The Co-operative Travel Group aims to bring elements of sustainable tourism to a large section of the mainstream package holiday market with the launch of its own inhouse tour operation.
Commercial director Shaun Hinds said one of the factors that would differentiate its Co-operative Holidays’ product from other tour operator brands would be its stance on sustainable tourism.
“Although it will not be at the forefront, we want to reflect some of that in the programme,” said Hinds. “We already have a relationship with The Travel Foundation but we want to work more closely on some of the initiatives it has got going on and offer customers the chance to see some of that work.”
The operator launches in early summer with holidays for summer 2010 and will be sold by the group’s network of travel agencies nationwide.
Most of its product will be summer sun holidays to the eastern and western Mediterranean, but it will also offer longhaul destinations such as Florida and Mexico, and some winter sun holiday.s
Sustainable tourism elements will include offering consumers to offset the carbon used in their flights, and choose hotels based on a “green” rating scheme.
Hinds said the operator would aim to start the education process not just of its own holidaymakers but also of hotel suppliers.
Hotels are likely to be asked where their products are sourced, if they employ local staff, if they use renewable energy and how much they recycle.
But Hinds added: “We can promote this as part of our buying policy and if these businesses want to participate then we will be looking for evidence of where they have committed. We are realistic as well. “We know certain hotels are further down this path than others and some are more bothered than others. It won’t be the main hook for the holiday but we are trying to bring this aspect out.”
Hinds said more consumers were starting to consider these issues when buying a holiday and it was important to make resorts away of the importance of the issue.
“This is where we can use our skill to try to encourage resorts to make more of these key issues, while at the moment there is a lot of lip service being paid to it,” he added.