Appalled by the drastic reduction in international conservation holidays on offer from BTCV for this year, I decided to take direct action and write a reasoned accound of my views. If the response I get isn’t acceptable I will forward it to the chief executive…

Dear [name removed],

I understand that the reason why the number of BTCV International Holidays available this year is greatly diminished from usual is so that you can ‘focus on those projects we feel will benefit most’, however I have to say that you (as an organisation) have made a huge error in judgement.

I, and no doubt many other’s, would love to go to the further flung destinations like Ecuador and New Zealand and Africa, however whilst the cost of the holiday is still relatively cheap, the cost of air travel getting there is a lot more expensive. The silver-lining to this cloud has always been that there have been lots of equally new and exciting places to visit closer to home until such time as I can afford that big trip. These holidays are also, for many, there only foreign holiday, and so when a couple of years ago I was faced with the option of going to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, and Croatia – I in the end went for (a fantastic) holiday in Estonia, thinking that I could go to each of the other locations in future years. Now, it seems that even the extremely popular Estonia has gone along with all those others?!

Except they haven’t. If know where to look, and are sufficiently determined to find them, you can find out that the Hungary holiday that you used to run is available through the excellent responsibletravel.com site. If you know the local organisation involved then you can find out that Elfond are going to continue to organise their holidays in Estonia. However, I ask you this? If you have only ever done one holiday with BTCV, and really enjoyed it, do you not owe it to your customers and supporters to offer some continuity of service? Looking on your website now, you might think I’d love to go there, there and there, but I can’t afford it and that holiday which I can afford doesn’t look right for me. These people will go elsewhere and the chances are will be lost to BTCV forever.

Quite simply, even if you no longer take any active involvement in organising the holiday (because the host organisations have learnt enough, and got the administration in place to it themselves), why can you not act as a broker – a Gatekeeper for their holidays on your website. If you book via the website, it needn’t even cost you any money because the booking can be transferred straight through. The benefit for BTCV would be that people would make your site their first point of contact for holidays and may be tempted by one of your holidays that you are trying to push. And the more traffic you have on your website the more bookings you will get and the less cancellations you will have to make.

The only destination that you still run, that is still growing is Iceland. And yet if that was an Icelandic host organisation rather than BTCV, you would probably have said goodbye to it long ago just like you have to Elfond and others.

For far too long, it seems that BTCV have taken for granted the people who attend your holidays as volunteers who you can take for granted and mess about during the booking process (twice now my holidays have almost faced cancellation, were it not for one person booking within days of the cut-off point, and yet by the time the holidays run they have been fully booked). As an organisation, you have to find the funding to properly organise the holidays as the holidays that they are for the customers who go on them.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this very serious matter.

Many thanks,

~Thomas