Travel Foundation outlines difficult path to decarbonisation for tourism
The travel industry must move to a model where frequent flying is no longer “incentivised and glamourised” if it is to meet decarbonisation targets, according to a new Travel Foundation study, ‘Envisioning Tourism in 2030’, which models how travel and tourism could look in 2030 and 2050.
Travel Foundation head of strategic communications Ben Lynam explained: “We’ve been working close to a year to try to understand what a global commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero as soon as possible before 2050 looks like, to understand how you plan and what it looks like for policymakers, businesses and destinations.”
Speaking on Connecting Travel's sister title Travel Weekly webcast, he said: “There is a huge discrepancy between ‘business as usual’ [for the industry] and where we need to be. We soon realised every sector of travel would need to throw all it has behind climate action – electrification of transport and accommodation coupled with renewable energy, sustainable aviation fuel and investment in infrastructure. But we also need to tackle the longest trips [which] accounted for 1.9% of all trips in 2019 but 19% of total tourism emissions.
“Without intervention these long-haul trips are set to quadruple and become 41% of all tourism emissions by 2050.”
That still won’t be enough to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by the UN-recommended target of 2030 which hundreds of travel organisations signed up to the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Change in Tourism have committed to.
Of the the pathway set out in the report, Lynam said: “We don’t reach the 50% reduction by 2030. We get there in about the spring of 2036, which goes to show how hard it is to turn this around and begin the steep reductions in emissions we need.”
He added: “We were trying to find a scenario for travel and tourism that was positive, one where we can see we have a future and we’re thriving.”
The positive news for the industry is “you can continue to travel and see the world without killing it”.
But for that to happen, Lynam argued: “We imagine that frequent flying isn’t so incentivised and glamourised as at the moment and closer-to-home trips become more appealing, challenging the current perception that going further afield somehow has greater value.”
He said: “That implies new products and markets and new opportunities, with less short trips, more longer, slower holidays and a long-haul journey is a genuine trip of a lifetime.”
Lynam insisted: “This is not about guilt-tripping individuals into flying less. It’s about changing the system over time with investment and finding new products and new markets. We need to start identifying low and zero-emission tourism options so people can opt for lower carbon trips, and we need to better understand and plan for how tourism will operate in a world moving towards decarbonisation. That is not just about how to decarbonise. What does the world look like with the impacts we know a warming climate will have. It will be disruptive for the tourism industry.”
Lynam added: “There is a need for fair tourism strategies. Tourism isn’t equitable and we have to start thinking about this – understanding that some destinations are less able to make green investments than others. Some are going to be much more dependent on long-haul travel. Some will suffer more from climate change and did less to contribute to it. Some are fully developed whereas others are still looking to develop their tourism."
The report ‘Envisioning Tourism in 2030’ is available for free on the Travel Foundation site