GSTC Conference: Travel ‘lacks transparency’ on carbon emissions

The travel industry is failing to be transparent about carbon emissions, encouraging confusion among customers.

That is the view of Gerben Hardeman, responsible travel and tourism manager at Dutch travel trade association the ANVR.

The association launched an award-winning carbon calculator for tour operators in 2016. Yet Hardeman told the GSTC conference: “Airlines would not make available real data. Cruise lines said they would not do it until they were obliged. Hotels would not put in data, so our calculation is far from perfect.”

He insisted: “We have to make businesses transparent on their carbon footprints. There are bad performers. [But] from the consumers’ point of view, it’s hard to understand. It’s ridiculous that those who pollute the most charge the cheapest price.

“We have to make it compulsory to provide data on carbon emissions. It’s essential. We should provide real data on carbon footprints and provide incentives for those who perform well. [Then] we can nudge consumers to change behaviour [and] help them make more responsible choices.”

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Professor David Simmons of Lincoln University in New Zealand, chair of sustainability-certification institute EarthCheck, agreed. He said: “The industry is not very forthcoming on its data.”

“Tourism is also such a composite industry that it takes a lot of work to attribute impacts to tourism.”

Simmons told the conference that if flights were priced to include the impact of carbon emissions: “It would essentially mean raising air fares by three times.”

He asked: “Are we meeting our obligations? The science is straightforward. Tourism is not doing its bit – 91% of tourism’s emissions are from transport, 70% of it going to and from destinations.

“Tourism produces 7% of global emissions and 3.9% of global GDP. It’s a sooty industry. We produce more emissions from tourism than from agriculture. Should we feed people or take them on holidays?”

Simmons added: “[Technological] innovation is not waiting in the wings. The lead time to market [for new technologies] seems to be against us. We should not be over optimistic. We’re in a very serious state.”

Luigi Cabrini, chair of the GSTC and former director of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) sustainable tourism programme, noted greenhouse gas emissions from travel and tourism had risen from 5% of the global total in 2005 and said: “Tourism is not adapting adequately to climate change. Failure to act will fuel the voices of those who wish to halt or limit the flows of tourism.”

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