Animal welfare considerations mean Thomas Cook will no longer offer tickets to attractions that keep killer whales.

Trips by a major tour operator to parks featuring killer whales in captivity have been removed from sale after a review of its animal welfare policies.

Thomas Cook’s decision to stop selling tickets to SeaWorld in Florida and Loro Parque in Tenerife from next summer follows feedback from customers, as well as scientific evidence provided by animal welfare specialists.

The move comes despite the parks passing an audit by Thomas Cook 18 months earlier, when the company’s initial animal welfare policy resulted in it removing 29 out of 49 attractions, including those involving captive elephants.

Animal welfare policies

In a blog post, chief executive Peter Fankhauser explained that an addition to the company’s policies meant it would no longer sell any animal attractions that keep orcas in captivity.

He said: “This was not a decision we took lightly. We always said that we would continue to review our policy, conscious that the more we got into this area, the more we would learn, and conscious also of changing customer sentiment.”

Fankhauser acknowledged that both parks had passed the initial audit and made improvements to the way they treat animals.

He added: “We respect and applaud the work that has been done, and we will work with both over the next 12 months to prepare for our exit. We will also continue to work ourselves to identify more sustainable alternatives.”

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism is now a big consideration for tour operators, with this year’s Travel Trends Report by ABTA highlighting the role it plays in shaping holiday choices.

Most tour operators assess the suitability of their supply chains using ABTA’s Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism, which was the first of its kind in the world when it was introduced in 2013.

The rise in sentiment has also followed wildlife documentaries such as David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet II’ — the most watched programme of 2017 — and campaigns including Sky News’ Ocean Rescue Scheme.

More cases of disruptive behaviour on planes have increased the prospect of tighter controls on the sale of alcohol at Britain’s airports.

Calls for airport bars, shops and restaurants to be subject to the same alcohol laws as the rest of the UK are growing after the release of new figures on incidences of disruptive passengers.

The Civil Aviation Authority received more than 200 such reports between January and the peak holiday period in mid-July, with 417 and 415 across all of 2017 and 2016 respectively. In 2015, there were 195 reports.

As around half of the cases are thought to involve alcohol, industry body Airlines UK said it was time to remove the current exemption for airports from the 2003 Licensing Act.

Duty-free alcohol

Leading airlines have been vocal in their demands for tougher action. They include Jet2, which recently had to divert a Birmingham-to-Ibiza flight due to “appalling and aggressive behaviour” from members of a stag party. Police met the aircraft in Toulouse and offloaded the group.

EasyJet wants to make the consumption of duty-free alcohol on planes a criminal offence, while Ryanair has called for airports to ban the sale of alcohol before 10am and limit the number of drinks per boarding pass to a maximum of two.

The campaign for changes in licensing laws is backed by the Institute of Alcohol Studies, whose Fit to Fly report found as many as 60% of adults have encountered drunk passengers whilst on a flight.

The study also recommended that duty-free alcohol bought in a shop is sent directly to the departure gate in a sealed container, or placed directly in the hold.

Home Office consultation

The Home Office is expected to launch a consultation on whether to amend the Licensing Act in relation to airports. It could give local authorities the power to restrict the timing of alcohol sales, or the ability to close down bars.

The Airport Operators Association believes an industry code of practice and the launch of its One Too Many campaign are the best ways to tackle the “small minority of passengers that are disruptive”.

One Too Many has been live in ten UK airports this summer, highlighting the costs of drinking to excess when travelling by air. These include heavy fines, up to two years in prison, an airline ban and a diversion fee up to £80,000 for the most serious in-flight incidents.

 

Airline policies on children flying alone are changing, with higher age limits and the withdrawal of unaccompanied minor schemes.

Parents who need to send their children unaccompanied on flights to and from Britain are finding their travel plans a little harder to organise.

Flybe has just dropped its unaccompanied minor product, which cost £79 each way for airline staff to supervise children at either end of the flight.

A similar “Flying Nanny” scheme — Skyflyer Solo — was withdrawn by British Airways at the start of 2017 after a decline in bookings.

Minimum age for travel

Now BA has announced the minimum age of a person permitted to travel alone on one of its flights has increased to 14 years, up from 12.

