Many in the tourism industry, if they haven't already implemented sustainable tourism initiatives, will now have one more reason to do so. Launched by The Duke of Sussex early last month alongside major industry players, Ctrip, Skyscanner, Booking.com, TripAdvisor and Visa, Travalyst is an initiative with a mission to ‘change the impact of travel, for good’.
Travalyst promotes a way of travel which allows people to explore the world while helping to protect people and places, and securing a sustainable future for destinations and local communities for generations to come.
Last year, the travel and tourism industry contributed US$8.8 trillion to the global economy, and for the eighth consecutive year the industry’s growth rate outpaced global GDP. As one of the largest and fastest growing industries around the world that is expected to continue to grow, travel and tourism is crucial for the economic development in many countries and has the power to catalyze positive impact.
With heightened awareness of their impact, travelers demanding sustainable travel options are increasing in number, and travel destinations and companies in the travel and tourism industry are responding with various sustainability initiatives.
This year’s top destinations supporting sustainable tourism were showcased and rewarded at the WTTC’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards in April. Lemon Tree Hotels Limited, India was given the Investing in People Award for its commitment to training and employing those particularly vulnerable to unemployment in India, while Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, Aruba received the Climate Action Award as the Carribean’s only certified carbon-neutral resort. This resort produces 40% of its energy needs through its own solar panels combined with local wind and solar sources.
While Travalyst’s initiatives aim to protect wildlife and habitats, reduce plastic waste and carbon emissions and empower local communities, the company does not encourage people to travel less. The issue of flying and its carbon emissions is not addressed by Travalyst which leaves many wondering how travel can truly be sustainable unless we fly less.
People around the world have begun to identify the aviation industry as a major polluter and contributor to climate change. This can be seen with the trending of hashtags such as #trainbragging and #stayontheground. In Sweden, since the issue was pushed into the spotlight by climate activist Gretta Thunberg, the industry has actually contracted by 5% so far this year. Unfortunately, ‘staying on the ground’ is not always an option for people today, and it may not have to be. Since backlash against the industry began, airlines around the world have begun investing in research into renewable jet fuels and conducting bio-fuel powered flights. There has also been a push by activists for ‘meaningful travel’ and taking bundle trips instead of multiple return flights.
Travalyst is not alone in its quest for sustainable tourism. EcoMadic is a company set to launch in early 2020 which will allow travelers to review and shop the marketplace for ‘eco-conscious accommodations, restaurants, tours, and shops’. Other existing companies offering sustainable and ethical travel options include Intrepid Travel, one of the first carbon-neutral tour operators, and The Blue Yonder, an Indian company maximizing the local benefits of tourism. According to Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, adhering to these types of sustainable initiatives “will soon become the social norm” as travelers increasingly seek out eco-conscious companies.
There is no doubt that tourism has, so far, in many places, done damage to our planet and its communities, but everyone should be able to travel around the world to foster cultural knowledge and exchange. Increasingly, tour operators and companies in the travel and tourism industry are bringing awareness to how we can do this in a respectful and sustainable way, while innovation in the aviation industry is working towards curbing the carbon emissions produced by flying. When done in a sustainable way, tourism should empower local communities and increase travellers' respect for our natural world.