Sustainability will feature strongly at the Travel Convention, the association’s chief Mark Tanzer tells Ian Taylor

Climate change and sustainability will feature strongly at Abta’s Travel Convention in October and form a key part of the association’s new five-year plan.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer told Travel Weekly: “Tim Williamson will throw down the gauntlet to the industry on climate change at the Convention, and [speaker] Gabrielle Walker will say ‘This is not a problem for the future, it’s a problem now’.”

Williamson, Responsible Travel director of marketing, will tell the Convention: “Companies can’t measure themselves on growth [anymore].” (Travel Weekly, August 15).

Tanzer hopes the Convention will “stir the industry to act on a collective basis”. He said: “We need real industry commitment. What are we going to do differently, and how are we going to take consumers with us?”

A new industry approach to Air Passenger Duty (APD) could be part of this. Williamson argues APD should be made a carbon tax and hiked. Tanzer said: “We call for a 50% reduction in APD, but we recognise tax has a role to play [in cutting carbon]. We would like to see a more targeted tax strategy.

“If we could work with the government we could come up with a new tax system. I have written to the Chancellor along these lines. I met Sajid Javid to discuss APD when he was economic secretary to the Treasury and he asked ‘What would I replace APD with?’

“Things have changed since then. The government is committed to a zero-carbon economy. I’m keen to get back to speak to him.”

Tanzer is also keen to emphasise two Abta initiatives, one existing – the sustainability certification scheme Travelife – and one in development.

He said: “We want to make people aware of Travelife. It’s a very good tool [and] up to 1,500 hotels are certified.”

Sustainability certification can be “difficult” for the sector because “the supply chain is so diverse”, but Tanzer argues: “It’s important. We need a critical mass, a critical density of hotels [certified], and we’re reaching that now. Our initial strategy was to work with our tour operator members. Now we’re contracting direct with hotels. We’re seeing consumer demand for this grow and gather momentum.”

A second, new initiative could see Abta advise members on carbon-offset providers, whether by supporting a specific scheme or listing approved suppliers.

Tanzer said: “Offsets have suffered some discredit. We’ll look at whether Abta can provide an offset scheme. Maybe we’ll work with a partner or promote a particular scheme. Members are saying they would like Abta to do this.”

Climate change is also high on the agenda of new Abta chairman Alistair Rowland, who said: “Members need someone to follow on moving to zero carbon. It’s an area Abta can really develop.”

The Travel Convention 2019 – October 7-9, Tokyo
Full details:

Gabrielle Walker is co-author with David King, former chief scientific advisor to the government, of The Hot Topic: How to Tackle Global Warming and Still Keep the Lights On.