Travel and tourism industry sets the standard on climate change

Travel and tourism industry sets the standard on climate change

Travel and tourism is one of the largest industries in the world providing a strong impetus to global economic development. In 2009, the travel and tourism economy is expected to account for 9.3 percent of global GDP and to generate over 210 million jobs, or 7.4 percent of global employment. In 2008, 922 million international tourist arrivals were recorded, contributing US$944 billion in international tourism receipts. The industry has often acted ahead of regulation to adopt and disseminate standards and best practices on greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation and adaptation.

The sustainability of the travel and tourism industry and that of the environment are mutually dependent. Using its role as an international conduit for peace and prosperity, the industry is actively engaged in the protection of fragile ecosystems and indigenous communities and contributes towards the successful advancement of the UN Millennium Development Goals, especially poverty alleviation in developing countries. Travel and tourism’s far-reaching benefits position it as a leading player in a strong, united, global effort at combating climate change.

The World Travel&Tourism Council (WTTC) and the World Tourism Organization
(UNWTO) are, respectively, the leading private and public sector entities within travel and tourism. WTTC is the business leaders’ forum for 100 of the foremost travel and tourism industry companies, while UNWTO is a specialized UN agency, with a membership of over 150 countries and some 400 private and public tourism stakeholders. Working together, the two world bodies are aligning efforts to unify a fragmented travel and tourism industry, speaking with one voice on the critical issue of climate change.

In order to show their commitment, both organizations will jointly host a side event during the COP-15 negotiations on December 18: Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change ­- Perspectives from the Travel&Tourism Sector. The event will highlight innovators from the private and public sector from across the world and all sectors of the industry. Under the leadership of WTTC and UNWTO, examples of best practice will be presented in order to communicate to policy-makers and the rest of the industry travel and tourism’s proactive approach to carbon emissions mitigation and adaptation.

A sound framework is critical for the travel and tourism industry to give companies the transparency necessary to make informed investment decisions, many of which can strongly influence a nation’s economic development. The Copenhagen Agreement provides a unique opportunity to set the foundation upon which a resilient green economy can be developed.


“UNWTO’s Davos Declaration Process on climate change response paved the way to position the tourism industry as a relevant player of global climate neutrality,” said UNWTO secretary-general ad interim Taleb Rifai. “Joining forces for tourism to speak as one in Copenhagen responds furthermore to a key recommendation of the UNWTO Roadmap for Recovery, highlighting the importance of building a strong public-private dialogue and boosting strong partnerships. The great cross-cutting impact of our industry makes it necessary to establish and maintain this close collaboration,” he added, “and I am confident that together we will contribute to a better positioning of travel and tourism in the global climate response agenda.”

Public and private sector partnership in this issue is essential. “The travel and tourism industry urges global leaders in the wake of the Copenhagen Agreement, regardless of its final form, to actively engage the private sector in translating the internationally-agreed framework into transparent, supportive, and progressive national and regional policies,” Jean-Claude Baumgarten, WTTC president and CEO, stressed. “The travel and tourism private sector has always sought a deeper working relationship with governments, and the anticipated Copenhagen Agreement will provide an excellent opportunity to further develop this relationship.”

The travel and tourism industry has, in the past, developed, and will continue to develop, sustainable solutions, which will assist the industry to be at the forefront of efforts to combat climate change and will play a much-needed role in terms of exchange of innovative technology to advance carbon emissions reduction. Incentives and policies, as well as global sectoral approaches, supported by a “level playing field” void of restrictions to trade, will allow the industry to efficiently pursue the scale of change for progressive transformation to occur. Only then can the true potential of the industry be unlocked.