Each issue we speak to an ABTA employee about their work. This time, it’s Nikki White, director of destinations and sustainability
My role is incredibly varied: I work across operations, health and safety and crisis management – speaking to members, destinations and the Foreign Office (FCO). Sustainable tourism is also a critical part of my role, which includes looking at environmental issues, human rights, the modern slavery act, accessibility, child safeguarding and animal welfare.
I travel a lot with my job, speaking at engagements, raising the profile of sustainability or meeting ministers on operational challenges. I feed back information from our members about challenges they are facing. Our peak season is out-of-season, working in preparation for future challenges that may arise in destinations.
The hurricanes in the Caribbean last year are a good example. Having worked with Members and the FCO on the immediate situation we then, in the aftermath, liaised with the Caribbean Tourism Organization, FCO and people in the region to help with longer-term planning and getting back into the destination. It’s our role to reach out through those stakeholders. We need to be able to give members credible information to help them make decisions about returning to destinations, as there is a lot of misinformation at the time of crisis. Where there are gaps, we push hard to get that information on behalf of the industry. Many destinations get back on their feet very quickly; they are very good at recovery, and you wouldn’t want to exclude them as they need a boost at that point.
Then there’s the matter of ‘overtourism’, although I don’t personally like that term, as it oversimplifies such a big issue. So much of it comes down to integrated destination planning. For one area, there might be too much tourism at one point, but another part might not have the tourism they need. It’s about looking at the much bigger picture, and looking at the individual destinations or resorts and the challenges they face there. More focus on the supporting infrastructure for locals and tourists is needed in many places.
We also work very closely with our Members on health and safety matters, reviewing the incidents and evidence on an ongoing basis and exploring solutions to emerging issues. In some cases we decide to run public information campaigns to make customers aware of important information and any potential risks, such as balconies, quad bikes and mopeds and how to stay safe in the water.
It’s very important that the travel industry is constantly looking ahead, and putting steps in place to make sure we’re leading the debate and working on emerging issues. When we launched our guidance on animal welfare back in 2013, there wasn’t anything like it out there. It’s been a very important source of information for our Members and the wider industry. Members raise issues, and customers bring issues up and then we’ll find a relevant NGO or charity, and look at academic work, to keep our thinking up to date.
My team is also developing training to help our Members’ staff develop their skills and understanding of particular areas. So far this year we have launched a new module that helps frontline staff talk to their customers about the availability of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice, and we’ve updated our training on accessibility. Members can access this training at abta.com.
No two days are the same, so I’m always ready for something new crossing my desk.