Responsible tourism is now a big consideration for holidaymakers, fuelled by programmes such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II.

One of the big themes identified in ABTA’s Travel Trends Report for 2018 is the growing role that responsible tourism plays in shaping holiday choices.

ABTA research shows that almost 70% of people believe that travel companies should ensure their holidays help the local people and economy.

This rise in sentiment follows wildlife documentaries such as David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet II’ — the most watched programme of 2017 — and campaigns including Sky News’ Ocean Rescue Scheme. Greater public awareness also extends to human rights and working conditions.

Animal welfare

Tour operators, hoteliers and destinations have made positive progress on responsible tourism, with ABTA expecting more initiatives to follow in 2018.

These are likely to include social enterprise projects which give back to local communities, carbon-neutral group tours and the banning of plastics from beaches.

The welfare of animals in tourism has also become a mainstream issue, with Thomas Cook committing to removing animal excursions such as elephant rides and swimming with dolphins from their activities list.

Virgin Holidays also announced it will no longer sell or promote any new attractions or hotels that feature captive whales and dolphins.

Destinations to watch

Elsewhere in the travel trends report, ABTA paints a positive outlook for the  tourism industry in 2018. It quotes GfK figures showing summer demand up 5% on last year, with people booking early in order to take advantage of discounts and ensure they get their choice of destination or resort at the right price.

Three-in-ten also say they plan to spend an increased amount on travel, up 6% from last year, while it also appears there’s an increased willingness to prioritise holidays over eating out and entertainment.

ABTA also named its 12 ‘destinations to watch’ in 2018. They have been chosen for their ease of accessibility for British tourists or because they are a well-known destination with hidden gems.

They are Argentina, Arizona, British Columbia, Germany, Malta, Montenegro, Nepal, New Zealand, Rwanda, St Lucia, Sweden and Turkey.

Some popular tourist destinations are victims of their own success as “overtourism” starts to become a real problem.

Mass tourism brings many benefits, but for crowded cities such as Amsterdam and Venice the sheer number of visitors is now an issue requiring action.

A report by Euromonitor ranking the top 100 City Destinations on behalf of World Travel Market London has revealed the overcrowding hotspots and highlighted the fine line between successful tourism and overtourism.

For example, Amsterdam has 850,000 residents but last year attracted 6.34 million visitors. This figure is expected to have grown by 3.6% to 6.57 million in 2017 and may rise again to 6.8 million in 2020 and 7.5 million in 2025.

Low-spending visitors

Officials in the Dutch capital are now considering plans to charge tourists an extra 10 euros a night as part of a drive to dissuade low-spending visitors, including younger tourists and those on stag weekends.

Amsterdam’s city councillor responsible for finance, Udo Kock, said: “We need more people who actually spend money in the city.”

In Venice, there’s a growing campaign among residents to restrict cruise visits following a huge influx of tourists. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has expressed ‘extreme concern’ about the impact of tourism on Venice’s historical sites and in May it threatened to put Venice on its danger list.

Daily passenger limit

The Greek island of Santorini, which was visited by 790,000 cruise ship passengers in 2015, has already introduced a daily limit of 8,000 disembarkations. There have also been protests in some Spanish resorts and cities about the impact of private holiday rentals on the housing market.

This resulted in authorities on the Balearic Islands recently placing a cap on the number of beds that can be used for tourists.

World Travel Market London director Simon Press said: “Tourism is important to local and national economies and many destinations have worked hard to attract visitors over the years.

“Yet some are now becoming victims of their own success and overtourism is starting to become a real problem.”

 

The travel industry is successfully fighting back against fraudsters after a recent surge in fake holiday sickness claims.

The bogus illness epidemic threatening to drive up holiday prices looks to be under control after tour operators adopted a hard-line approach.

Thomas Cook said it has seen the rate of claims decline dramatically, having stepped up its monitoring processes and taken legal action against fraudsters.

High-profile court cases, which included the jailing of a couple for 15 months, seem to have acted as a powerful deterrent to potential scammers.

In one case, Jet2Holidays released copies of the claimants’ bar bill to the media, which showed they carried on drinking heavily on the days they were ‘sick’.

