Can Travel Curb Its Global Emissions and Create a Better Future?

If you’re a regular reader of AFAR, you know we’re dedicated to making travel a force for good in the world. Our tagline is “Travelers Who Care” and we are proud to talk to conscientious travelers about how they explore. An experience that personally enriches travelers, supports the communities they visit, and is sensitive to their impact on the planet.

I recently returned from my first visit to Saudi Arabia in 2019, which was only open to international travelers via tourist visas. There, he attended the World Travel & Tourism Council’s annual global summit. WTTC is a non-profit organization representing the travel industry and its members, and home to many of the industry’s largest CEOs, including Japan Airlines, Hilton, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Expedia, Intrepid and Airbnb, just to name a few. increase. The theme of this year’s summit was “Travel for a Better Future”. It was heartening to hear from the leaders of so many businesses his resolute determination to build something better.

Hearing it in an environment like the Kingdom’s capital Riyadh added a layer of purpose and complexity. We spend billions of dollars to ensure that we are environmentally positive, but we also face a history of human rights violations. Can the travel industry, like the WTTC organizers, overcome the past and create a better future?

According to WTTC, the industry is directly responsible for over 10% of global GDP and over 10% of global employment. Previously, the industry was thought to account for a similar share of global emissions, but a new Environmental and Social Research study from the WTTC found that the sector accounted for 8.1% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. is occupied. The company’s research found that the industry he said increased global GDP by 4.3% annually from 2010 to 2019, but its environmental impact “only” increased by 2.4% annually.

Can the travel industry, like the WTTC organizers, overcome the past and create a better future?

Thankfully, speaker after speaker recognized that the industry cannot continue to increase its emissions, even at a slower rate than its growth rate. The travel company said in 2019 he pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050. Calls for urgent planning and action have been heard not only by industry watchdogs, but also by Anthony Capuano, his CEO at Marriott, who heads the world’s largest hotel brand with more than 8,000 properties and his 1.4 million rooms. also received from the leader of “Our employees demand it, our investors demand it, our customers demand it,” he stressed at the summit’s opening panel.

What would happen without real change in the industry? A very real and negative impact on the social, cultural and natural well-being of the communities the travelers go to. CEOs also recognize that if their carbon footprint continues to rise, businesses may be scaled back, if not completely closed.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, has urged all governments and businesses to make plans now to reduce their carbon footprint. He believes that doing the work to pave the way forward will make them more determined to uncover the benefits of such changes and take the necessary actions.

Sachs called on the industry to continue to protect the best parts of each destination and continue to inspire people to travel. A united people increases cultural understanding and reduces the likelihood of war. This is the most destructive thing we can do. And it enables cooperation to overcome common challenges.

Over the past two years, there have been many constructive steps taken across the industry. The aviation industry is moving to more fuel efficient aircraft and accelerating the transition to sustainable fuels. The hotel industry is focused on reducing food and other waste and supporting local communities through local employment. The cruise industry is also exploring hybrid ships and ways to reduce the footprint from port to port. These are just some of the many steps. But we need more.

What would happen without real change in the industry? A very real and negative impact on the social, cultural and natural well-being of the communities the travelers go to.

The holding of the conference in Saudi Arabia is noteworthy. The Saudi government has pledged to increase the number of international tourists from about 20 million a year (mostly Muslims traveling from Hajj to Mecca) to more than 100 million a year. The government has embarked on a number of “giga projects,” including the construction of tens of thousands of new hotel rooms and efforts to make some of Saudi Arabia’s natural and historic features more accessible.

So much construction and a staggering increase in visitor numbers may seem unsustainable at first glance, but His Excellency Ahmed Al-Kateeb, the Kingdom’s first Minister of Tourism, has made sustainability front and center. I made a public declaration of my determination to embark on this initiative. For example, his 11,000-square-mile Red Sea project, a development of Saudi Arabia’s west coast that includes 90 islands and inland dunes, targets one million visitors per year. The project will run primarily on solar power backed by biofuel-powered generators. Its promise is a commitment to renewable and responsible development, tracking sea temperatures and cataloging marine life, and increasing numbers beyond the beginning of the project.

Some people may be skeptical about this, but I have met and talked with the leaders of several large projects, and they have made their projects environmentally and socially positive. We’ve consistently heard that people spend hundreds of millions of dollars to get us where we need to be. But I was greatly encouraged by the fact that those words came from so many leaders and were conveyed with such conviction to those who were trying to hold them accountable. It was better than Converse.

AFAR encourages customers to travel conscientiously with ongoing coverage and conversations about industry insiders who support their communities and maintain a smaller footprint, such as 2022 Vanguard winners. I promise. We also aim to hold the industry and participants accountable by pointing out where we all fall short. We believe in the positive effects of travel.

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