Sustainable tourism is one of the hot topics emerging from this year«s Global Travel and Tourism Summit organised by the WTTC in Lisbon late Friday. With tourism accounting for 234 million jobs, 10 percent of GDP and growing at a global average rate of 4.5 percent, Jean-Claude Baumgarten, chairman of the WTTC started the tourism debate with the question: “How can we build a new civilisation that is environmentally conscious, yet can still continue to grow?”
Nicholas Walsh, EVP for AIG Insurance also focused on the importance of involving all tourism stakeholders in prioritising the environment and climate change under the “Breaking Barriers, Managing Growth” banner for the summit.
The 300 or so forum delegates discussed the rising tourism powerhouses of China, India, Latin America and Russia and the impact they will have on the global tourism marketplace, especially infrasctructure and sustainability. With the panel members agreeing that a lot of older tourism infrasctructure is gradually becoming obsolete in many markets.
“We need 80 airports of the size of Malpensa over the next ten years, and thousands of hotels, with roads and all the other generic infrastructure. But this is an opportunity as well as a challenge,” says Armin Meier, CEO of Kuoni Travel.
One of the major challenges discussed was that of balancing growth in global tourism with developments that do not affect the environment in a negative way.
“The industry has 12 to 24 months to educate people positively about consuming their product,” says James Russell, Senior Director, Clinton Climate Initiative—in respect to environmental advocacy in the tourism industry.
“Climate change is an issue because your customers have decided it is an issue, no matter how much you debate it,” explained Russell.
“Airlines are at risk of becoming seen in the same negative light as the tobacco industry, that is wrong. Don«t follow the Philip Morris or Exxon route, but educate people about how they can legitimately enjoy aviation.
It was agreed that higher-end travellers are now more willing to pay for an environmentally-friendly solution to their global travel.
“Those companies that take on environmental leadership will also lead the industry, it is likely to be the biggest issue in the next 50 years,” says Jeff Clarke, CEO & President, Travelport Inc