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ABTA: Agents can save money and help save the planet

ABTA: Agents can save money and help save the planet

ABTA announces that it is working on a package of measures to help travel agents improve efficiency and reduce costs. Results from ABTA’s first ever Retail Sustainability Survey found that 73% of ABTA travel agents are actively trying to reduce the amount of energy consumed by their business but they also identified other areas where more work could be done.

Launched for the first time in 2011, the survey aims to identify exactly where opportunities lie for ABTA to work with its membership on cost saving initiatives that bring an environmental benefit too. The survey attracted one of its highest ever response rates – with 530 retail members responding to the questionnaire.

Fifty-one percent of respondents indicated that they do have environmental policies in place and 73% are actively trying to reduce the amount of energy consumed by their businesses by taking a number of different measures such as switching off electrical equipment and lights when not in use and controlling heating and cooling within their stores.

Nikki White, ABTA’s Head of Sustainability and Destinations said: “We wanted to make sure that our work on sustainability assists every member regardless of their size, location, or business model. In the travel industry, sustainability has been seen to belong to tour operators, but with such a large retail member network, we needed to understand where we can help make a difference for agents too. In destinations we have seen a direct correlation between hotels and operators with high rates of customer satisfaction and those managing ‘green issues’. I have no doubt that this is also true for retailers – and members - in the UK. Our objectives are to provide ABTA members with practical guidance and advice which not only helps them become more sustainable, but which brings a wide range of benefits including costs savings. Sustainability does not need to be complex, just good business practice. ”

The results also found that 61% of respondents were involved in charitable giving and 59% encourage their customers to get involved in charitable giving too.


But there is much work to do. The survey revealed that 70 per cent of ABTA retail members have an open door policy – where retailers leave shop doors open to ensure customers know they are open for business. However, a Cambridge University study conducted over winter of 2009/10 found that this policy could be costing retailers across the UK up to a £1 billion in unnecessary fuel bills, and while campaigns such as “Don’t heat the high street” have launched, they have not as yet influenced the majority of ABTA members.

Nikki White said: “We are now looking at how we can effectively tackle this issue, as we know that just by shutting doors shops could reduce their energy use and bills by up to 50%. We need to get to the route of why consumers are more likely to enter outlets when doors are open and to balance this with both the need to be accessible to all and the need to reduce operational costs.”

Other key challenges surround waste which for retailers, is predominantly made up of paper and brochure waste. Around 45% of respondents to the survey advised that they receive brochures that they haven’t requested and are then responsible for disposing of these, with many paying the associated costs.

Simon Pickup, ABTA’s Sustainable Tourism Manager, who has been working on this issue said: “Many retailers are taking responsibility for their waste with waste segregation and are recycling brochures which is great news. There is however, a clear opportunity to promote efficiency gains in this area for both operators and retailers alike.”

ABTA is now working with its delivery partner, The Travel Foundation, to develop a series of tools which will provide a step-by-step guide to improving their sustainability performance and in doing so, achieve better businesses.