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Travel companies can make a difference

If you're running a travel business, scarce water resources or declining fish stocks are something other people should be tackling, right? Well actually no; it's not that simple, and you can make a difference.  I spent Monday this week at the Travel Foundation's AGM. Last year the subject at this charity's AGM was water shortages and I turned up thinking it would all be theoretical and too abstract to provide useful advice for clients. But I was wrong. It proved to be a powerful session on how travel organisations have a real role to play.

Monday's event was a similar eye-opener. The depletion of resources in the oceans was described as the largest global catastrophe after climate change. David Bright from Oxfam  talked eloquently about how we are moving from a period of abundance to one of scarcity. Maps showing declining fish stocks over the decades caused a collective gasp of astonishment from the audience. A grim-faced buyer for Walmart, speaking on video said, in the future, if he wants to buy an additonal million fish it's going to be hard to find suppliers.

At the same time, hundreds of millions of people around the world rely on fish as their main source of protein - one in five people in Africa alone. So what's this got to do with the travel industry? Well hotels, restaurants, airlines and ships are all serving fish and could make a start by making sure they don't serve any fish on the global "red lists" of endangered fish stocks.

Virgin Holidays is doing some great preliminary work in Tobago with The Travel Foundation to raise holidaymakers' awareness of this issue. Working with a local NGO, they have prepared a simple guide to endangered fish which diners can use in restaurants.

Big travel businesses were urged to look closely at their supply chain and understand where their fish comes from, to make sure it's not contributing to overfishing. Tony Middleton of the Marine Stewardship Council said "don't be overwhelmed by the problem, but be aware of it, and do what you can".

To find out more watch the new film which has been described as the marine version of The Inconvenient Truth. Then ask questions so you know what you're buying and eating. "where did this fish come from?"

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