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AITO: First Choice move is a “massive blow” to sustainability

AITO: First Choice move is a “massive blow” to sustainability

The recent announcement by First Choice to adopt an all-inclusive business model is a blow to local economies and a slap in the face to Sustainable Tourism claims Association of Independent Tour Operators.

The growth in importance of Sustainable Tourism was dealt a massive blow with the announcement that First Choice aims to make its entire range of holidays all-inclusive from 2012. AITO and many travellers today feel there is a moral aspect to a holiday where you give something back to your host community rather than simply contribute to the coffers of a holiday giant.

The all-inclusive holiday may be fine for clients who place budget control above all other aspects of their holiday but, for travellers who are keen to experience a country, rather than just fly somewhere and stay inside a resort and give nothing back to the locals, it’s not an attractive option. Sustainable Tourism has made great strides over the past 10 years and many destinations rely upon the investment of considerate tourists who make a conscious effort to support local initiatives.

The raison d’être for Sustainable Tourism is to support the roadside food stall, local intimate restaurant or soda seller on the beach trying to scrape together a few pounds, yet all will be squeezed out as big travel businesses attempt to keep control over their customers.

Derek Moore, AITO Chairman, comments: “Does this announcement mean a sea-change for the UK travel industry? In my view, absolutely not.  The only people affected by this are other mainstream companies who compete with First Choice.  AITO companies are not in the market for the same customers. However, it’s extremely disappointing for many destinations as First Choice claims there is no need for the holidaymaker to spend any money when abroad. This means a local restaurant outside the gates of the all-inclusive hotel might as well put up the ‘closed’ sign right now, which is a sad state of affairs. The First Choice announcement is good for the budget-conscious tourist, disinterested and incurious about their destination and who cares little or nothing for their host country.”