Travel businesses will need to “redefine luxury” if mass tourism is to meet decarbonisation targets and become more sustainable.

That is according to Deloitte director of climate change and sustainability Emily Cromwell who told the Travel Weekly Future of Travel Spring Forum: “Right now we have a paradigm where the consumer is king and luxury is all about consumption.”

Cromwell said: “We have this linear cycle – taking natural resources, using them briefly and disposing of them.

“We need to shift the definition of luxury and shift consumer expectations to more circular economies and experiences and a future that is far less [about] consumption and luxury associated with stuff because that is not sustainable.”

Asked if mass tourism in its current form is sustainable, Cromwell said: “No. But businesses are going to change. Shifting to a sustainable business model is an existential mandate.

“It is complex and it’s going to require a lot of smart people to work together.”

But she insisted: “Tourism is a perfect industry to be the harbinger of something new.

“If you look at the awareness and values of the younger generation, there is a shift in expectations around sustainability credentials.

“This is an opportunity for businesses to offer a redefined luxury, [by] ‘option editing’.”

Cromwell argued: “Are you presenting luxury as lots and lots of excess? Or are you presenting luxury as a deeply impactful experience or peace and quiet and a break from this noisy world?”

She added “We may not be where we want to be as far as consumers putting their money where their mouth is or governments regulating, but it will happen.

“It’s essential businesses get ahead of this trend. Businesses that do will be more favourably viewed, they will outpace their peers, they will be more resilient to risk and they will be well positioned for the transition that is coming.”

EasyJet sustainability director Jane Ashton told the summit: “Concern about climate change has never been higher. Research shows overall awareness has gone up during this crisis.

“To what extent that translates into consumer behaviour remains to be seen – how aware customers are at the point of booking as we move out of Covid.

“What we’ve got to do is not wait to be led by the customer, but make sure we’re choice editing, developing products, programmes, holidays and flights which are responsibly managed.

“The onus is on businesses to put this front and centre of our strategy.”