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The World’s First Fair Trade Holiday

Kuoni’s revolutionary concept breaks new ground

Kuoni recently started offering a very special tour through South Africa. And what makes it so special? Every single service provider involved in the holiday is committed to Fair Trade standards. The Swiss travel company has launched this pilot project to appeal to the increasing number of people who are concerned about responsible consumption and who want to extend this commitment to their holidays.

We have all got used to seeing the Fair Trade label on all manner of products as we go round the supermarket: chocolate, coffee, bananas – everything seems to be available in Fair Trade versions these days. But a whole holiday? Sixteen days along the garden route through South Africa? Yes indeed, because this is precisely what Kuoni has identified as the logical next step in the vital shift towards more sustainable, more responsible tourism.

The tour of South Africa by rental car is being offered as part of Kuoni’s ananea programme. With daily departures available since 1 November 2010, the holiday is the result of a complex planning and development process. In the tourist industry, as in the food and clothing industries, companies have, of course, been making successful efforts to apply fair standards for a long time already, and South Africa has often led the way in these efforts. Since 2003, several of its lodges have been accredited by the non-profit organisation Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA). So far though, accreditation has gone mainly to the providers at the destinations, such as hotels and restaurants. Kuoni’s new idea, which could be a foretaste of the future of travel, is to ensure that all the links in the chain of providers – from Kuoni, to the local travel agent, to the local hotels and excursion organizers – are selected according to strict Fair Trade criteria and assessed for social and environmental sustainability.

Several organisations, including Kuoni, worked on the pilot project. For the first time ever the entire value chain of a travel package has been tested against the product standards and certification processes of the Fair Trade Labelling Organization International (FLO), and been rewarded with the new FTT (Fair Trade Travel) logo.
Kuoni itself was also given the FTT logo, which obliges it not only to practise responsible management within its own operations, but also to pay its business partners fair prices, cover the costs of providers in South Africa, facilitate environmental measures and pay a living wage to employees. Stefan Leser, CEO of Kuoni Switzerland, emphasises how significant the project is: “When talking to our customers, we are increasingly finding that social and environmental criteria play an important role in their holiday choices. So for the first time, various partners from different countries have worked together to promote Fair Trade in tourism and launch the first holiday that is certified from start to finish under Fair Trade standards. We’re proud to be part of this world’s first, and we’re confident that it will meet the requirements of Swiss holiday makers.”

There is no doubt that people are becoming more and more conscious of the consequences of their actions, and that they are changing their consumption patterns accordingly. Kuoni’s Holiday Report 2010 shows that 48 % of Swiss travellers would be keener to fly off on holiday if they knew their trip was ethically and environmentally sound.

But the same applies to travelling as to chocolate: if people want to feel good about doing the right thing, they have to pay a little more – in the travel market probably around 5 % more for each holiday. In the case of the South African tour, this Fair Trade premium is being used to fund sustainability projects in South Africa: the money raised is managed by an independent local committee. Holidays that adhere fully to Fair Trade standards clearly aren’t going to conquer the mass market in the near future, not least because of the added expense. But with its ambitious new project Kuoni has unlocked a door that will hopefully open wider over time. And from what we have seen through the door so far, we can be quite confident that this will become a vital trend in the travel industry in the decades to come.