Loophole in the law

ABTA said the fake claims meant higher prices and less choice for honest holidaymakers. It added that such claims have risen by 500% since 2013 whilst reported sickness levels have remained stable.

The travel organisation’s #StopSicknessScams campaign has lobbied the Government to address the loophole in the law which allows companies to unduly profit from false holiday sickness claims.

ABTA said: “It is crucial that the Government brings in new rules which control legal costs on holiday sickness claims as soon as possible.”

In contrast to the UK, Thomas Cook reports that it has not received any fake claims from customers in Germany.

Hotel industry cost

Some Spanish hoteliers have even threatened to close their doors to British customers as a result of the crisis, which has cost the local tourism industry millions of euros.

However, a report presented at the recent World Travel Market (WTM) in London suggested that the crackdown in the UK was paying off as nine out of ten holidaymakers reported that they hadn’t been contacted by claims firms.

WTM London’s Paul Nelson, said: “Fake sickness claims by unscrupulous holidaymakers, encouraged by claims firms, give Brits a bad name and make things worse for those who genuinely fall ill abroad.”

The number of foreign holidays by UK residents has surged 68% in the past 20 years as mini-breaks replace the traditional two-week holiday.

A review of holiday trends since the mid-1990s has revealed just how much low-cost airlines have changed our holiday habits and choice of destinations.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded more than 45 million foreign holidays by UK residents in 2016, compared with 27 million in 1996. The rise of 68% contrasts with a 12% increase in the UK population in the same period.

The one-week holiday is now much more popular than before, the ONS said, with 11 million seven-day breaks in 2016 against just under six million in 1996. Trips of two weeks declined from five million to below four million last year.

Cruise popularity

The rise of low-cost airlines has meant France is one of the few countries Britons are visiting less than in 1996, following a fall of 9%.

Rather than driving to France on a ferry, tourists are opting for a cheap flight elsewhere, with the number of holidays to Spain rocketing by 87% in 20 years.

Germany has joined the top 10 destinations for UK holidaymakers, while another new entry is cruising – now four times as popular as it was 20 years ago.

This could be due to an ageing population, but cruise operators are also trying to extend their appeal to younger holidaymakers too.

Fewer day trips

Journeys across the English Channel to stock up on alcohol and cigarettes — booze cruises — are no longer as cost-efficient as they used to be, which is why UK residents are making far fewer day-trips abroad than they did 20 years ago.

In fact, the number of holidaymakers travelling by sea has declined by 33% since 1996.

In contrast, figures from the Civil Aviation Authority show passenger numbers at UK airports have increased by 85%, from 135 million in 1996 to 251 million in 2015.

Destinations now much more popular than in 1996 include the United Arab Emirates, Poland, Romania, Croatia and Iceland. The biggest falls were countries that have experienced terrorist incidents and security concerns in recent years — Turkey, Egypt, Kenya and Tunisia.

The jaw-dropping cost of falling ill abroad has been revealed by insurers, providing a stark reminder about the perils of uninsured travel.

With six-figure medical bills now far from uncommon, the insurance industry has disclosed just how much it costs to help the 150,000 Britons who fall seriously ill overseas every year.

One claim for treating a stroke in the United States cost £768,000 — the equivalent of working over 25 years on an average UK salary. In another case, a jet-ski accident in Turkey amounted to £125,000.

The research from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) shows that the cost of the average medical claim at £1,300 has risen by 40% between 2011 and 2016.

Medical evacuation

The US, which attracts 3.8 million visitors from the UK every year, has some of the highest medical costs.

Other cases there have included £252,000 to treat a brain haemorrhage and broken shoulder suffered by a traveller when he fell off a bicycle. There was also £32,000 to pay for a four day hospital stay to treat a 12 year-old girl who caught pneumonia on a school trip.

Elsewhere in the world, travel insurers paid £136,000 for a policyholder who suffered complications after an insect bite in Chile. This included paying for a nurse to escort the traveller home.

In situations where medical evacuation is necessary, the ABI points out that an air ambulance from Majorca, for example, costs more than £25,000.

Insurance guide

Having the free European Health Insurance Card will provide access to state-provided healthcare but it is no substitute for travel insurance as it will not cover all medical costs, or the cost of emergency repatriation.

