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Travel and tourism industry chart new, greener course at COP 26

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As the world continues its recovery from COVID-19, tourism, one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, has the opportunity to set itself on a greener, more sustainable path. It is a question of revival, but also survival:  the industry’s continued viability as borders re-open depends on it becoming more green.

Earlier this month, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2021 warned that, despite renewed climate pledges from countries, the world may still see a global temperature rise of 2.7°C by the end of the century. 

The tourism industry has already been feeling the impact of global warming.

Rising temperatures increase the risk of natural disasters, putting tourist sites in danger. More frequent forest fires, floods, rising sea levels, food insecurity, coastal erosion, loss of ecosystems such as coral reefs and disruption to cultural and natural heritage sites all impact the long-term sustainability of the tourism industry.

On 9 November 2021, at the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow (COP26),  the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) launched ‘A Net Zero Roadmap for Travel and Tourism’ – an ambitious plan for the tourism industry to reach net zero by 2050.

“Climate action needs a dramatic step-up if we are to have a shot at limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C,” said Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of UNEP. “The travel and tourism sector has a big stake in decarbonization because a destroyed planet serves no one’s purpose.” 

High-impact solutions

The tourism sector has widespread economic impact. In 2019 it was estimated it accounted for 10.4 per cent of global GDP and one in 10 jobs. Its revival and longevity will be critical to ensure its continued contribution to livelihoods and economies – but only if it can be made sustainable.

The new roadmap sets targets and benchmarks for the travel industry and offers practical recommendations for businesses on how they can achieve their net-zero targets.

For instance, moving away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources could greatly reduce tourism-related emissions. Hotels could bring in measures to improve energy efficiency, while new ones can be built using sustainable design practices. Airlines can improve existing aircraft technology by retrofitting and reducing weight, which increases fuel efficiency and lowers emissions. The cruise industry can reduce emissions by upgrading existing ships (through HVAC and lighting upgrades) and designing new ships to maximise energy efficiency.

Global momentum

The Roadmap follows the November 4 launch of The Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism,  which aims to rebalance the relationship between nature and tourism. The Declaration was developed through the collaboration of UNEP, The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, The Travel Foundation and VisitScotland.

Less than one week after the declaration’s launch, more than 300 signatories committed to sharing their action plans within 12 months of signing up and releasing reports publicly tracking progress. Signatories include Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Skyscanner, Accor, Iberostar Group, European Tourism Association, among others. They represent different stages of the tourism value chain, reflecting how environmental concerns are a priority for the sector. Euronews news agency has also pledged to prioritise editorial coverage of organisations that have signed the declaration across all its TV and digital platforms until the end of 2021.

Actions have been suggested to signatories to decarbonise the sector as part of a broader climate action plan.

“The tourism sector has less than 10 years to accelerate the transition to low-carbon and circular business solutions,” said Andersen, “to create new opportunities in energy generation and halve transport emissions by 2030, and to integrate nature-based solutions into their operations.” 

Transitioning from the current pathway to net-zero emissions will require significant investment and innovation by tourism stakeholders. To support that transition, UNEP has also launched the Making the Business Case for Climate Smart Investments: Guidelines for the Tourism Sector,  which address challenges the private sector faces in financing climate mitigation actions in the tourism sector. The guidelines recommend adopting low-emissions technologies and tourist behaviour change to allow companies to optimize their resource use, reduce their operation costs, and increase their efficiency while improving their environmental performance and tackling climate change.

As part of the global drive towards sustainable tourism, in 2020, UNEP, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative released Recommendations for the Tourism Sector to Continue Taking Action on Plastic Pollution During COVID-19 Recovery. The landmark effort unites the tourism sector behind a common vision to address the root causes of plastic pollution.

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Tourism

DiscoverEU awards 35,000 rail tickets to young people this autumn

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Today, the Commission is releasing the DiscoverEU autumn call, thanks to which 35,000 young people will receive a rail pass to explore Europe and its rich culture.

The call is open to applicants from Erasmus+ programme countries, from today at noon to 25 October at noon. In order to win a travel pass, young people are invited to apply on the European Youth Portal, answer 5 quiz questions and a subsidiary one. Applicants who have successfully filled in the selection quiz, born between 1 January and 31 December 2004 will be able to travel in Europe for up to 30 days during the travel period 1 March 2023 and 29 February 2024.

Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said: “2022 is the European Year of Youth and this is a crucial moment in European history. We need to focus on the younger generations, to offer them the possibility to broaden their horizon in order to build a more connected and tolerant world. This is what DiscoverEU is about. Through travelling, it allows young people to explore our diversity but also find out so many similarities.”

With the European Year of Youth 2022, the number of travel passes has been boosted. In total, 70,000 passes are made available this year. DiscoverEU is now part of Erasmus+, therefore participants from Iceland, Liechtenstein, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Turkey are also eligible to apply.  

Recipients will continue benefitting from a discount card with more than 40,000 discount possibilities on public transport, culture, accommodation, food, sports and other services available in the eligible countries.

As part of the European Year of Youth, the Commission has launched the flagship initiative ‘Youth discovers culture thanks to DiscoverEU in 2022′. That is why on 25 May 2022, the DiscoverEU Culture Route was launched. It combines various destinations and cultural branches, including architecture, music, fine art, theatre, fashion, design and more. DiscoverEU travellers can visit the European Capitals of Culture, destinations added on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List, or holders of the European Heritage Label. Moreover, they can also stop at locations with the Access City Award label. These are cities that have gone above and beyond to become more accessible to everyone, regardless of age, mobility or ability.

Erasmus+ National Agencies support young people through pre-departure information meetings preparing them for their journey. Through these meetings, DiscoverEU aims to promote discussions on sustainability, culture, and European identity, among others. In addition, as part of the European Year of Youth, the agencies organise the DiscoverEU Meet-ups, an initiative launched in summer 2022 composed of an exciting cultural programme between one and three days across all Erasmus+ countries. 49 of these Meet-ups have taken place so far and will continue in future years.

As social inclusion is a top priority of the Erasmus+ programme, participants with disabilities or health issues can be accompanied on their journeys. Apart from the travel costs, additional individual help is also provided. This year, the Erasmus+ National Agencies are also launching the DiscoverEU Inclusion Action, allowing organisations working with young people with fewer opportunities, to apply for grant.

The Commission encourages sustainable travel by rail. Special arrangements are available for young people from outermost regions, Overseas Counties and Territories, remote areas and islands.

Background

The Commission launched DiscoverEU in June 2018, following a preparatory action from the European Parliament. It has been integrated into the new Erasmus+ programme 2021-2027.

Since 2018, nearly 754,000 candidates applied for 165,000 travel passes available. According to the past travel survey, 66% of candidates declared that they travelled for the first time by train out of their country of residence. For many, it was also the first time they travelled without parents or accompanying adults and the majority indicated that they had become more independent.

The DiscoverEU experience has given them a better understanding of other cultures and of European history. It has also improved their foreign language skills. Two-thirds said that they would not have been able to finance their travel pass without DiscoverEU. Participants are invited to become DiscoverEU Ambassadors to champion the initiative. They are also encouraged to contact fellow travellers on the official DiscoverEU group online to share experiences and exchange tips, particularly on cultural experiences, or on how to travel digitally and sustainably.

To apply, eligible candidates need to complete a multiple-choice quiz on general knowledge about the European Union and other EU initiatives targeting young people. An additional question invites applicants to make an estimate of how many people apply in this round who are born on a Tuesday. The closer the estimate is to the correct answer, the more points the applicant gets. This will enable the Commission to rank the applicants. The Commission will offer travel passes to applicants following their ranking, until the available tickets run out.

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UN urges investment in clean, sustainable tourism

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International tourism is showing strong signs of recovery, with tourist numbers rising to 57 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. On World Tourism Day, marked on Tuesday, the UN is calling for a major global rethink of the sector, to ensure that tourism is sustainable, and benefits local communities.

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) released encouraging news on Monday, with its latest World Tourism Barometer, which shows that international tourism arrivals almost tripled in the first seven months of 2022 (compared to the same period in 2021).

Cautious optimism

The agency’s Panel of Tourism Experts expressed cautious confidence for the rest of year, and into 2023, despite the uncertain economic environment: increasing interest rates, rising energy and food prices, and the growing prospects of a global recession, continue to pose major threats to the sector.

In a message released to mark the Day, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, hailed tourism’s ability to drive sustainable development, and called for more investment in clean and sustainable tourism, the creation of decent jobs, and for measures to ensure that profits benefit host countries and local communities.

