What is the Aito Think Tank, how did it start and what exactly do we plan to do with it? These are the three questions most frequently asked since we first announced the think tank.
At Aito’s November 2019 Overseas Conference in Wroclaw, Poland, one topic dominated the conversation – climate change. By the end of the conference it had become the climate emergency.
Closing the conference, I announced Aito was setting up a think tank to develop a stance on the issue and draft a response on behalf of the sector. No when or how had been decided at that stage, but the first meeting of the think tank took place in early January.
Attending were the original six Aito members who came up with the idea during a discussion at the Aito conference late-night bar.
At this first meeting, all agreed the climate emergency was not only a threat to the world as we know it, but also a direct threat to our businesses. Failure to engage – with both the travel industry and our clients – would mean we were very unlikely to be in business in 10 years’ time.
We agreed that, as tour operators, we had to provide a coherent explanation to consumers about why we continued to operate our businesses. Our consumer message must be that travel – if correctly delivered – can still be a force for good.
As specialist holiday companies, we work with airlines, destinations and their tourist boards from around the world. We need to engage with them all, but also – most importantly – with governments worldwide.
Doing nothing is simply not an option when so much is at stake; we need to ensure, for example, the UK government does not impose so-called solutions on us with which we disagree.
We need to deliver our views loud and clear, while reminding governments worldwide how much good – if properly handled – tourism delivers to host countries and visitors alike.
The Aito Think Tank has two main aims. Firstly, to give Aito operators – many of whom don’t have the time to analyse the contradictions and complexities of the topic while also trying to run their businesses – well-thought-through answers for use when consumers challenge what can be seen as the hypocrisy of discussing climate change while using flights as part of our holidays.
Secondly, we aim to take this discussion to the wider world, involving the travel trade, airlines, politicians, academia and other stakeholders, to seek ways in which we can jointly tackle the climate emergency.
This means widening the discussion by inviting other parties, both from within and from outside Aito, to join the current small group. Clearly, wider expertise is necessary.
The next step is to involve Aito members. Much of our AGM on Thursday (5 March) will be spent on this topic, with members and several invited guests discussing and debating the issue and ideas.
So that’s the story so far. The make-up of the think tank, the number of participants and the time scale, are all yet to be determined; this is very much a work in progress.
The Aito Think Tank cannot claim to have all the answers to this key issue but we do, very keenly, wish to be a part of the solutions that will shape our future.