– Substantial industry-wide and government investment, shifts in modes of transport, and support for vulnerable destinations are all urgently required to achieve net zero by 2050.
– Additional measures must be applied immediately to prevent further escalation of emissions and to come even close to halving them by the end of this decade.
– One year on from the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, this vital independent study urges the sector to accelerate steps to adapt and innovate for a decarbonising world.
Instead, global policymakers and climate planners attending COP27 are urged to combine all those measures with significant investments and incentives for bringing forth the greenest forms of transport, and limits on the most polluting. This is the only scenario that can provide comparable levels of revenue and opportunities to travel in a decarbonising world.
These are the findings from a soon-to-be-released report, Envisioning Tourism in 2030, published by the Travel Foundation in collaboration with CELTH, Breda University of Applied Sciences, the European Tourism Futures Institute, and the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, and with additional input and perspectives from a broad range of businesses, tourism destinations and other stakeholders across the world. They conclude that destinations and tourism businesses must take action now to identify new opportunities and build resilience to changes in visitor patterns, potential new restrictions and regulation, and the worsening impacts of climate change.
The team behind the report have used a sophisticated ‘systems modelling’ technique to explore future scenarios for global travel and tourism. They found only one decarbonisation scenario that could match current growth forecasts and so double revenue and trips in 2050 from 2019 levels. This scenario is achieved through trillion-dollar investments in all available decarbonisation measures and by prioritising trips which can reduce emissions most readily – for instance those by road and rail, and shorter distances. Some limits must also be applied to aviation growth until it is fully able to decarbonise, in particular capping the longest-distance trips to 2019 levels. These made up just 2% of all trips in 2019 but are, by far, the most polluting. If left unchecked, they will quadruple by 2050, accounting for 41% of tourism’s total emissions (up from 19% in 2019) yet still just 4% of all trips.
The best-case scenario identified means the world can still travel and tourism can support the destinations and businesses that rely on it, avoiding COVID-like restrictions and regulations. Step out of this scenario and it will be much worse for the planet and tourism. The report emphasises the huge undertaking required to achieve this future, but show it is technically possible, if the will is there.
“It’s clear that business as usual for tourism is neither desirable nor viable,” said Menno Stokman, Director at the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH). “Climate impacts are already here, increasing in frequency and severity, with monumental costs for humanity and the environment that affect tourism more than most other sectors. Current decarbonisation strategies will reach net zero far too late. So we must reshape the system. From a climate perspective, once we reach net zero we can travel as much as we like. Shifts in investment will get us there within a decade for shorter-distance trips. But for long-haul we need more time, and we should take this into account as tourism plans its future.”
A global coordinated response also needs to address the existing inequity within the tourism system. Many countries, particularly those in the Global South, have yet to fully develop their tourism economies and will have fewer resources to invest in green infrastructure. And some destinations, such as island nations, which are both more susceptible to the impacts of climate change and most dependent on tourism and long-haul visitors, must be the first to be supported.
“As always, the risk is that the most vulnerable people and nations, those that did the least to cause climate change in the first place, will lose out,” said Jeremy Sampson, CEO of the Travel Foundation. “We urge governments at COP and beyond to coordinate globally and consider what is fair in terms of who pays for this huge investment, and what is equitable in terms of optimising global travel distribution. We must not exacerbate the existing system, which often fails to yield fair outcomes for host communities. Instead, tourism’s coming transformation is the sector’s opportunity to make good on its promise to be a catalyst for positive change once and for all.”
The Envision Tourism in 2030 recommendations aims to support the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, a UN-led initiative supporting the Paris Agreement goals, and which the Travel Foundation helps implement. Intrepid Travel was among the first signatories when it launched last year at COP 26 and, alongside Destination Vancouver, Visit Barbados and the Netherlands Tourism Board, is sponsoring the report.
