A case for enlarging the small print

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The Independent Travel
THE HEFTY new Thomson Holidays brochure looks as if it must have cut a mighty swath through some Scandinavian forest. Yet within its pages is the latest manifestation of the company's new-found environmental concern. 'Caring for your holiday environment' is a small section given a prominent billing in the brochure, offering an eight-point guide to greener travel. It reminds prospective travellers not to litter, to save water and energy, to respect the peace and quiet of others, and so on.

And to cynics who doubt the environmental bona fides of a company that uses up so much glossy paper, Thomson points out that the paper used in its brochure is made from trees grown as 'a commercial renewable resource: for every tree felled at least two are planted to replace it'.

Cynics might also suggest that Thomson's conversion to the environmental cause goes no deeper than smart marketing. You tell people you are worried about environmental impact, and yet you keep sending them to landscape-disfiguring tower block hotels. While Thomson undoubtedly knows that green sells, there is more to it than that: Martin Brackenbury, a senior Thomson executive, has been actively promoting sensitive tourism within the travel industry.

Tour operators are having to learn to become more responsible - not just for the environment, but also for their customers. The EC Directive on Package Travel, which comes into force at the beginning of next year, sets out, for example, clear terms of responsibility on matters of safety. The tour operator will no longer be able to blame a hotel for a dangerous swimming pool.

However, last week's shooting of a tourist in Orlando highlights the fact that tour operators and travel agents have a moral as well as a legal responsibility to their clients. Holiday companies should warn travellers to Florida that muggings can happen, and that if armed robbers demand your wallet, you must hand it over quickly and without protest. What does a lost wallet compare with a lost life?

Health precautions are referred to only in passing by holiday companies. In the same Thomson World Wide brochure that promotes environmental concerns, advice on health matters is relegated to an obscure half-inch column on the inside back page.

Tour operators and travel agents should offer comprehensive warnings about the increasing dangers of malaria and the risks of contracting HIV in Africa. The operators are becoming more responsible, but they have some way to go.

No free transfers

ALAN F REEKIE of Brussels writes to clarify the situation concerning Paris Metro tickets (26 September). 'The Paris Metro - unlike London - has always operated a flat-fare policy with no routine ticket inspection at exits. Metro passengers transferring to and from suburban lines on which a zonal fare system applies must pass through automatic ticket inspection gates at the transfer point.

'And because, inevitably, some passengers arriving at these gates do not have the appropriate ticket for the journey they want to make, they should obtain a new one from the ticket office or ticket issuing machine.' And should not jump the barrier, adds Mr Reekie tartly.

Talking of underground railways, you can travel anywhere on the extensive Buenos Aires underground system for about 20p (the fare recently went up from 10p). Could this be the world's cheapest public transport system?

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