainability pledges made by association members.
Each Aito member will appoint a sustainable tourism representative to lead their company’s learning programme and actively promote sustainability practices to colleagues.
Six short training videos will be made to accompany the sustainable tourism factsheets on best practice, along with quizzes, awards and reporting.
Professor Font said: “The level of engagement in sustainable tourism practices amongst Aito members is quite varied and Project Protect can be adjusted to meet all requirements.
“Many Aito members are already very well versed in good sustainable tourism practice but they are not qualifying or quantifying their projects year on year.
“Neither are they communicating their successes and learnings to their clients in a meaningful way. There are also Aito members who could use more support to instigate and promote sustainable tourism projects in their host destinations.”
Aito chairman Derek Moore said: “Protecting the destinations visited by our members’ customers is an essential part of the Aito ethos and part of the overall Aito protection promise.
“Aito’s council is fully behind this project and believes that not only will each member benefit, but also the destinations which they serve.
“Staff will also grow in knowledge and in terms of practical skills within the personal skills development programme.
“This is a significant five-year investment programme with the aim of helping shore up the future of our travel businesses, for the good of one and all.”