Sustainable tourism must become mainstream if the industry is to secure a future for itself and the world – that was the stark message of former Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper at World Travel Market on Wednesday.
Juniper challenged the industry “to make sustainable tourism mainstream rather than a niche choice”, saying: “It can’t be beyond the minds of those who have promoted mass growth in tourism to offer responsible tourism as something everybody does.”
He told the audience at the opening ceremony of World Responsible Tourism Day: “We are poised on the edge of rapid global change, but we are still far from sustainability [although] I’m encouraged the penny has finally dropped in many sectors.
“We face an enormous crunch. One billion of us middle-class consumers will [soon] be joined by two billion more. We simply can’t consume as we do now for the next 40 years.”
Juniper rejected the idea of a choice between dealing with the environment and getting people out of poverty, arguing: “We must do both together or neither.” But he added: “This is also about self interest. Many tourism assets on which you depend are at risk. Resorts already suffer water depletion. Entire destinations could disappear.
In 2025, do you think the world will be demanding business as it is today? . . It is up to the world’s largest industry to secure a future for itself and for life on earth.”
Acknowledging “aircraft will remain a challenge,” Juniper asked: “What about moves to go zero-carbon on the ground?”
WTM chairman Fiona Jeffery also posed a challenged, asking: “Are we confident we are doing enough to ensure destinations truly benefit from tourism. It is up the industry to show a new way.”
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