“This research clearly shows the need to plan now for a resilient low carbon tourism sector. We must recognise the future will be different from business as usual and that the climate crisis is not a competitive advantage,” said Dr Susanne Etti, Global Environmental Impact Manager at Intrepid Travel. “Tourism operators should unite behind the Glasgow Declaration to align, collaborate and accelerate collective action and innovation to decarbonise travel. Only then can our industry truly achieve its huge potential sustainable development,” Dr Etti added.
About the modelling
The report’s findings are based on a systems dynamics model of the global Travel and Tourism system. The scope is direct emissions from transport and accommodations, including all trips of at least one night away from home, for holiday/leisure, business, visiting friends and family, domestic and international, and by all modes of transport.
The project team sought tourism growth scenarios that would meet the Glasgow Declaration’s goals, supporting the global commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and reach Net Zero as soon as possible before 2050. They modelled what would happen if they increased a range of measures under 7 categories:
– Sustainable Aviation Fuel
– Electrification and efficiency
– Infrastructure improvements
– Taxes and subsidies
– Travel behaviour
About the Travel Foundation
The Travel Foundation is a leading global NGO that works in partnership with governments, businesses, and communities to develop and manage tourism in a way that maximizes the benefits for communities and the environment. Founded in 2003, it has since worked in over 30 countries around the world. It was part of the Glasgow Declaration drafting committee and is now an implementation partner, encouraging organisations to sign up, and providing support for climate planning and action.
About Breda University of Applied Sciences
Breda University of Applied Sciences (BUas) is a Dutch higher education institute. About 7,000 Dutch and international students from some 80 countries are studying at BUas. It is one of the world’s largest universities for applied sciences in the fields of tourism, leisure and hospitality.
About the European Tourism Futures Institute
The European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI) at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences is a leader in futures studies and scenario planning for the travel and tourism sector. Through applied and academic research, they support industry associations, government authorities and businesses with designing strategies, business models and concepts for the future. As a research institute at a university of applied sciences, ETFI provides a crucial link between research, education and industry practices.
The Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality (CELTH) is a knowledge centre set up by Breda University of Applied Sciences, NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences and HZ University of Applied Sciences. CELTH consists of a team of senior researchers, project managers and programme managers who are deeply involved with the domain of leisure, tourism and hospitality. CELTH aims to encourage public-private partnerships between universities of applied sciences and industry partners.
The Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions is the Netherlands’ national destination management organisation. NBTC works for and with partners in different industries on our country’s positioning, development and marketing. Together they work towards turning the Netherlands into a liveable, popular and valuable destination, for residents, visitors and businesses.
Intrepid Travel is a world leader in sustainable experience-rich travel that has been taking travellers to discover the world’s most amazing places for more than 30 years. The company’s mission is to create positive change through the joy of travel. The company offers more than 1,150 trips on every continent and every itinerary is designed to truly experience local culture. With its own network of destination management companies in 26 countries, Intrepid has unique local expertise and perspectives. Globally renowned as a leader in responsible travel, in 2018 the carbon-neutral business became the world’s largest travel company to be certified B-Corp. Intrepid Travel was the first global tour operator with verified science-based carbon reduction targets and its not-for-profit, The Intrepid Foundation, has raised more than $12 million for more than 130 charities around the world. For further information download the company’s 2021 Integrated Annual Report and follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn.
About the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism
The Glasgow Declaration was officially launched at COP26 and its implementation is being led by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), in collaboration with the Travel Foundation, and within the framework of the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme. More than 700 organisations, businesses and destinations have now signed the Declaration, with more joining every week.
The Glasgow Declaration aims to lead and align climate action across tourism stakeholders, including government and institutional agencies; donors and financial institutions; international organisations; civil society; the private sector; and academia. The Glasgow Declaration outlines the specific actions that will accelerate tourism’s ability to achieve net zero as soon as possible, and encourages signatories to demonstrate their support for scaling up the sector’s response to the climate emergency.