A three-year €1.9 million green tourism action plan announced by Spain will seek to work with the UK tourism sector which is considered a world leader in its commitment to sustainability.
Speaking at this week’s Travel Weekly Sustainability Summit, Manuel Butler, UK director of the Spanish Tourist Office, said tourism can lead the way in the transition to a low carbon future.
The Spanish strategy aims to support the country’s leading tourism destinations to become innovation hubs and to encourage greater collaboration and cohesion between regions.
Butler said the sector has to move with the times to meet the challenge of the climate crisis, but also the social and economic needs of people and other stakeholders in the tourism sector.
“Tourism is changing,” he said, “it has left its infancy and is now in its adulthood but it’s more complex. Times have changed and we need to keep up with them.
“We have to consider maximising the benefits of tourism for all the stakeholders, not just the shareholders. We need to work to spread awareness and explain how we can do that.
“We need to be open to ideas, to explore unchartered waters. Sustainability goes hand in hand with innovation.
“Public private partnerships are very important but without public investment it’s not possible to do this transformation.”
Butler highlighted three cases studies including a project to reduce water usage and encourage public transport, walking and cycling in Benidorm.
He also highlighted Valencia’s work to certify its carbon footprint from tourism activity and a sustainable gastronomy initiative that has seen 21 restaurants in Spain awarded a Michelin Green Star.
The British tourism sector is considered to be a key ally, Butler added: “The UK is the most advanced country in the world in tourism and fully committed to sustainability.”
Following the Covid-19 pandemic the Spanish strategy will also put resilience at the heart of its planning so that it is ready for any crisis that the tourism industry may face.
Butler said: “Today, we are at an important crossroads. To build back better is crucial for Spain, and so we are focusing policy on sustainability and responsibility.
“We have to forge a new path to scale up, broaden and consolidate with Spain and the UK working together to ensure a tourism recovery that is stronger and greener for the benefit of the people and the planet.
“We will be working closely with the UK travel trade to ensure our objectives are met and create a model that benefits both the destination and our tourism partners.”