11 Jul

Been there, done that…didn’t buy the T-shirt

Buy souvenirs which benefit you, local people and the environment say industry bodies

The Travel Foundation and ABTA – The Travel Association have revealed the findings of their Holiday Shopping Report, to coincide with Make Holidays Greener Month www.makeholidaysgreener.org.uk. The findings revealed that British holidaymakers could be unwittingly spending up to 10 per cent of their total holiday budget on souvenirs that are illegal, environmentally-damaging or destined to end up in the bin.

With more than two-thirds of Brits admitting that shopping is one of the highlights of their holiday, the organisations are urging holidaymakers to choose souvenirs that support destination communities, reduce negative impacts on the environment and are likely to be enjoyed and valued for longer when they get home (see appendix for tips on what to bring home).

Legal Confusion

The report shows there is confusion amongst holidaymakers about what is illegal to bring home and what is OK. 

Despite an international ban dating back to 1990, 11 per cent of respondents thought they could bring ivory home from holiday from some or all countries and didn’t know whether or not they would be breaking the law.

Some may also be at risk of prosecution when they return to the UK through importing souvenirs made from endangered species.

Almost a third (29 per cent) of respondents thought that bringing religious artefacts (objects with a special religious significance) home from holiday was illegal from some or all countries, although that’s not the case (holidaymakers are however advised to establish whether these have been sourced legally). A further 17 per cent thought the same of wood carvings and 16 per cent believed that of leather goods.

Another 15 per cent admitted they had brought a shell or piece of coral back with them yet a third of these are either no longer displayed or had been binned. Coral and certain shells require a permit to be brought into the UK and marine ecosystems are threatened when they are harvested for souvenirs.

Popular Buys

The most popular holiday souvenir by far is the t-shirt, with more than half of all Brits admitting that they’ve brought one back from their travels. Yet, only a handful of holidaymakers admit to ever wearing them when they get back home. Along with fake designer goods, they top the list of holiday memorabilia most likely to be discarded or binned within weeks of return.

Buying Local

The Holiday Shopping Report revealed that almost three-quarters of people (74 per cent) enjoy buying from local markets, craftspeople and small shops to experience culture and buy unusual souvenirs.  This in turn benefits the local economy. Local produce, such as olive oil, ornaments, handicrafts and jewellery are the most well-used post-holiday souvenirs, representing good buys.

But although people like to buy souvenir items from independent retailers, only half check whether what they are buying is made locally. If the remainder did so, they may find that their ‘local souvenir’ was mass-produced and imported from the other side of the world. Additionally, while many Brits have good intentions to buy locally, a third of holidaymakers buy their gifts at the airport, suggesting that their good intentions may not always translate into actions.

Nikki White, Head of Destinations and Sustainability, ABTA said: “There is a lot of confusion that exists around what is illegal and what is not – or what sort of things it is not helpful to bring back such as bits of coral. We want to shed some light on that so holidaymakers can choose the right souvenirs and also avoid the risk of prosecution. The research shows that people are more likely to use or keep locally-crafted souvenirs for longer.  They are not only better for the environment but also a better buy.  The average spend on souvenirs is significant, so buy sensibly and locally - it’s both better for you and for local people and their environment.”

Sue Hurdle, Chief Executive of the Travel Foundation, said: “It’s in everybody’s interests to support the local economy in holiday destinations, as well as protecting the environment. Having diverse, beautiful and welcoming places to visit is what makes a holiday fun and memorable for so many of us, and considering what to buy is one simple way to play your part in protecting them.

“For those heading away on their summer holiday this year; look out for quality crafts, check to see where the item is made and what it’s made from - ask the stallholder or shop owner if there isn’t a label. Think about things you can imagine looking at or using when you get back home....local art which can be framed, rugs or hand-crafted jewellery - and don’t forget to enjoy the experience!”

The Holiday Shopping Report has been launched to coincide with Make Holidays Greener Month which highlights the simple things people can do on holiday which can make a difference to both local people and their own experience.


For further information

Graeme Jackson, the Travel Foundation, T: +44 (0)117 930 7170 graeme.jackson@thetravelfoundation.org.uk
Gillian Edwards, ABTA, T: +44 (0)20 3117 0514 gedwards@abta.co.uk
Rachel O'Reilly, PR Consultant, T: +44 (0)7866 427870 rachel@rorcomms.co.uk

Summer 2012 Best buys

Handcrafted jewellery – There are some very on-trend items available this summer, particularly in West African countries like the Gambia. Look out for items made from recycled materials and sourced directly from craftspeople.

Oil & vine – look out for small producers who make wines, oils or vinegars, and many other fantastic gifts. Not only will you be supporting the local community, but you’ll get a true taste of the country you just won’t get in your local supermarket.

Art & crafts – wood carvings, traditional paintings and handicrafts all make great keepsakes and gifts. Make sure you avoid goods are made from protected species (e.g. tropical hardwoods) and think about what they will look like on display when you get home.

Summer 2012 Buy nots

Ivory goods – International trade in ivory is illegal but unfortunately is a growing problem. Goods often for sale in many parts of Africa and Asia.

Sea Turtle shell products – Often made into jewellery and sold on beaches throughout the Caribbean and other tropical beach resorts.

T-shirts – These are often imported and will not offer a significant benefit to the local economy. If you do but a T shirt, choose one you will wear often, preferably made from organic cotton and the sale of which will benefit a local cause.  Available worldwide.

Plastic goods (e.g. key-rings, badges, snow-domes) – plastics take millions of years to break down and are a threat to our entire ecosystem. Plus, most plastic souvenirs aren’t even manufactured locally, but imported from factories elsewhere. Available worldwide.

Savvy souvenir shopping tips

Shop local –seek out the local producers and artisans at markets, villages or even road-side stalls. Many tour operators offer excursions to meet them and see how their goods are made.

Haggle fair –Haggling can be fun and part of the culture but just remember, a few pence to us can mean a lot to someone in a destination, so only ‘bid to buy’ and think carefully about how much you want the item and would be prepared to pay for it at home.

Be informed – don’t be afraid to ask questions about where, how and by whom an item was made.

Research for the Holiday Shopping Report was conducted by Explore Research on behalf of ABTA – The Travel Association and The Travel Foundation. 1,000 UK holidaymakers were surveyed by Explore Research in June 2012.

The Travel Foundation

An independent UK charity, the Travel Foundation funds and manages over 30 projects in 16 destinations around the world, showcasing best practice in efforts which improve the well-being of destination communities, protect the environment, and enrich the tourism experience, now and into the future.


Make Holidays Greener Month – July 2012

The month is organised by the Travel Foundation and supported by ABTA, as well as tour operators and travel agents, including Thomas Cook, TUI UK & Ireland and Cosmos Holidays. Throughout July, a daily Make Holidays Greener tip will be posted on the website: www.makeholidaysgreener.org.uk