The UK’s biggest travel companies have thrown their weight behind a new coalition that will investigate how travel can forge a sustainable future.
Tui Travel, Thomas Cook, The Co-operative Travel, British Airways and Carnival UK will work with Abta on Tourism 2023, a 15-year blueprint for the industry.
Endorsed by the Prince of Wales, The Travel Foundation and sustainable development charity Forum for the Future, Tourism 2023 will be officially launched at October’s Travel Convention in Gran Canaria.
Abta said the intention was to blow away much of the “hot air” surrounding the debate on sustainable travel and to offer answers to the questions of
how travel meets its future challenges, such as climate change.
Mark Tanzer, Abta chief executive, said: “Much has been said about the future of travel and tourism. Tourism 2023 is all about doing rather than talking.
“Many views have been expressed, eyebrows raised and doom-mongering allowed to flourish. Yet most of these discussions turn out to be little more than hot air.
“Tourism 2023 will take a look at the big picture. It aims to answer the big questions and look at what we can do to future-proof our industry.”
Mike Greenacre, managing director of The Co-operative Travel, which unveiled its own ethical travel strategy this week – endorsing Tourism 2023 – said the issue was about sustainable growth.
“The commercial reality is that there is going to be growth in this industry and it’s no good burying our heads in the sand and saying we are going to stop the growth – that would be impossible,” he said.
“However, the travel industry is in a unique position in terms of carbon emissions and if we believe they are damaging the atmosphere then we ought to be in a position to do something about it. The industry needs to take a lead on that.”
The Co-op has contributed £27,000 towards the £85,000 cost of Tourism 2023.
The finished blueprint, which is due to be completed early next year, promises to offer a vision of a more sustainable outbound tourism industry.
It will include “thinking the unthinkable” – how the industry would cope if restrictions were placed on the number of flights.
Peter Shanks, Carnival UK chief commercial officer, said Tourism 2023 offered the industry the chance to present an agreed overall strategic view of the future.
“That’s good news for everyone in the industry, whether they are big or small, because it will create a real strategic framework that everyone can support so that we are seen as an industry pulling towards the same destination,” he said.
“We want consumers to be able to say we know what the travel industry is doing with regards to sustainability, there are some good examples and I have confidence in travelling as I know the industry is responsible.”
Shanks singled out for praise the work First Choice had already done in this area, in particular Dermot Blastland, who will represent Tui Travel in The Travel Convention Tourism 2023 session.
“They are the one company that has shown leadership in this area. They can take some of the early credit,” he said.
The Co-op’s new ethical strategy has, the company claimed, seen it become the first major UK travel retailer to oppose the expansion of Heathrow.
Its stance was welcomed by Jonathon Porritt, founding director of Forum for the Future.
He said: “I hope The Co-operative Travel’s announcement leads others to wake up and accept that the days of unrestricted growth are now gone, and that we should be moving on to a phase of much more mature debate.”