An estimated one in four travellers still go without insurance, despite the fact that the average cost of a single trip policy can be less than what a family spends on snacks at the airport.

The ABI has launched a new guide to help travellers understand the importance of getting the right cover, including access to assistance if the worst does happen.

Anti-tourism protests in some popular Spanish resorts and cities over the summer have focused attention on the private holiday rentals sector.

Tourism is the lifeblood of Spain’s Balearic Islands, with more than 3.5 million visitors from the UK alone to Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera in 2016.

But this rising level of demand has sparked isolated protests and discontent among locals. They complain they are being priced out of the housing market, fuelled by the explosion in number of apartments used as private holiday rentals.

In an effort to appease residents, authorities on the islands recently announced a cap of 623,624 on the number of beds that can be used for tourists, a figure they anticipate could be reduced by a further 120,000 in subsequent years.

Tourism numbers

Significantly, the controversial new rules require home owners to obtain a special licence before they rent out their apartments using websites such as Airbnb and Homeaway. Fines of up to 400,000 euros could be imposed for those who breach the new regulations.

Airbnb hit back at the move, arguing it played into the hands of the big hotel chains who will be able to increase prices as a result. It said it wanted to help spread tourism benefits to the many, ”not keep them in the hands of a few.”

Travel association Abta said the situation in Spain and rapid growth of the peer-to-peer economy presented issues for the wider travel industry, particularly in  terms of understanding tourism numbers and capacity.

Licensed and regulated

Historically, hotels and other accommodation providers have been licensed and regulated, which helps local authorities to monitor the volume and nature of visitors coming into their cities.

Abta said this was not so easy to do in the current market: “We need mechanisms in place to manage numbers in crowded destinations, for the benefit of holidaymakers, destination residents and the travel industry.

“Logically, these measures would need to take account of both hotel visitors, and peer to peer accommodation users.”

 

Millennials are reshaping the travel industry, but it appears this generation isn’t getting the message about buying insurance for trips overseas.

Two in five (40%) people aged 18-24 travelled abroad uninsured in the 12 months to May — running the risk of costly medical bills should something go wrong.

The figure, which was revealed in a survey of 2,000 Britons by travel association ABTA, is a sharp rise on the 31% of young people who went on holiday without an insurance policy the previous year.

Across all age groups, a quarter of all travellers were uninsured, up from 22% in the year to May 2016. Young travellers in the 25-34 age group also saw a sharp increase, from 31% to 38%.

Crowdfunding plea

More than a third of those who travelled abroad without insurance said they thought they didn’t need it, while 22% said it was a risk they were willing to take.

But with the cost of medical treatment running into thousands of pounds, some uninsured Britons and their families are having to resort to crowdfunding in order to raise money for medical treatment or repatriation.

ABTA quoted several examples where loved ones turned to the kindness of strangers, including the case of a man from South Yorkshire whose family raised £30,000 so he could continue his treatment in the UK after falling ill in Thailand.

Rising medical costs

The rising cost of medical treatment abroad has been highlighted in separate figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI), which revealed that pay-outs of £1 million a day were made to travellers in 2016 — the highest figure since 2010.

Payments for emergency medical treatment accounted for over half — 54% — of all claims costs at £199 million. These included a £100,000 bill for treating an abscess in the United States, £16,000 for the treatment of a fractured leg in a motorcycle accident in Thailand, and £11,000 to remove a brain tumour in Spain.

The ABI pointed out that the cost of the average annual travel insurance policy is £37, compared to the average medical claim of £1,300.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer added: “Every year we see cases of people falling into difficulty due to travelling without insurance. Often their families have to raise thousands of pounds for their treatment or repatriation and that’s why it is so worrying to see an increase in younger people travelling without insurance.”

Data roaming charges in Europe have been abolished, but will this just be a temporary reprieve for British holidaymakers?

Visitors to Europe this summer will be able to use their mobile phones without fear of huge bills after the European Union (EU) ended roaming charges.

Making calls, sending texts or using the internet will cost the same in any EU country after Brussels officials put a cap on the charges that phone operators charge each other when customers use their phones abroad.