Go green to survive

“Governments, businesses and consumers must align their tourism practices with the Sustainable Development Goals and a 1.5 degree future”, said Mr. Guterres, referring to international agreements aimed at keeping global warming in check. “The very survival of this industry, and many tourist destinations, such as Small Island Developing States, depends on it.”

“The restart of tourism everywhere brings hope,” declared Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General, in his address at the opening of the official celebrations organized for the Day, in the Indonesian resort city of Bali.

Mr. Pololikashvili described tourism, which employs around 10 per cent of the global workforce, as the “ultimate cross-cutting and people-to-people sector, which touches on almost everything we do.”

Report card

To mark the day, UNWTO launched its first World Tourism Day Report, the first in an annual series of updates and analysis of the Organization’s work guiding the sector forward.

The report contains updates on the agency’s activities in key areas including gender equality, sustainability and climate action, tourism governance and investments and innovation.

Representatives of the G20 group of the world’s leading economies, including tourism ministers, will meet in Bali in November. Ahead of the event, UNWTO has produced a set of guidelines for ministers, to enable them to support resilient and sustainable tourist businesses, which take into account human capital, innovation, youth and women empowerment, and climate action.

Ensure zero-tolerance for sexual exploitation: UN rights expert

An independent UN rights expert released a statement ahead of the Day, to call for Governments to ensure that the tourism industry is free from child forced labour, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. 

Mama Fatima Singhateh, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, warned that the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and socioeconomic setbacks have caused enormous strains on child protection systems.

This, she said, has made children more vulnerable to sale, trafficking and sexual exploitation in the context of travel and tourism, especially in countries that have traditionally relied on the income generated from travel and tourism.

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Samoa welcomes international travellers with airport celebrations as borders reopen

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After years of the COVID-19 pandemic throwing international travel into turmoil, Samoa’s beautiful shorelines have once again welcomed international travellers on the first direct flights from American Samoa, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.

Straight off the flights, passengers were greeted by the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster and the Samoa Tourism Authority Board of Directors and CEO, as well as the High Commissioner of Australia HE Emily Luck who was at Faleolo International Airport to welcome the first direct flight from Sydney/Brisbane.

Excitement ensued with a fresh ula offering and welcome by Miss Samoa and the Samoa Tourism team in traditional wear, the Return to Paradise Resort string guitar ensemble, and multiple cultural performances in the arrival hall and concourse by Samoa Airport Authority and Tasi and Alii’s.

Tourism Minister, Hon. Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster commented on the reopening saying “The past two years have been a trying time for the world over, but as Samoa reopens its borders, it is our acknowledgement that our internal protection measures are safe for our people and for the yearning travellers who are wanting to visit family and friends, and who are eager to explore our heritage and natural environment,”

“We look forward to hosting all visitors, and showcasing our culture and environment, and pray that we continue to be mindful of the necessary travel health advisories for all of our protection.”

Pre-COVID, Samoa welcomed 181,000 international visitors in 2019. Visitor spend in the same year totalled WST 528 million. 

Newly appointed Samoa Tourism Authority CEO, Pativaine Petaia-Tevita, shared her excitement and optimism for the return of international visitors to Samoan shores.  

“We are very excited to welcome back travellers on the first direct flights since our reopening. Samoa has been waiting for this moment for a long time and it was wonderful and uplifting to see passengers fill the terminal once again.”

“Our reopening is a special milestone which we celebrated in a special way along with the return of international visitors including family and friends.”

In preparation for the reopening, a series of developments and new processes were put in place to ensure Samoa would be travel ready, and that the health and safety of locals and international travellers remained of utmost priority. Samoa’s robust preparations include the achievement of high vaccination rates, training and upskilling for local employees, upgraded travel instructions and bolstered testing capabilities. 

Vaccination rates were pivotal in the decision to reopen, with the most recent data showing almost 93% of Samoa’s eligible population, aged 5 years and over, has been fully vaccinated. 

Big ticket attractions and much-loved natural treasures are primed and ready to receive the influx of travellers over the coming months, including the famous To Sua Ocean Trench, Piula Cave Pool, Afu Aau Waterfalls, Lalomanu Beach, and Samoan Cultural Village. 

For more information on Samoa’s travel guidelines, as well as inspiration on things to do while visiting Samoa, please visit the Samoa Tourism website.

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