The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) represents the travel and tourism private sector globally, and they work to raise awareness of travel and tourism as one of the world’s largest economic sectors. One of their key areas is ‘sustainable growth’, and they now want to go beyond celebrating best practice to driving action towards a more sustainable sector with a new action plan and initiative. We catch up with them to find out more.
What does sustainable growth mean to WTTC and its Members?
Sustainable growth is a top priority of WTTC and its Members. We want to ensure that travel and tourism contributes positively to economies as well as the communities and the ecosystems on which it depends and protects the natural and cultural heritage that are core to its success within destinations.
Our current focus areas under our ‘sustainable growth’ pillar are:-
1. Climate and Environment Action: Setting an ambition for the global travel and tourism sector to be climate neutral by 2050 as well as taking action on minimising waste and the sector’s contribution to it.
2. Destination Stewardship: Promoting best practice in destination planning and management, with a focus on public, private and community partnerships, to ensure that travel and tourism benefits all.
3. Future of Work: Ensuring that the sector remains a driver of job creation in the face of digital transformation, while enhancing its attractiveness and increasingly creating quality jobs.
4. Illegal Trade in Wildlife: Promoting sector-wide action to support global efforts to tackle the illegal trade in wildlife. At the Global Summit 2018 in Buenos Aires, WTTC launched the Travel & Tourism Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade, a commitment by Members to participate actively in the global fight against illegal wildlife trade.
5. Human Trafficking: Raising awareness of how travel and tourism can prevent human trafficking and providing a forum for collective action.
6. Sustainability Reporting: Encouraging and supporting travel and tourism companies to measure, monitor and report their commitments to sustainability.
Can you flag any leading examples that are currently pioneering sustainability?
Intrepid Travel has been completely carbon neutral since 2010. It arranges low-impact trips where travellers use public transport and eateries that serve locally-sourced food. Intrepid measures all emissions and offsets them by investing in renewable energy projects.
In 2018 TUI Travel delivered 9.2 million ‘greener and fairer’ holidays (measured by the number of customers using hotels with credible sustainability certification recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council), showing strong progress towards the company’s ambition of 10 million ‘greener and fairer’ holidays a year by 2020. 81% of all TUI Hotels & Resorts also held sustainability certifications last year. Nearly 1.2 million TUI Collection excursions (excursions that promote unique, authentic and responsible holiday experiences) were delivered in 2018 – a growth of 15% year-on-year. Each excursion meets specific sustainability criteria to minimise environmental impacts and demonstrate benefits to local people. And by the end of 2018 TUI Group had also removed 140 million pieces of single-use plastic and aims to raise this to 250 million by the end of 2020.
Over the past decade, Hilton has reduced energy use by 22%, carbon output by 30%, water use by 22% and waste by over 30%. Hilton created the first soap recycling programme, which, to date, has recycled 9.6 million bars of soap. Plastic straws are gone and through the creation of their ‘digital key’, Hilton has removed 40 tonnes of plastic. The company has been rewarded by being recognised as a global leader in sustainability on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
We’re really excited to hear that you are now driving change to help the sector become more sustainable with a new action plan and initiative. Could you tell us more about this refocus?
WTTC has had ‘sustainable growth’ (formerly known as Tourism for Tomorrow) as one of its three key strategic pillars for nearly 10 years. We are now refocusing and concentrating our efforts as climate change can no longer be ignored. 2019, which is shaping up to be the hottest year on record, has seen the issue rise up the political and media agenda. This has been propelled by determined young activists and extreme weather events such as this summer’s Hurricane Dorian, Arctic wildfires and the fact that Greenland is estimated to have lost 11 billion tons of ice in just one day this July. The sector needs to step up a gear and we need WTTC to help.
You can watch the announcement of this refocus at our first Travel & Tourism Climate & Environment Action Forum, hosted jointly with UNFCCC in New York as part of Climate Week in September 2019.
What are the new plan’s aims and how will you go about achieving them?
We set the ambition for the sector to be climate neutral by 2050, with an action plan for how WTTC will support its Members and the wider industry towards this ambition. As part of this action plan we have also launched a new initiative – WTTC Sustainable Travel & Tourism Partners.
This new initiative aims to create mass engagement around sustainability within our sector and bring companies under the same sustainability umbrella while raising awareness of those practices and record progress with consumers and governments. We will be encouraging travel and tourism companies around the world to join the progamme by sharing the ambition to be climate neutral by 2050, become certified through an existing certification body, and then share their best practice, which WTTC will recognise and reward.
There are four main action tangible areas within the sustainability action plan:-
1. We have set an ambition for the sector to be climate neutral by 2050. This includes supporting its members in decarbonisation, setting up science- based targets, reducing the impact of current activities and emissions, supporting the efficient use of current resources and energy, enhancing efficient energy measures and renewable energy use as well as investing in emission reduction schemes and nature-based solutions. We will work with UNFCCC to set a framework for decarbonisation of the sector.
2. We will support its Members and the sector to work towards the reduction of food and plastic waste. We will work closely with UNEP as part of their Tourism Global Initiative on Plastics in support of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment and organisations like WWF and IUCN to reduce food waste.
3. We will create a ‘Sustainable Travel and Tourism Hub’ to provide a central repository and centre for information sharing across WTTC sustainability priorities. This includes supporting members to identify and implement new sustainability strategies and innovative business models, to seek alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to set time-bound sustainability targets, and to collaborate and share data and best practice using this hub to improve sustainability practice. We will produce an annual report of action that will articulate and show demonstrable movement towards climate friendly travel and progress towards sustainability commitment.
4. We want to create business change and create mass engagement around sustainability in travel and tourism. We will also recognise exceptional commitment to sustainability and best practice across the sector.
What are the next steps for WTTC in moving this forwards?
We are currently working with our Members, experts and international organisations, to ensure that the detail behind the plan is big, bold, robust and is something that can earn respect from the entire travel and tourism sector. More details will be announced on each of the action areas shortly.