Nikki White, Abta director of destinations and sustainability
Each year Abta conducts a survey into the types and number of holidays customers are taking, how they book their trips and their main considerations and concerns. And each year we have seen a rise in customers stating that safe and secure accommodation is their number one priority.
Recognising that they have a “duty of care” to their customers and “the safety of our customers is our number one priority” are just some of the drivers for members’ concerns about health and safety. I know that Abta members care deeply about their customers’ welfare and this is not just because they may have legal obligations. Fundamentally, we all want customers to have a good time and come back with no issues to report.
Ours is an international industry. We take customers to destinations where local health and safety standards can and do vary significantly. In many cases, the holidays and experiences we offer have an intrinsic level of risk, or they utilise modes of transport, that if not properly maintained or managed can place customers at risk. Abta plays an important role in helping to raise standards in destinations.
My team visits destinations to support and encourage them to regularly review their health and safety approach. Addressing issues that need government support to create a national approach to consistent good practice and conducting seminars on topical issues to help drive standards up.
Part of this approach is to raise awareness of these matters to suppliers of accommodation. A critical tool for this is the Abta Tourism Accommodation Health and Safety Technical Guide, or as it’s become more widely referred to - the Blue Book. This guidance is an invaluable tool for Abta members and their suppliers; I can say this with a degree of certainty as many of them tell me this on a regular basis.
We are always looking to keep up with the latest expertise, so we review the guide every five years. We have just launched the latest edition, which includes new sections and changes where best practice has moved on. Risk management has a much stronger focus nowadays, to avoid issues developing. This is reflected in the new edition with a dedicated chapter. The drive towards better global health and safety is evident in the demand for the guide in different languages. It is now produced in seven languages. Having it easily understandable for locals is critical as it will be the maintenance, engineering, kitchen staff, to name a few, who really make the difference.
This approach doesn’t work in isolation. Customers have a significant role to play in managing their welfare. The industry is working hard to raise awareness of Foreign Office travel advice to customers. This is a great source for them as it includes details of health and safety recommendations, security issues and local laws and customs, particularly where they differ from those in the UK.
Support this by also guiding them to general health and safety advice, we produce a customer guide for holiday makers, and a dedicated one on winter sports; the advice and downloadable literature are all available to access on abta.com.
When problems do occur around the world, such as the devastating hurricanes we saw in the Caribbean this year, Abta, our members, destinations and suppliers will put all of this collaborative expertise and preparation into practise. The fact that even though our members take millions of people on holiday each year, the numbers who are affected by avoidable and preventable problems is remarkably low. This is a testament to all the work that has been done, but it is also an incentive to keep standards driving forwards. Customers trust their travel providers; we need to know ourselves that their trust is not misplaced.