Less talk and more action on sustainability

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) is not a name on most lips in the UK trade. But on the global stage, behind the scenes, the WTTC lobbies and collates statistics on tourism’s contribution to economies.

The Council comprises heads of 100 major firms, including British Airways, Hertz, Amadeus, Sabre and Expedia. Its vice-chairmen include heads of TUI and Emirates; its executive committee figures from Carlson, Travelport, American Express and Marriott.

The WTTC summit this month made the point that sustainability should be at the core of industry practice.

In February, the WTTC published a report – Leading the Challenge on Climate Change – making the business case for action to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

The report‘s signatories agree: “Climate change poses global social, environmental and economic risks and [we] believe this demands a transformational change in how we manage our businesses. The cuts in emissions that science indicates are necessary cannot be achieved without a transformational change.”

Leading the Challenge acknowledges an 85% reduction in emissions is required by 2050, and states the “aspiration” to halve industry CO2 emissions from the level of 2005 by 2035.

The report sets an interim target of 30% by 2020 if there is international agreement on emissions – the subject of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December – or a 25% reduction in the absence of a deal. But WTTC leaders say they want an “ambitious, comprehensive and legally binding UN agreement”.

In the circumstances, then, it is a shame the report hardly warranted a mention at the summit and that the Costao do Santinho resort that hosted the WTTC appeared lax on basic sustainable practices.

The resort on the island of Santa Catarina, southern Brazil, uses treated “grey water” from bathrooms to irrigate its gardens. But air conditioning in rooms was on continually, staff disregarded efforts to retain towels, lawns had clearly been treated with chemicals, and toilets were single flush – serving to highlight the challenges the industry faces in matching deeds to words.

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