WTTC chief urges ‘aggressive’ action to slash travel and tourism emissions

Travel and tourism will outpace world economic growth over the next 10 years but must cut its greenhouse gas emissions “aggressively”, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has warned.

WTTC president and chief executive Julia Simpson said: “Travel and tourism is recovering despite the global shutdown in 2020. Booking levels are strong. Demand is outstripping supply.”

Addressing the WTTC global summit in Riyadh, Simpson forecast: “Our sector will once again outpace global economic growth, increasing by 5.25% a year when global growth is forecast at 2.7%. Our industry will create 126 million jobs in the next 10 years.”

But she noted: “The global economy is at a precarious point, and we face new geopolitical threats.”

Simpson appealed to governments to “please take travel and tourism seriously”, arguing: “Too often our sector has been neglected. We saw it during Covid-19.”

She criticised governments’ response to the pandemic as “chaotic and ineffective”, but added: “We need to speak with a single narrative.”

Simpson argued: “We have survived the greatest disaster in our sector’s history.”

But now she warned: “We face a global crisis – extreme temperatures making cities uninhabitable, rising sea levels devastating coastal areas.

“We and our businesses are on the frontline. We need to reduce emissions aggressively, but we can’t do it alone.

“We need governments to help us with alternative energy. It’s critical we have widespread availability of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). We need commitments by fuel producers.

“We need governments to make this a reality. The mechanisms already exist with incentives for electric vehicles.”

The WTTC unveiled the first detailed calculation of travel and tourism’s climate footprint at the summit, calculating the sector was responsible for 8.1% of global emissions in 2019.

The finding is in a forthcoming WTTC Environmental and Social Research report, produced with the Saudi-based Sustainable Global Tourism Centre and Tourism Economics.

Simpson told the summit: “For the first time we can reveal the climate footprint of travel and tourism. Until now our sector has struggled to quantify and track its impact as a whole. Now we know what we are working with we can track it.”

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