As the world reopens after COVID, more and more of us are flying to distant destinations. And, as global floods, wildfires and droughts intensify due to climate change, sustainable travel is finally going mainstream.
According to new data from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the industry’s eco-responsible efforts are paying off.
The findings reveal how the travel sector was responsible for 8.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, down from previous estimates of 11%.
The report shows that between 2010 and 2019, the industry’s gross domestic product grew by an average of 4.3% per year, while its environmental footprint increased by 2.4%.
Announcing the findings on the second day of the WTTC Global Summit, its President and Chief Executive Julia Simpson said the “groundbreaking” report will enable the industry to measure and track the sector’s climate footprint.
“Until now, we didn’t have an industry-wide way to accurately measure our climate footprint. This data will provide governments with the detailed information they need to make progress against the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” she said.
“8.1% is the challenge on the ground. The key is to become more efficient and decouple the rate at which we grow from the amount of energy we consume. Starting today, every decision, every change will lead to a better and brighter future for everyone.
What is the cruise industry doing to become more sustainable?
For Cruise Lines International Association President and CEO Kelly Craighead, the cruise industry is also making great strides in the journey towards sustainable travel.
Speaking to Euronews Travel in Riyadh, Craighead said: “The path to net zero carbon cruising is a path that was started years ago.
“So some of the things the cruise industry is doing to achieve these lofty goals are rebuilding or retrofitting older ships to be able to take some of these new sustainable fuels, but also new builds that are coming out.
“Nearly 60% of all new ships coming out in the next five years are all capable of using sustainable and sustainable fuels. LNG, biofuels, synthetic fuels.
Global Recovery and Efforts in Ukraine
As well as celebrating the drop in greenhouse gas emissions, industry executives talked about the growth of tourism around the world, predicting that demand would continue to outstrip supply, despite fears of recession.
“Travel and tourism generated around $9.6 trillion (9.2 trillion euros) globally,” Simpson says, adding that by the end of this year it will be back to around $8.5 trillion. dollars. “You could say there’s still a big trillion dollar deficit, but a lot of that is coming from China, which hasn’t reopened yet.”
The chairman and CEO of the French multinational hotel company Accor, Sébastien Basa, is also benefiting from the upsurge in travel.
“Business is very strong,” he says. “The recovery has been faster than I expected and it’s looking pretty good for the first half of 2023.
“With the notable exception of China and Southeast Asia, Europe is very strong, the Middle East is on fire. South America is better than I ever imagined.
The war in Ukraine has seen the industry come together to support hospitality colleagues and refugees in every way possible.
“Our members in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors have done a great job,” says Simpson.
“They kept hotels open in Kyiv, they opened the doors of their hotels to refugees in border countries like Poland.
“Our travel and tourism sector is trying to do what it can and we will also be there to help rebuild Ukraine.”
Basa is also passionate about helping his Ukrainian colleagues.
“Accor is Ukraine’s largest hotel operator,” he says. “We have 4,000 people there and we offer them jobs in the other Accor hotels. So it’s very close to me and I hope it will end soon.
The future of virtual travel
For its 22nd edition, Saudi Arabia has invited the world to attend the WTTC event virtually via the metaverse, an example of its pioneering three-year digital tourism strategy.
And it’s not the first time the country has embraced virtual reality.
Earlier this month, the Saudi town of AlUla became the first-ever Unesco World Heritage site to be recreated in the virtual world, with Lihyan’s Hegra tomb open to visitors in Decentraland, a platform virtual form powered by Ethereum, marking a new era of futuristic travel.
“AlUla entered the metaverse with a very early example of what can be achieved in this virtual world, and we will look to continue exploring and leveraging this space in the future,” said Philip Jones, Chief Marketing Officer of AlUla.
“Technology is a fantastic way to engage travelers to excite and engage them with the destination and push them further down the path to conversion.”
The development is just the latest in a series of openings and attractions to pique travellers’ interest, catapulting the ancient landscape into the 21st century.
Now the sandswept dunes and historic dwellings have been brought back to life as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 tourism strategy, with developments including sustainable five-star hotels, world-class events and an airport international offering direct flights from Paris, Dubai, Cairo and Jordan.
“We are on track to meet targets of over 240,000 visitors per year and work towards our target of two million per year by 2035 in line with destination growth,” Jones said.
“This will create around 38,000 jobs and SR120 billion (€309 billion) in economic impact for AlUla.”
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