It may be known for its crowds, high rises and English pubs, but experts believe Benidorm and resorts like it could provide the template for sustainable tourism in the future.
The Sustainable Holiday Futures report(1) carried out for Thomson Holidays by The Future Laboratory, envisages the rise of super-holiday hubs where every holiday experience will be on hand and energy use managed and monitored.
The report’s authors highlight that ‘high density, low impact’ locations could be better for the environment in the long-term than more spread out, low visibility resorts on the edge of the world’s endangered landscapes such as jungles, savannahs and atolls which may at first sight appear more environmentally friendly – something they refer to as the ‘Benidorm Effect’.
They argue that by concentrating large numbers of tourists in one place and encouraging them to play their part in improving the location’s carbon-effectiveness, such holiday hubs can better manage resources, become more sustainable and have less environmental impact than luxury boutique resorts catering for small numbers spread across a wide area.
The report highlights how misguided many British travellers remain in their assessment of the carbon impact of different types of holiday – 34% of those surveyed wrongly believe a traditional package holiday to Benidorm is less sustainable than a hiking tour in Chile, as they are not taking the flight into consideration.
Jane Ashton, Head of Sustainable Development at Thomson Holidays explains: “A trip to a carbon-efficient, mature resort that is geared up to efficiently manage the waste and water needs of mainstream tourism could have a lower environmental impact than a long haul holiday to an apparently eco-friendly hotel. By clustering tourists in one destination and utilising schemes such as Travelife, which provides support, advice and tools for hotels and resorts to improve their environmental and social performance, so-called ‘package holiday hubs’ can be greener than more commonly perceived environmentally friendly holidays, as they are better able to manage natural resources”.
Martin Raymond from The Future Laboratory said: “The report’s findings indicate that package holidays to popular destinations could hold the key to sustainable travel, exploding the myth that mainstream holiday resorts and sustainability are mutually exclusive. When the flights are taken into consideration, a fortnight’s holiday for a family of four to Spain’s Costa Blanca would produce 2.2 tonnes of carbon, while a two-week motor cruising trip to the Caribbean would produce 12 tonnes – almost six times that of the package holiday. A hiking tour to Chile for the same family would produce a staggering 15.8 tonnes of carbon for the same reason. When customers travel long haul they should ensure they travel with a fuel efficient airline and make their trip count by giving back to the local community.”
The report predicts that over the next 20 years holidaymakers will:
• Take tradecations where people reduce their carbon footprint in return for carbon reward points that can be traded for spa treatments, dinner in their hotel or visits to sites of local interest.
• Become carbo-tourists who proactively check a resort’s carbon emissions when booking their holidays.
• Go on fly and swap holidays – or philanthro-trips – adding extra days or pampering packages in exchange for volunteering at local charities or community organisations.
• Pick up high-tech responsible traveller kits(2) at the airport enabling them to act sustainably on holiday by reducing their energy, carbon and water usage. The kits might contain items such as a solar powered toothbrush and shaver and the Waterpebble, an innovative device that sits in a shower’s plughole and glows red when too much water is being used.
Thomson has already made 20 major commitments to sustainability as part of its Holidays Forever campaign(3), which looks to address the need for more customer education, and has today announced that it will be introducing the Waterpebble(4) into its hotel rooms from January 2011 – making it the first travel operator in the world to do so.
Key findings from the Thomson Holidays Sustainable Holidays Futures report:
• More than half (56%) of UK adults wrongly believe that a sustainable holiday would cost them more and be less luxurious.
• Nearly half (46%) of holidaymakers admitted they do not understand what sustainable tourism is.
• Nearly a quarter (23%) believe that established and popular package holiday resorts are bad for the environment – the report indicates they are often better than more commonly perceived environmentally friendly holidays.
• A massive 90% are sufficiently convinced of the impact of global warming to change their ways and nearly three-quarters (74%) are committed to acting more sustainably on holiday over the next five years.
• 29% of UK adults say they currently monitor their water and energy usage on holiday.
“We are about to take another big step forward – into an age of considered consumption, in which the travel industry will provide consumers with choices that enable them to demonstrate their eco-credentials in a way that suits them, as well as the planet they inhabit,” said Giovanni Bisignani, Director General of the International Air Transport Association, who provided input into the report.
Thomson’s Jane Ashton said: “We have an important role to play in helping our holidaymakers become more sustainable, providing them with more information to dispel the myths, as well as giving them more sustainable holidays – something they clearly want – in the same way that we now provide great service and customer care.”
She continued: “As well as doing work with destinations and hotels behind the scenes, we recently launched new build and operational sustainability guidelines to ensure our flagship hotels are as sustainable as possible. Over the next decade we need to create a new ‘tourist etiquette’ where people act as sustainably on holiday as they do at home. This will require a radical shift in the way sustainable holidays are perceived so that green practices become the new normal – an integral part of everyone’s travel decision-making rather than an add-on or after-thought.”
Notes to Editors:
1 The Sustainable Holiday Futures report was carried out by The Future Laboratory on behalf of Thomson Holidays. Experts from diverse sectors including green technology, sustainability and scenario planning were interviewed for their perspectives including: Rachel Armstrong, senior fellow, TED; Dr Graham Miller, senior lecturer in management, specialising in sustainability and tourism, University of Surrey; Vicky Murray, senior sustainability advisor, Forum For The Future; Ian Pearson, futurologist, Futurizon and BradTempleton, research fellow, Singularity University, California. Research for the report was carried out using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodology, spanning extensive desk research, online consumer surveys and interviews. The consumer survey, conducted between 27 and 31 August 2010, polled the opinion of 1,007 respondents from a nationally representative UK sample aged 18+.
2 Responsible traveller kits: The report predicts responsible travel kits will contain a selection of high-tech resource-saving gadgets including: the Waterpebble; a solar-powered toothbrush and shaver that can be recharged through their integrated solar panels; a mobile phone that can be charged using heat sources such as a radiator; a self-filtering recycled water bottle with an in-built charcoal filter to make water from streams drinkable removing the need for bottled water; a paper alarm clock with its own self-addressed label that lets its owner post it back to the manufacturer at the end of its life so it can be recycled into a new alarm clock; bendable rechargeable batteries comprising a single sheet of paper coated on both sides with carbon nanotubes that can be recharged up to 300 times; a laptop computer that can be dismantled in just two minutes without tools for easy recycling.
3 Thomson Holidays Forever: The programme was launched earlier this year to bring all the sustainable tourism initiatives undertaken by Thomson and First Choice under one umbrella. Holidays Forever encompasses 20 sustainable commitments Thomson and First Choice have pledged to achieve including reducing carbon emissions from the TUI Travel airlines by 6% by 2014, working towards having all its suppliers Travelife-awarded by 2014 and aiming to recycle approximately 30% of the cans handed out on board its flights, equating to 13 tonnes of aluminium, in the next year. For more information on the Holidays Forever brand and the 20 commitments please visit www.holidaysforever.co.uk/thomson
4 Waterpebble: Thomson will be trialling the Waterpebble in its Sensatori Tenerife resort.
Carbon reporting: Thomson Airways is one of the most fuel efficient airlines in Europe. It is calling for all airlines to report their carbon emissions, set themselves targets and report against these each year. Thomson Airways believe the most efficient way to report is through grams of CO2 per revenue passenger kilometer (RPK) and the aviation industry needs to report in this way to create a unified measurement system. Thomson Airways’ RPK is 75kg of CO2 per revenue passenger kilometer.
For more information about the report or to request expert spokespeople interviews, please contact:
Tel: 0207 534 9803/07870689664
Tel: 0207 534 9801/07812082138
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