Did you know that the tourism industry accounts (whether directly or indirectly) for 11% of the world’s GDP, and 12% of exports, and that around 50 of the world’s least developed countries rely on tourism for more than 50% of their national income? Neither did I until I randomly attended a division Sustainable Development meeting with my line manager earlier this week (conversation: “Are you busy?” “….erm…” “…Great, come to this meeting, you might find it interesting…”)…
As part of my placement in Short Haul Purchasing I am responsible for encouraging hoteliers world-wide to join up to the Travelife sustainability programme (for more information take a look at www.its4travel.com – although the website is still being developed and, frankly, is a bit rubbish to look at). This ABTA-organised scheme allows hotels to be audited to assess their contribution towards helping their environment and their staff; if the hotel performs well enough they are presented with a bronze, silver or gold Travelife award, which they are able to display both in the hotel and in all marketing materials. The audit covers everything from how the hotel disposes of sewage to whether or not they pay staff overtime (I have had some interesting and slightly tricky conversations with some Italian hoteliers about both of these subjects – thank God for Google Translate.).
Anyway, that’s not really what the meeting was about. We were actually talking about the SHG division’s sustainable development targets for the upcoming year… it turns out that TUI is actually making quite a hefty effort in trying to have a positive influence on all its locations, and that the sector has both full-time staff dedicated to the cause, and a sterling team of ‘champions’ throughout the business, who help to drive the cause in daily working life. The division needs to publish four targets early next year, which should be in-line with what the group overall is trying to achieve. Big topics this time include Child Protection within resorts, and Animal Welfare… we looked at the ‘Five Freedoms’, which are the following:
1) Freedom from hunger and thirst
2) Freedom from discomfort
3) Freedom from pain, injury and disease
4) Freedom to express normal behaviour
5) Freedom from fear and distress
These underpin the UK animal duty of care (particularly within commercial farming) and, as a responsible tour operator, we should try to encourage these within our suppliers – anything from elephant rides and safaris to dog sledding. It also raises the interesting point of sourcing raw ingredients in hotels. Battery farming will become illegal in Europe in 2012; how far do we go to persuade our suppliers overseas to work ethically? Is there a point when good ethical trading becomes too much like bad business sense, or can best practice always be achieved?
One thing is sure –an operator’s commitment to sustainability is an important consideration for many potential customers, so every little step we take is a step in the right direction.