ABTA has launched new guidance to help travel agents incorporate sustainability into their business practices.
The guidance was developed in response to feedback from travel agent members for more support on how to adopt a sustainable approach.
There is also a growing recognition of an appetite among consumers for sustainable travel.
ABTA research finds that almost three times as many people now say that sustainability is important to them when planning their holiday, compared to ten years ago.
But ABTA recognises that how agents can engage in sustainability varies depending on the size of their business and resources available.
The new guidance is designed to help agent members find a sustainability approach that is suitable for their business, whatever their size.
It focuses on the four areas of sustainability - environment, destination management, animal welfare and human rights - as identified in the Tourism for Good report.
As well as summarising the different issues within each area, the guidance also includes advice on steps agents can take and case studies on what industry is doing, including from agents, tour operators and other suppliers.
As part of the guidance, ABTA recommends three ways travel agent Members could approach sustainability:
- Address your own business operations – identify actions to reduce resource use, look after your staff or support your community.
- Explore sustainability in your supply chain – find out how your suppliers are addressing sustainability. For example, do you sell any Travelife hotels? Do you know how aviation is reducing its emissions? Are you aware of products that most tour operators won’t sell and why, such as elephant riding or orphanage visits?
- Engage your customers - think about how you can profile holidays that benefit communities or nature in your marketing and social media activities, to engage your customers and maximise your sales.
- The guidance is free to ABTA Members and is relevant for all types of agents including online travel agents, those with high street stores or individuals working from home. It can be found on the ABTA MemberZone. It also includes links to ABTA’s other resources on sustainability including tips on how to sell sustainability.
Susan Deer, director of industry relations at ABTA, said: “Sustainability is rising up the agenda on all fronts – from customers to politicians, but it can be hard for travel agents to know where to start when it comes to adopting a sustainable approach as well as finding the time and resource to do this.
“We know agents have a lot on their plate in terms of rebuilding from the pandemic, so we want to make it as easy as possible for them to look at how they can incorporate sustainability into their businesses.
“Through our guidance we hope to help agents see how they can approach sustainability, recognising that even small steps can make a big difference, and that activities could help to save money on overheads and support sales conversations with customers.”
She concluded: “Even if customers aren’t raising sustainability with agents directly – it doesn’t mean that it isn’t on their mind.
“By being proactive and easing it into sales conversations, agents could help people feel more confident to book, particularly as 41 per cent say they are more likely to book with a travel company with a better sustainability record.”