Abta has published a new report on how to rebuild travel for the better post-Covid, saying the pandemic had “brought into relief the value of tourism to holidaymakers, the UK and destinations”.
The association’s Tourism for Good – A Roadmap for Rebuilding Travel and Tourism study outlines how to operate “a more responsible and resilient tourism industry” that benefits all those involved and create “better places to live in and better places to visit”.
Abta said there is “clear consumer demand” for the travel sector to run more sustainably on its journey to recovery, with research figures revealing more than half of 2,000 people questioned this year (52%) believe that the travel industry should work in a greener way.
Just under half (49%) consider the sustainability credentials of their holiday provider to be “important or essential” when choosing which company to book with, compared to only a fifth back in 2011.
The report states that as well as being a force for mental and physical wellbeing, through its “restorative” powers, travel also has the ability to be a “significant” power for economic, employment and social benefits in the UK and around the world.
Although it also acknowledges the challenges that the travel sector faces, including the need to accelerate decarbonisation and ensure tourism generates greater benefits for destinations and local communities.
The report emphasises the huge value and contribution of UK outbound tourism, both domestically and internationally, in terms of job creation, livelihood opportunities, social benefits for local communities, support and funding for nature and wildlife conservation and cultural heritage protection.
New research detailed in the report shows that outbound travel from the UK generates £37 billion (1.8% of GDP) and 526,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
For destinations such as the Maldives, Jamaica, Cyprus, Malta, Mauritius, Greece, Spain and Portugal – UK holidaymakers alone make a contribution of more than 1% of national GDP.
Among the challenges set out by the report for the industry to face as it rebuilds, are decarbonising, cutting waste and water consumption, ensuring that local people benefit from tourism, respecting human rights and managing animal welfare, with the study highlighting how more can be done on the issues “through a concerted worldwide approach and a willingness to share and learn across the industry”.
The report outlines nine principles for travel’s recovery and how it will work with members, their suppliers, destination authorities, travellers and the wider industry.
It also calls on the UK government to support tourism’s contribution to economic development and employment and implement necessary policies to help travel companies operate in more green ways.
To track the progress being made, Abta has launched a sustainability indicator survey for members to complete to create a baseline of how the industry is currently embracing sustainability.
Findings will be used to identify areas where progress is being made and the areas that require more focus.
Abta’s head of sustainability Clare Jenkinson said: “Building on Abta’s longstanding work on sustainability, the Tourism for Good report is designed to act as a strategic framework to guide our activities as the industry reopens and evolves.
“The core principles include, for example, the need for tourism to be sustainable and resilient against future shocks, for policies and actions to be designed in alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and the urgent need to accelerate decarbonisation. We commit to measuring the progress that is being made and identifying the areas where more work needs to be done.”
Chief executive Mark Tanzer added: “Tourism’s unexpected standstill has given us a unique opportunity to reflect on the type of industry we want to rebuild, fit for the challenges we face and a contributor to the global good. I believe the future prosperity of the industry depends on putting sustainability at the heart of our recovery.
“This report therefore underlines Abta’s commitment to working with our members, the wider travel industry, and the UK government to create a more sustainable industry that allows everyone a share in its success.”
The full report is available online at www.abta.com/tourismforgood.