In addition, it said that those aged under 16 and travelling alone must complete a parental/guardian consent form before travel. It points out that its partner airlines may have different regulations, age limits and charges.

Among other UK-based airlines, easyJet and Thomas Cook have an age threshold of 14 years, while the limit for Ryanair is 16.

Flying nanny services

Flying nanny services have long been popular with expat families so their children can travel to and from Britain. Virgin Atlantic is one of the few major airlines still to operate a service, but with an adult fare applied to the unaccompanied children.

It has been reported that rising insurance costs are one of the factors behind the reluctance of airlines to continue with the service.

In January, Flybe blamed “ever increasing costs” for hiking the price of its unaccompanied minor service from £39.

The airline pointed to increased legislation and the requirement to evidence and comply with the necessary levels of safety, protection and scrutiny associated with unaccompanied child passengers. Following the price rise, it dropped the service altogether in May.

Holidaymakers are being warned that carrying cold remedies or sleeping pills in certain countries could land them in trouble.

Some little-known facts on carrying medicines abroad have been highlighted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in a bid to prevent British tourists falling foul of local laws this summer.

In Japan, for example, medication containing pseudoephedrine — found in the likes of Sudafed and Vicks — is banned.

Diazepam, Tramadol, codeine and a number of other commonly prescribed medicines are viewed as ‘controlled drugs’ in many countries, including Greece and the UAE. This means that failure to comply with the local rules could result in arrest, a fine or imprisonment.

Sleeping pills, anti-anxiety pills and strong painkillers all require a licence in Singapore, whilst in Qatar cold and cough remedies are controlled substances and must be accompanied by a prescription.

Medication advice

With Britons now travelling further afield, the FCO is concerned that too many holidaymakers are more interested in researching the weather than the local laws and customs.

Currently, just one third of people get advice on taking prescribed medication abroad before they travel.

With nearly half the population in England on prescribed medication, there could be around 21 million people in the UK potentially at risk at borders if they fail to do their research.

Travellers face having to get through their holiday without the medication they need as it could be confiscated at the border.

Foreign travel checklist

Britons are being urged to check the entry requirements section of the FCO travel advice page for their destination country.

Some countries such as Costa Rica and China also require visitors to bring a doctor’s note with their prescribed medication.

The FCO’s Foreign Travel Checklist also has links to information and tips from health professionals about travelling with medicines.

A travel insurance campaign has targeted the estimated 10 million holidaymakers who went abroad without the right cover last year.

As many as two in five British people who travelled abroad in the past 12 months did so without the right travel insurance, took part in activities which may not have been covered, or did not have any insurance at all.

Travel association ABTA, which carried out the research, has urged holidaymakers to double check they have travel insurance that covers their circumstances and the activities they are planning to do this summer.

While the average cost of a travel insurance claim is £1,296, the cost of medical treatment or repatriation can run into thousands of pounds. Without sufficient cover, many families are having to raise money for treatment or repatriation, with some resorting to crowdfunding.

EHIC confusion

The most common reason for not buying travel insurance was that people felt it wasn’t needed, often because they thought the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) would provide sufficient cover. The EHIC only offers access to state medical care and does not include repatriation to the UK.

For almost one third of people who didn’t buy travel insurance, cost was a barrier and just over one in seven people (15%) said that they received insurance through their bank account.

ABTA is encouraging people who have travel insurance with their bank to check that it covers their requirements as there may be restrictions around age, health, destination and activities.

European cover

One in four British holidaymakers have also risked invalidating their insurance by not telling their insurance companies about pre-existing medical conditions or by taking part in activities without checking they were covered under the policy. Activities as seemingly safe as cycling may require a higher level of cover.

Holidaymakers also need to remember that popular holiday destinations like Turkey, Dubai, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, where thousands of Brits travel each year, will not be covered by a European policy.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “While many people are still choosing not to take out travel insurance at all, others are travelling unaware that their insurance policy is not protecting them as they expect.”

Millennials are reshaping the travel industry with their desire to explore Instagram-friendly destinations rich in culture and escapism.

They take more foreign holidays than any other age group and are seemingly more consumed by collecting experiences than they are owning goods.

The challenge for a travel industry desperately trying to court this Millennial generation is that these holiday exploits need to be uploadable, with the priority for many tourists on finding locations that deliver the perfect photos.

