In 2010, I signed up to volunteer for a week in Cyprus. My brief was to help our World Care Fund partner the Travel Foundation, by working out how Cyprus can become a more sustainable holiday destination. It was a great week and a real eye opener.
One of the things I learnt – as well as how to eat like a Cypriot – was that sustainable tourism isn’t just about greener holidays. It’s also about fairer holidays. Holidays where local culture is celebrated (think traditional Syrtos dancing and feasting with friends on souvlaki) and where local people get a fair deal from our visits.
Tourism has the potential to drive economic growth and development in countries that really need it and excursions are a great way to improve livelihoods in destinations.
In Cyprus, I tried out the Travel Foundation’s Discover the Real Cyprus driving routes. These offer holidaymakers alternatives to the beach, taking you off the beaten track, exploring remote mountain villages for an insight into traditional village life. Unfortunately, wherever I go, this photo keeps popping up of me scoffing some great local honey. When I was invited to try it, I couldn’t resist “But don’t bother about the bread, please.” Winnie the Pooh would have been proud.
We offer over a thousand excursions at Thomson and First Choice and we’ve recently started on a journey to look at how we can make these greener and fairer. It won’t be an overnight job, but I believe it’s the right direction to go in. After all, we all want to enjoy holidays for years to come, so it makes sense to protect the places we love to visit. My kids wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t.
This month is the Travel Foundation’s Make Holidays Greener month, which gives us to tips to make a difference, even on a traditional ‘sun, sea and sand’ holiday. Getting out and about, or choosing an excursion which makes a difference, is just one way.
I’m proud to tell you that we’ve recently launched the Taste of Greece experiences, where you can sample local cuisine and develop your culinary genius at the same time. Jamie Oliver eat your heart out. Here are some of the top recipes which you can practice at home (I’ve obviously passed these on to my wife, Clair), or look out for these if you are coming on holiday with us to Greece this summer.
Other excursions which we’re proud of include…
Our Masai Mara excursions in Kenya, which give you an opportunity to visit a village participating in a Travel Foundation project which ensures the villages gets a fair deal from tourism.
Our Crete Spinalonga excursion, which is an ideal way to learn more about the island’s history.
Our Mexico Whale Sharks excursion, which now has guides qualified to ensure animal welfare thanks to a project which we’ve supported through our World Care Fund contributions to the Travel Foundation.
We are on a journey to make our holidays greener and fairer. What will you do?
Find out more about our commitments to sustainable tourism at www.holidaysforever.co.uk
Win a holiday and get more tips at www.makeholidaysgreener.org,uk