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ON TOUR: The Evora Forum

COP26.  BTN’s Editor at Large Jeff Mills looks at the issues.

As the focus turns increasingly to sustainability ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, scheduled to take place in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November, the worldwide travel industry is among the latest to declare its colours.
 
More than a dozen ministers and government officials; 140 speakers, professors and industry leaders, gathered at the ‘Evora Forum – A World for Travel’ in the Portuguese university town whose name it used. Thousands joined the event virtually from over 80 countries, whilst 350 delegates attended in person in Evora.

And after hours of intense debate, lectures and general networking, they finally announced what delegates call “Five urgent acts towards moving the travel industry towards unified sustainability.”

The plan is that by issuing these acts the organisers will be able to accelerate the transformation of the travel industry towards a more sustainable future.

The teams at the conference and the so-called Resilience Council developed a baseline of where the travel industry is now in terms of sustainable actions and goals. This data was used to develop the five urgent acts which are commitments towards sustainability and regenerative travel.

A global traveller sentiment survey conducted in September found that environmental sustainability measures continued to rank last and only 17% of consumers globally consider this as a top three priority when deciding about one flight over another. This is where the travel industry has an opportunity to reset and rebuild for the better.

The ‘five urgent acts’ agreed will be the beginning of a continuous approach and aim to encompass: regenerative travel, business travel reset, deep community engagement, carbon reduction and compensation, tourism funding and investment and local supply-chain development.

The five commitments developed and announced were:

1. To offer reliable carbon compensation options incentives
With only 10% of airlines offering voluntary carbon offsetting and consumer confidence in the credibility of many schemes very low, the introduction by the industry of a unique carbon footprint calculator and tax incentives and public investment in cleaner plans will play a big part in this act.

2. Commit to a carbon reduction plan for every sector
There has been a 60% growth in tourism-related CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2015, with rises expected to continue, so it is crucial to reduce carbon across every sector. Many corporations and travel companies already have net-zero targets in place, but it is now critical that every organisation meets this goal.

3. Prioritise investments to develop sustainable tourism
The average travel and tourism capital Investment is 17% as a contribution to GDP but this spending needs to be increased to develop sustainable tourism.

4. Invite communities to co-design tourism solutions
This commitment is based on the strongest theme which came out of the Evora Forum. It is crucial to ensure tourism benefits the places and people it touches. Some 70% of tourists want to positively impact the economy and the environment they travel to and so this commitment strongly aligns with consumer demand. Incentives and best practice plans need to be put in place to show the world how tourism and community can be mutually beneficially of each other.

5. Accelerate and strengthen local supply chains/ecosystems
Dovetailing with the fourth act, businesses should always choose a local supplier even if more expensive. Some 95% of visitor expenditure leads the destination in developing economies; meanwhile 83% say that it is right that businesses and brands focus on a positive impact, rather than just doing less harm to the planet and its people.

Portugal’s Secretary of State for Tourism, H.E. Rita Marques, said: “We leave Evora, with a mission, to educate and empower the next generation about the impact of our choices and the huge effect these choices have on the health and wellbeing of both ourselves and our planet.”

Christian Delom, Secretary General of A World for Travel, said: “The travel industry in its current form cannot continue, these five commitments, developed by tourism ministers and industry leaders, represent drastic changes which can be implemented to support the transformation of travel for a more sustainable future.

“We stand behind these acts and have given our commitment to the industry that we will increase messaging, facilitate partnerships, share key information and data, advocate for thought leadership across the world and find a way to measure these initiatives to achieve significant progress.  We stand in solidarity through our actions.”

To review the sessions which took place you can visit www.aworldfortravel.org.

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