Thomas Cook highlighted this rise in “ego travel” in its 2018 Holiday Report. It said that social media posts were a factor when choosing a hotel for over half (52%) of 18-24 years olds during the booking process.

“Cool pictures on Instagram”

These changing priorities were highlighted by Thomas Cook’s recent decision to discontinue its Club 18-30 package holiday brand beyond this summer. It is focusing instead on the launch of a new brand called Cook’s Club, which offers popular DJs and upmarket cocktails.

Chief executive Peter Fankhauser said the brand was “aimed at attracting a different audience to Thomas Cook”, with clientele who “want to have fancy and cool pictures on Instagram”.

Some travel companies are now dedicated to selling trips based around the perfect holiday snaps. Others even have professional photographers on hand so holidaymakers can record their trips in the best possible fashion.

This also serves as an essential marketing tool for companies themselves as a reported 87% of Millennials look to social media for travel inspiration.

Millennial destinations

This quest for the perfect backdrop means Millennials are looking further afield and in different directions for their holidays.

For example, there’s been a significant uptick in interest in cruise holidays, with travel organisation ABTA reporting that one in ten holidaymakers between the ages of 18-24 were planning a cruise in 2018.

In terms of river cruising, that might mean visiting Instagram or Snapchat-worthy rivers such as the Danube, Rhine or Rhone. Many cruises now offer a “full on, activity packed, culturally enticing immersive travel experience”, with some sailings hosted by personalities from social media.

New holiday package travel regulations and a review into airline insolvency rules are set to boost protection for British holidaymakers.

Europe’s updated Package Travel Directive, which comes into force on 1 July 2018, will extend protection to flight-plus holidays where the customer chooses a combination of services via a single website, call centre or shop.

Under the current regime, buyers of traditional package holidays involving flights and accommodation purchased together are entitled to a refund or to be brought home should a travel company go under. These packages also provide additional legal protection, including the right to a refund if bad weather or industrial action means the holiday can’t be provided.

The rights will now be extended to travel where a combination of a flight plus hotel or car rental is put together on a website. This means it is no longer possible for online travel agents to claim each part of the holiday is separate and therefore not their responsibility.

UK travel industry impact

The EU’s updated Package Travel Directive was published in late 2015, with member states given until 1 January 2018 to adopt it as law before implementation on 1 July 2018. However, the UK version of the regulations was only published in April, giving the industry just over two months to prepare.

Under the existing travel regulations, travel association ABTA estimates that around half of UK holiday travel arrangements — 20 million packages and 3 million flight-plus holidays — are financially protected. From 1 July 2018, flight-plus arrangements will no longer exist and many will become packages.

ABTA pointed out that consumers not booking with an ABTA member will have to rely on UK trading standards if they are concerned a company they are dealing with is not providing the correct protection for travel arrangements.

Airline failure review

Meanwhile, the UK government has started a review of repatriation and refund protection in the event of an airline failure.

Options include allowing airlines to wind down in an orderly fashion so that they are able to conduct and finance repatriation operations with minimal or no government intervention. The review will also consider alternative models for refund protection, including through the travel insurance market.

The moves follow the collapse of Monarch Airlines last autumn, when the Civil Aviation Authority undertook the UK’s biggest peace time repatriation exercise bringing home 110,000 customers at an estimated cost of £60 million.

Holidaymakers are heading back to Tunisia and Turkey this summer following some challenging years for tourism in the two countries.

With improving security and the promise of cheaper holidays, destinations across the eastern Med and northern Africa; more specifically Tunisia and Turkey, look well placed to win back tourists put off by recent terrorism and political upheaval.

Tour operators have just restarted flights to Tunisia, while Turkey has seen a surge in bookings as confidence returns to one of the UK’s most popular destinations.

The developments should ease pressure on resorts in Spain and the western Med, where prices have risen as a result of higher demand.

Tunisia travel advice

Tunisia has been a popular tourist destination for decades, with its year-round sun and historic ruins. Thomas Cook, which first opened an office in the country in 1902, took more than 200,000 UK holidaymakers to Tunisia in 2014 across the summer and winter seasons.

