A call for responsible tourism and travel to achieve net zero emissions

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By Travis Pittman, co-founder and CEO of Tour Radar.

Travel can have a unique impact on people’s lives. Not only does it have the power to change people’s minds, lifestyles and values, but it can also benefit communities by strengthening their local economies and creating jobs.

Meeting local tourism leaders, whether hoteliers or rickshaw drivers, strengthens cultural connections. Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat or trying certain foods in their hometown makes for a life-enriching experience.

But as life-changing travel can be, and as important as it is to us in the industry, we must be careful not to champion responsible travel for the sake of the planet.

Contents

Today’s globalized reality: responsible tourism and travel

Most of us in the industry are familiar with the overarching goal of the Paris Agreement: to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Headlines like “Travel rises to pre-pandemic levels” should worry us all as we need to act immediately so we are not going down the same path we did in 2019 when overtourism was commonplace.

We live in a globalized world, with highly complex cross-sectoral connections between all industries and the 8 billion people on the planet. People are used to travel, whether for business or leisure, and changing the way we travel and its impact on wildlife and the environment doesn’t happen overnight. We have to realize that people don’t stop traveling and they don’t stop flying.

Still, we need to look at the impact of travel so that we can have a brighter, greener and more sustainable future for the industry we all love, creating an industry that thrives and breaks revenue numbers but no carbon emissions numbers. This is actually possible, based on the latter Tourism in 2030 and beyond report.

The report outlines how the industry can do things like focus on short-haul customers, recognize that some destinations are more ready for sustainable tourism than others, and adopt and promote greener forms of transportation.

We can also help raise awareness about climate change and its irreversible effects. More and more travelers demand sustainable, responsible travel options. Electric cars are becoming the norm and people are opting for the train or bus to get around. More hoteliers are ditching plastic for sustainable alternatives, and most importantly, innovative CO2 removal solutions are becoming more widely available.

Collective Efforts: Coming Together in the Tourism Industry

The Tourism in 2030 and beyond report is a call to the entire tourism industry coordinate our efforts. I believe that as an industry we need to work together to decarbonise our operations and educate customers about more sustainable ways to travel and their carbon footprint.

We can leverage pre-existing data technologies to identify market gaps, manage crowds by analyzing high-traffic areas, and guide much-needed investments.

We need to collectively invest in hybrid and technology-based carbon removal solutions as they have a long-term effect and are capable of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for decades to come. The last IPCC report argues that CO2 reduction alone will not be enough to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and must go hand in hand with carbon dioxide removal (CDR) solutions. We must reduce emissions from our activities as much as possible and invest in permanent CDR solutions.

Together with partners, you can help promote multi-level partnerships and define strategies for collective climate action. Ultimately in accordance with the Glasgow Declarationyour goal should be to accelerate low carbon industry and reach net zero before 2050. By doing so, you can be a part of enriching the world and the lives of everyone in it, one organized adventure at a time.

Next steps: carbon labeling and emissions

I believe carbon labeling will play an even bigger role in accelerating our industry’s decarbonization process and educating our customers. Currently, our industry does not have a centralized, standardized hub, tool or guidelines to measure or report carbon emissions.

I believe that by collecting available data on carbon emissions in the tourism sector, we can build an impact measurement tool (IMT) that can provide a simple and centralized means of carbon measurement for operators and their suppliers. This is a tool that my company is actively working on with other partners.

The IMT would have two main goals: to measure and identify the carbon footprint of every organized tourism trip and to create positive stories about sustainability.

The first is based on the need to reduce the carbon footprint of travel. By knowing the most polluting aspects, we can work with operators on low-carbon solutions and demand investments in more sustainable options.

The second part of the tool can focus on the analysis of organized travel routes to highlight the positive impact of travel on destinations. Collecting and organizing this kind of data allows us to highlight economic and social benefits, such as how much money remains in local communities to create new jobs and opportunities. Ultimately, accelerating the development of sustainable tourism practices benefits not only businesses, but also local communities.

I believe that working on and investing in carbon measurement tools is a necessary step towards decarbonising our industry. It can help us focus on current issues that need improvement and change people’s mindsets towards more sustainable, low-carbon travel options.


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