But the boost from June 15 may only last two years as Britain is due to leave the EU in March 2019 and it is now up to the Government to replicate the EU agreement to ensure that customers continue to benefit.

Roaming confusion

Mobile phones have become an essential tool in the holiday process, with their use for e-tickets or e-receipts and accessing maps and other information.

A recent uSwitch study found that 91% of people take their phones on holiday, but that 85% aren’t sure of what they’re being charged for using it.

This confusion has led to some eye-watering bills for customers, particularly those travelling to the United States, where a single MB of data — enough for just four minutes of browsing — can cost up to £8.

Steeper charges

Many holidaymakers face even steeper charges in future after Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in March that he plans to add VAT to the cost of roaming in countries outside the EU, pushing bills up by 20%.

How Brexit will impact future data charges within the EU is still unclear, particularly as there’s the danger that they could also be liable to VAT after 2019.

And judging by the complaints of mobile phone users in Switzerland, a country not in the EU bloc, there could be a shock in store for British tourists.

Data protection rules are changing from next year, leaving travel firms at risk of heavy fines and reputational damage if they breach GDPR.

Every travel business that handles personal data, including customer details and staff and supplier information, should now be focused on 25th May, 2018 in readiness for compliance with the EU’s new data protection rules.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) aims to safeguard all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches regardless of whether the processing takes place in the EU or not.

It will transform the way that information is stored and managed, with companies now needing the explicit opt-in consent of clients or customers to hold their data. This must be achieved using clear and plain language, and it must be as easy to withdraw consent as it is to give it.

Sizeable penalties

Cyber attacks, such as the one that affected travel association ABTA earlier this year, are likely to result in much more draconian financial penalties. TalkTalk’s penalty of £400,000 for security failings that led to a cyber attack in 2015 would have been £37 million or more under GDPR.

That’s because infringements will trigger fines of up to 4% of annual global turnover or 20 million euros, whichever is higher. There will be a tiered approach, so a company can be fined 2% for not having their records in order, for example.

But the impact will be much more than just financial, with firms also suffering a loss of customer confidence if they are found to have breached GDPR.

Marketing tactics

For the travel industry, the rules will require a new approach to email and paper marketing as GDPR will stop automatic opt-ins and the use of implied consent. On the plus side, this means that those names remaining on databases will be the ones more receptive to targeted product and service offers.

Some firms will see other advantages, such as the opportunity to poach data if customers request their information is ported from one company to another.

UK firms need to remember that Brexit won’t stop GDPR, even though this is EU  legislation. The government has said it is committed to the changes, which also apply to non EU-companies who offer products and services in Europe.

Almost twice as many Atol-protected companies went bust in the last year, increasing reliance on the fund used to help holidaymakers.

Refunds and repatriation for more than 16,500 Atol-protected holidaymakers cost the Air Travel Trust a total of £14.7 million in the last financial year.

The CAA-administered organisation said that a total of 19 Atol holders ceased trading between April 2016 and March, an increase from 10 the previous year.

The biggest trading casualty in the period was All Leisure Holidays, which is expected to cost the Trust £10 million after the fly-cruise specialist went insolvent in January. All Leisure’s collapse ended a relatively long run of years where the Trust saw a low-level of failure expenditure.

Fund surplus

In total, 282 passengers of failed Atol holders required repatriation and a further 16,608 customers, all with bookings to travel at a later date, were due refunds for amounts paid in respect of their bookings.

The Trust is principally funded by Atol protection contributions of £2.50 per passenger booked, which in the last financial year amounted to £62.3 million. This also resulted in an overall surplus for the fifth consecutive year, with a total of £145 million recorded in 2016/17.

The number of Atol-protected bookings was marginally down in the period, following five years of steady growth. There were 24.9 million holidaymakers protected by the Atol scheme last year, down from 25.2 million the year before.

New digital entrants

The Trust’s annual report noted the impact on the wider travel market of technology companies such as Google, Airbnb and TripAdvisor as they continue to enhance their travel offering.

It said: “These businesses do not sell air travel directly, nor do they sell packages, but in some instances are moving into a travel agency or facilitation role.

“If these new developments continue, changes in how consumers buy holidays could impact the existing licensed and protected sector.”