Is travel failing to take sustainability seriously?

Panel argues that some parts of the industry need to catch up
Aviation might be taking its sustainable responsibilities seriously, but other parts of the travel industry need to catch up, TTG Digital reports panelists at a recent industry conference as saying.
Aviation, which accounts for around a third of the industry’s business, has been working hard to cut emissions, said World Travel & Tourism Council president and chief executive David Scowsill at a World Routes 2016 Tourism Summit panel session. But other parts of the industry, like hotels, must speed up the process to keep consumers on board.
“The global travel industry is not struggling, but what we have to prepare now for is the future,” he said. “When we look at our industry there are three issues for the next 10 years.”
These include ensuring there is proper destination engagement to make sure everyone benefits from tourist activity, as well as preparing for the disruption of natural disasters or terrorist activity.
But he also put climate change at the top of the list, adding that aviation is already committing to cutting emissions. He argued that other parts of the industry could suffer financially as they are slower to implement changes.
He cited the example of a hotel chain that could find itself losing valuable MICE contracts unless it has proper environmental policies in place.
“The UN has declared 2017 as the year of sustainable tourism. Has the world finally woken up?” Scowsill asked. “Hotels will change with consumer demand. Moving the agenda will be so important. The cruise industry is very focused on this and new-builds are very sustainable. There is no hotel global association so we have to drive this forward. The year of sustainable tourism will get everyone focused.”
However, Dr Adam Wu, chief executive of CBN Travel & MICE and World Travel Online, argued that compared to many other industries travel and tourism has a relatively light impact on the environment. In particular he said the process of industrialisation, which China is going through now, has been more harmful for the environment than travel and tourism.
He also argued that travel helps build bridges between people and can help break down barriers, so preventing wars which can be far more harmful to the environment.
“I look to the Ying and Yang philosophy. You can look at the negatives of tourism but also the positive. We don’t want to stop travelling. I am for sustainability but what is causing major damage is war and industrialisiation,” he said. “We should worry about sustainability, but if tourism is helping to prevent another war we are on the winning side.”
Meanwhile, both Tourism Australia managing director John O’Sullivan and Jamaica tourism minister Edmund Bartlett argued that most travel businesses instinctively know that protecting the environment is in their own interests.
TTG Digital

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