Travel firms unite for sustainability

Daniel Rogers reports from the annual ABTA Convention in Palma.

Sustainable tourism emerged as the stark theme of the 2003 ABTA Convention, the travel industry's annual conference, with the creation of a charity called The Travel Foundation.

Backed by three of the UK's biggest travel brands - TUI Thomson, Thomas Cook and First Choice - The Travel Foundation aims to raise more than £1m a year to counter the exploitative effects of UK holiday-makers.

It is a sign that travel industry growth has resumed after the devastation of September 11, the Iraq war and SARS, and that there is growing concern about the impact of British tourism on poorer countries.

The Travel Foundation is a government-led initiative to bring the disparate travel bodies together and stimulate demand for 'local' products.

It was launched in Palma de Mallorca on Friday by Bill Rammell MP, undersecretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Rammell said: "Five million more Brits are now travelling each year than before September 11."

There is evidence that spiralling tourism to destinations such as Cyprus and the Gambia is destroying local communities, as young workers flood from their villages to sprawling coastal developments.

All First Choice's brochures from November will ask customers to make a voluntary donation to the charity of 10p per adult and 5p per child.

From January, Thomas Cook will ask customers to donate their leftover foreign currency to the charity.

The Travel Foundation is launching 'insider guides' for travellers on how they can gear their holidays to benefit communities, such as visiting villages away from the coast and purchasing local goods.

The charity is run by director Sue Hurdle, who has spent 14 years in sales and marketing roles at Thomas Cook. Design agency Proctor and Stevenson has been hired to create its logo, while BGB and Associates will handle a heavyweight PR campaign.

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