Book review. Tourism accommodation: Health & safety technical guide

25th October 2017 by admin

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According to the UN World Tourism Organization (2017) international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) in 2016  grew by 3.9% to reach a total of 1,235 million worldwide, an increase of 46 million over the previous year.

As one of the world’s largest industries, tourism has faced many challenges in recent years, including an increased focus on the health and safety of its customers. Emerging markets, such as the Chinese, rate safety and security as their most important factor when selecting a holiday destination (Tourism Australia, 2017).

Recognising the importance of leadership in this area ABTA have continued a proud tradition of industry collaboration working with the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) to produce a new and detailed set of health and safety guidelines. ABTA notes:

“With more people travelling overseas every year for business and leisure to a vast range of destinations, travellers’ expectations are that all accommodation and associated services, regardless of their destination of choice, should be safe. The safety and welfare of travellers, for holidays or business trips, should be a priority for travel providers, tourism accommodation providers and destination authorities”.

This July 2017 Technical Guide does an excellent job in assisting users to identify key safety components that should be considered within tourism accommodation planning and management. Organised over 18 sections the Guide begins with a general introduction to health and safety risk management, highlighting legal duties of care and broad management responsibilities, as well as the five steps in risk assessment and the importance of record keeping.

The Guide then covers the core areas of Fire Safety, Food Hygiene and Safety, and Pool Safety in a very detailed manner, including many colour photographs, charts and diagrams. It describes, for example, all the fire safety requirements for five separate building types, including alarms, firefighting equipment, signs and notices, emergency lighting and means of escape. There is also a detailed section on staff fire training and extensive checklists to support routine inspections and audits.

The Food Hygiene & Safety section is presented using the HACCP system (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) which promotes good food safety by identifying the potential hazards and risks from food and then applying and monitoring appropriate control measures at the points critical to safety. As the Guide notes, the law in many countries dictates that food businesses base their management on HACCP principles and HACCP is a requirement under EU legislation. Very detailed technical information is provided in the Guide from the point of purchase, through storage, preparation, hot and cold holding, display and service. Again, very detailed checklists and audit tools are provided for food safety.

The third ‘core’ area is that of Pool Safety, with later sections of the Guide providing separate advice on safe recreation in Water Parks, Beaches and Water Sports. As noted in the introduction to this section ‘the swimming pool is often one of the most important attractions for customers when they book their holiday. Whether it’s a fun filled activity pool for families or a luxurious relaxing spa pool, it is essential that the experience is not only enjoyable, but as safe as possible.’ This section covers various pool designs and features, depth markings and signage, customer information, emergency procedures, disinfection and maintenance, as well as a detailed coverage of children’s pools.

What is most notable about this 2017 Guide is the wide and comprehensive coverage of health and safety topics – a full section on Pest Control Management, especially bed bugs, which have recently re-emerged as a significant problem for hotels and accommodation providers (see review by Jarvis, 2009), as well as current issues like Fuel and Energy appliances, storage, ventilation, maintenance and servicing. Other contemporary issues include Security, Transportation, Prevention of Spread of Infection, Children’s Facilities and Natural Disasters.

Finally, the Guide’s section on Water Parks is particularly noteworthy given the worldwide popularity of these recreational facilities and the number of safety issues that need to be considered. For example, the Guide describes 10 distinct types of slides, as well as wave machines and lazy rivers – all with safety management considerations around the towers, stairways and ramps accessing slides, as well as the water plant and equipment. The topic of lifeguards is well covered and equally applicable to the other water-based settings described in the Guide.

Overall, this is an exceptionally well written and professionally presented manual. The sections are colour-coded for easy reference and readers are reminded in each section of the importance of compliance with local laws and regulations.

Increasingly, if disputes arise about tourist safety the courts are asking for advice on industry standards. The ABTA Tourism Accommodation Health and Safety Technical Guide 2017 is the current international benchmark on industry standards and should be an essential reference work in the offices of legal advisors, tourism authorities and accommodation managers.

Dr Jeff Wilks is a health psychologist and qualified lawyer.

He serves as an Adjunct Professor of Health at Griffith University,

Queensland, Australia

* Tourism Accommodation: Health & Safety Technical Guide (2017) is published by ABTA – The Travel Association, London, Hard Copy, A5, 266pp. It can be ordered from


Jarvis, RM. (2009). ‘Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite’: Hotel liability for an old scourge. Travel Law Quarterly, 213-219.

Tourism Australia. (2017). Consumer Profile China. Available at:

UN World Tourism Organization. (2017). UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2017 Edition. Available at:

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