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Keep Traveling, but Travel Responsibly

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It’s no secret that the tourism industry contributes its share to the increase of greenhouse gases that warm the climate and in turn leave destinations increasingly vulnerable. Still, tourism and travel play a vital role in driving economic growth and development around the globe. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), travel and tourism are responsible for one of every five new jobs worldwide and will generate 100 million new jobs worldwide over the next 10 years. Travel also shows no sign of slowing down, with growth projections predicting a continued global travel boom. Travel and tourism serve as drivers in critical conservation efforts as well, with their power to educate travelers about environmental challenges, regional vulnerabilities, and needed change. 

Clearly, travel is here to stay. Just as clearly, travel companies, tour operators and individuals need new approaches to traveling responsibly.

A panel of travel industry leaders fielded questions from attendees at the AdventureConnect in Washington, D.C.

This was the theme of the AdventureConnect event held on 30 October 2019, co-hosted  by The George Washington University’s International Institute of Tourism Studies and the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). The event, held at George Washington University, brought together adventure travel industry leaders, educators and students to discuss the future of sustainable tourism. Moderated by attorney Chunnie Wright, who provides legal counsel to adventure travel companies, the gathering featured panelists Karl Egloff, director of travel and conservation at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF); Jeff Bonaldi, founder and CEO of The Explorer’s Passage; and Russell Walters, ATTA’s North America strategic director and AdventureEDU educator.

A number of takeaways came from the lively discussion that ensued:

Sustainability must be a shared responsibility

While the tourism industry as a whole — including airlines, cruise ships, and hotels — needs to take the lead on adopting practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, consumers must do their part to drive efforts by demanding more of businesses and supporting those that demonstrate good environmental stewardship and leadership.

Tour operators have a key role to play

By fully understanding the sustainability of their own supply chains — including guides, vendors, and other suppliers — and by engaging with those companies and individuals who are demonstrably reducing their environmental footprint, tour operators can wield significant influence. They, too, can drive environmental initiatives internally by offsetting all of their trips.

Tour operators and destinations can work together to educate travelers

Around the world, tour operators are partnering with destinations to increase public awareness through climate-focused, educational trips. For example, renowned primatologist Jane Goodall recently joined a group to plant trees at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, an area that is exhibiting the harsh effects of climate change, partly due to large-scale deforestation. The expedition, a partnership between The Explorer’s Passage and conservation group ClimateForce, raised proceeds to fund large tree-planting projects. In Iceland, where higher temperatures are melting glaciers, companies like Into the Glacier, which leads visitors through ice tunnels, educate the public about the impacts of a warming atmosphere.

Travelers should make informed choices when flying

While overall air travel is responsible for 2.5% of the world’s gas emissions, studies estimate that by 2050, aviation could take up a quarter of the world’s total carbon budget — or the amount of carbon dioxide emissions permitted to keep global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Tour operators and travelers can contribute to lower emissions by adhering to the N.E.R.D rule: Choose NEWER aircrafts, buy ECONOMY seats, fly on REGULAR (medium-sized) jets and fly DIRECT, without layovers.

Share knowledge, spread the word

Because it can be challenging to understand — much less adopt — sustainability-oriented solutions, small businesses in particular often need support. Destinations and experienced businesses could help to scale sustainability by sharing their stories, experiences, and recommendations for best practices.

4 Comments to Keep Traveling, but Travel Responsibly

  1. This is a fantastic and succinct breakdown overview of the key parties involved in travel and how each can do their part. At Cheesemans’ this is paramount to our mission. We want more people discovering the world around them but in a manner that allows the environments to flourish long after the traveler has left.

  2. Diane French

    Glad you found this accurate and relevant, Adam. Thanks for the comment!

    Diane French
    Communications Manager, ATTA

  3. Jane Campbell

    If aviation could take up a quarter of the world’s total carbon budget by 2050, do you have an idea what kind of impact just applying the NERD principle will have to this figure? If this is what you’re advocating to the industry, it would be good to know that you feel that it is enough of a contribution to help your proportion of aviation industry emissions reach their 2050 carbon budget target (which is, in itself, still way too conservative). Were any more radical suggestions considered?

  4. Diane French

    Hello, Jane, and thank you for your message regarding the NERD principle that we advocated in our recent article.
    One of the ATTA’s sustainability goals is to galvanise climate action within travel. We encourage operators and travelers alike to be as informed as possible to make the best decisions they can to reduce their carbon footprint. We therefore love to share insights that will empower travelers to do this, which is why we shared the NERD principle in our recent article.

    The NERD principle was developed by Daniel Rutherford, Program Director for Marine and Aviation at the International Council on Clean Transportation. While we have not quantified the impact of emissions reduction from consumers applying NERD, we believe that it is an easy action for concerned consumers to adopt should they need to fly. We are not suggesting that this will be enough to significantly curb aviation emissions, but it is an accessible action that travelers can implement immediately.

    The ATTA advocates strongly for offsetting, and we’re launching a travel-industry offsetting program in 2020, called Neutral Together. On top of offsetting, we are also focusing on direct air capture, to help reverse travel’s 8% contribution to global emissions. We are doing this through our collective, Tomorrow’s Air, also set to launch in 2020.

    Thank you again for your interest and we appreciate you reaching out.

    Best wishes,
    Nicole Cocolas, Climate Communications Program Manager

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