TUI PLC UK & Ireland’s Thomsons and First Choice holiday representatives in the resort of Hisarönü, Olüdeniz have been raising awareness for the environment by collecting roadside litter while also supporting the locally registered children’s charity (Fethiye International Group) FIG.

They also organised an evening charity event at “The Talk of the Town” last Friday attended by more than 70 guests. So far they have raised more than 4,000TRY for FIG.

Susan Tekin, chairman and founder of FIG said, “We are very grateful to First choice and Thomsons’ representatives and guests for their support and generosity. The amount that has been raised will be of great help to the children and families we assist.”

By walking along the mountain road that links the bustling resort of Hisarönü to the sleepy, historic village of Kayakoy a group of reps and tourists collected more than 100 bags of rubbish. “A huge amount of rubbish has been collected by the municipality’s garbage disposal truck. It was great to be involved, get some exercise and raise some money for FIG. Everyone has really enjoyed doing this,” said smiling TUI UK employee, Recep.

“The Talk of the Town” in Hisarönü, managed by Volkan Zengin is and English style venue with trestle tables, popular with tourists. On Friday night all the staff and performers offered their time and energy in support of FIG. Zengin explained his philosophy. “We think it’s really important to do our best to help our community and a night like this means that we can do something for charity and have entertainment at the same time. We are really pleased to be able to do this with TUI for FIG. Other local businesses are doing what they can too – according to their means. It isn’t always easy as the economy and competition is tough but we do what we can.”

The evening got under way with a surprise visit from Elvis (aka Paul Lebbink from the Flying Dutchman in Olüdeniz.) His pelvic thrusts and true old groaner style soon got the audience singing along to some of Elvis’ most famous hits. Vicky was happy to see him there. “He always likes to help at these events.”

MC and singer, Kieran Whitley confirms that he and the other performers, Ada James, Gavinya Edwards and Rusty, collectively known as the “Diamond Divas” a quintessentially English “drag” entertainment, find the whole evening a very positive experience. “It adds another, higher level to the occasion when we are doing something like this for charity.”

This local initiative, also supported by the Olüdeniz municipality and Talk of the Town managers, was organised by Resort Team manager Vicky Erdoğan, employed by Thomsons and First Choice, part of the tourism giant TUI, which also has a sophisticated sustainability programme of its own.

Vicky explained, “ I and the people I work with think it’s important to put something back into the community and this is a fun way of doing it. Of course it takes a lot of organisation but that pays off when we see how successful it has been. We try to support different organisations and charities each year. It’s very enjoyable overall.” She hopes that other tour operators and businesses will follow their example.

The holidaymakers who travel to Turkey with TUI companies were full of encouragement for their reps resourcefulness. “Val and Peter from Kent (UK) have seen TUIs commitment to community projects and charities before. “We went to a similar fund-raising evening run by the TUI reps in Santorini, Greece, last year. It’s really nice to be part of it.”

TUI clearly outlines its policy when it comes to its responsibility towards resorts. “TUI PLC UK & Ireland, (parent company of Thomson and First Choice) recognizes that the environment, communities and cultures within which we operate are vital to the success of our business. We aim to provide holidays that cause minimal environmental impact, respect the culture and people of destinations and offer real economic benefit to local communities.”

TUIs sustainability managers have instigated training programmes for their staff at the resorts. “Helping the local communities and people in the destinations it operates – TUI UK & Ireland recognises that it shares its responsibility with local governments, hoteliers and excursion providers for protecting the environment and supporting the communities in its destinations. During 2009, its resort team managers were given responsibility for promoting sustainable excursions and hotels, implementing guidelines in destination offices and ensuring it provides sustainable tourism training to all overseas teams.” The team led by Vicky has certainly taken this message to heart.

TUI Travel are involved in hundreds of projects all designed to improve livelihoods of local people. In addition, their Group Sustainable Development Survey indicated that last year 87% of their businesses support charitable programmes, the majority in tourist destinations.

Mike Brauner, from TUIs European sustainable development headquarters in Germany clarifies, “Our colleagues have a history of supporting local charities and community organisations in destinations. We have developed a group-wide charity policy and guidelines to ensure transparency in our charitable activities and to enable us to report annually on TUI Travel’s charitable giving. The guidelines are designed to help our businesses identify a charity partner and manage the relationship to bring the greatest benefits to both the charity and our business.”

This kind of scheme, whether organized by the resort managers or their head offices in Europe are just the sort of imaginative projects that are needed to stimulate a healthier relationship between local populations and the tourism industry. It is to be hoped that this interactive and positive contribution to the areas from which so much of their business is derived, will in the near future become the rule rather than the exception throughout the tourism sector. It is an idea from which all can benefit.