That was until tragedy struck in June 2015 when a gunman killed 38 people at a beachfront hotel in Sousse, 30 of whom were British tourists.

Since the attack, the Tunisian government has improved protective security in major cities and tourist resorts, prompting the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to change its travel advice for Tunisia in July 2017.

With British holidaymakers able to travel to the majority of the country, Thomas Cook and TUI have restarted flight and hotel programmes for this summer.

Spain capacity squeeze

Turkey is also back on the radar for European tourists, with ABTA reporting recently that bookings for Turkey were up 69% for 2018. Egypt is also continuing on its road to recovery with a 24% increase in bookings.

In 2015 Turkey was the world’s fifth most visited tourist destination but 2016 saw bombings in Istanbul and Ankara followed by an attempted coup.

This had a knock-on impact on capacity in Spain and other destinations in the Western Med, leading to higher hotel prices and a shortage of availability.

Travel and tourism accounted for one in five of all new jobs created globally in 2017, according to major industry research.

The travel and tourism sector continues to outperform the global economy after new figures showed another trend-busting year in 2017.

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reported growth of 4.6% for 2017, which is 50% higher than the rate achieved by the global economy as a whole.

It’s the seventh year in a row that travel and tourism has outperformed, with 2017 setting a faster pace than manufacturing (4.2%), retail and wholesale (3.4%), agriculture, forestry and fisheries (2.6%) and financial services (2.5%).

Robust job creation

The research showed that the industry was responsible for the creation of seven million new jobs worldwide — equivalent to one in five globally.

Overall, travel and tourism made a contribution of US$8.3 trillion to global GDP (10.4%) and was responsible for 313 million jobs, 1 in 10 jobs around the world.

WTTC president Gloria Guevara said: “In the last few years, Governments around the world are realising the extraordinary benefits of tourism.”

Long-term outlook

In terms of 2018, the WTTC thinks that the strong growth will continue, albeit at a slower rate than in 2017 as a result of higher oil prices.

The long-term outlook to 2028 remains unchanged, with average growth of 3.8% per year expected over the next decade. By then, travel and tourism is expected to support more than 400 million jobs globally — 1 in 9 of all jobs in the world.

Europe’s performance in 2017 was better than expected with 4.8% growth as long-haul demand recovered strongly. There was a strong rebound in North Africa, growing by 22.6% in 2017, while South East Asia rose 6.7%.

China continues to lead the way in Asia at 9.8%. Over the next ten years, the WTTC estimates that over one third of absolute GDP growth and nearly half of employment growth will be generated by China and India.

European river cruising is seeing a surge in popularity, driven by new vessels and itineraries targeting millennial passengers.

A different type of cruise experience along the rivers of Europe is helping to blow away the perception that these trips are the preserve of older generations.

In keeping with efforts to broaden the appeal of cruising, operators are serving up trips aimed at millennial and Generation Xers who want to visit Instagram or Snapchat-worthy rivers such as the Danube, Rhine or Rhone.

These more active trips combine scenery and city tours with activities such as rock climbing, while on board there are rooftop bars and international DJs.

‘Culturally enticing’

According to travel industry body ABTA, river cruising has become the fastest-growing sector of the worldwide cruise market, thanks partly to the introduction of new vessels and facilities to rival those found on ocean liners.

New arrivals include U by Uniworld, whose first cruises aimed at the 21 to 45 age group depart this spring. Billed as the best way to experience Europe, they promise a “full on, activity packed, culturally enticing immersive travel experience”.

Amadeus is another company going after the millennial market, with its six-day sailings in 2019 due to be hosted by a well-known person from social media.

Technology to match

But new initiatives in the river cruise market are not just aimed at millennials. For example, more cruises are being planned in 2018 to tap into the popularity of visiting Christmas markets along Europe’s Danube and Rhine rivers.

This broader range of activities explains why 14% of UK holidaymakers are planning on taking a cruise in 2018 — almost double the number that went on one in the previous 12 months. More than one in ten holidaymakers between the ages of 18-24 are planning a cruise this year, the ABTA research added.

But in order to appeal to the next generation of holidaymakers, cruise operators need to ensure they have the technology to match the scenery, which is why leading liners are investing heavily in lightning fast wi-fi across their fleets.