Despite the fact that COVID-19 essentially grounded international travel for the better part of 2020, the tourism industry’s collective decision to address the climate emergency has gained exponential momentum over the last few months.

In December 2016, the Darebin Council declared a climate
emergency. Located in the suburbs of
Melbourne, Australia, this governing body was the first council to
acknowledge and state the need for action to address the climate emergency.
Since then, more than 1,850 local governments in 33
countries — as well as individual businesses,
organizations, and communities ranging from vineyards to academic institutions —
have declared a climate emergency. And, despite the fact that COVID-19
essentially grounded international travel for the better part of 2020, the
tourism industry’s collective decision to address the climate
emergency
has gained exponential momentum over the last few months.

Tourism professionals have been dancing around the climate conversation for many
years — tentatively noting the need to address the problem, even while the
industry itself is responsible for a significant amount of carbon
emissions.
Some individual companies — such as Natural Habitat
Adventures
and Intrepid
Travel
,
which have been carbon neutral since
2007 and 2010,
respectively — have built climate-related initiatives into their sustainability
commitments. Organizations such as the Adventure Travel Trade Association
have launched programs to
help members move the needle forward by addressing climate change within their
businesses.

Yet, there wasn’t any cohesion to these efforts across the industry until last
year — when the industry formally came together to collectively acknowledge and
address the problem under the framework, Tourism Declares a Climate
Emergency
.

“Without having all the answers worked out, we felt we needed to start
facilitating an open and honest conversation within our industry,” Tourism
Declares co-founder Alex Narracott, who is also founder and CEO of Much
Better Adventures
, told Sustainable Brands™. “The essential first
step for that is to create this safe environment within which we can all work
openly to, first of all, recognize the climate emergency; accept the science
around it and where we need to get to as a society; commit to making a plan; and
work together with our partners and competitors to transition us to a low-carbon
industry.”

Tourism Declares is a community of travel organizations, companies and
professionals who have publicly declared a climate emergency; and are working
together to find solutions, support each other’s efforts, and normalize the
conversation about the sticky challenges connecting tourism and the
climate.
Launched in January 2020 with 14 signatories, Tourism Declares now has 143
signatories including tour operators, trade associations, destination management
companies, accommodations, members of the media, travel agents and a regional
airline. In October, Visit
Scotland

became the first tourism destination to declare a climate emergency.

Signatories agree to develop a climate action plan, share their commitment and
progress publicly, accept current IPCC
advice to cut carbon emissions and put
actions in place to do this, work together by sharing best practices, encourage
suppliers and partners to declare, and advocate for change across the industry.

“What we look to do is to say to our industry that there are many different
pathways toward delivering the goal that we need to deliver; and we’ll find
those pathways quicker through collaboration, than by individually going off in
different directions. But let’s start by agreeing on a shared goal and a shared
timeframe,” said Jeremy Smith, a writer, speaker
and consultant on sustainable tourism; and co-founder of Tourism Declares.

Given the devastating impact of COVID-19 on tourism, this may not seem like the
ideal time for the industry to declare a climate emergency. Yet, this pandemic
pause also clearly highlighted the positive impacts of an aviation-free world,
exposed the dependency many communities had on international tourism, and gifted
the industry time to deeply consider how it wants to operate in the
future.

These are the kinds of conversations happening among those who have signed on to
Tourism Declares. All signatories are invited to participate in and connect with
each other in a free online community; where even those considered competitors
see the value of tackling this multi-faceted, often overwhelming problem
together.

“We have a shared goal of taking action on the climate emergency and we’ll all
gain from collaboration,” Narracott said, emphasizing that working in a silo is
counterproductive. “We all end up duplicating the same work; and we miss out on
the huge benefits that come with coming together to address shared challenges,
challenge each other, ask questions, share ideas, and inspire and push each
other along.”

As industry players begin working together to address the climate emergency,
they’re also unraveling the powerful potential they play in creating a positive
impact beyond their internal operations. The tourism industry’s actions can
generate awareness about climate action; but operators can also encourage active
engagement, behavior change and action among travelers and within local
communities. This ripple effect highlights why a collective like Tourism
Declares is essential within the industry — especially as people begin traveling
freely again.

“What concerns us is that in tourism, particularly our short-term rental sector,
there is a disconnect between our collective goals of helping travelers see and
experience the wonders of our world — to be educated and informed through fun —
and the fact that we only have one Earth and we are destroying it,” said Bob
Garner
, owner of Casal dei Fichi — an
accommodation in Le Marche, Italy, which has declared a climate emergency.
Garner noted the need not only to integrate climate action into every touchpoint
of his business, but to also find subtle ways to meaningfully communicate about
the climate emergency with guests:

“We need them to go home with a new perspective on environmental
sustainability; then, we are really making a difference for hundreds of people
each year.”

(Excerpt) Read more Here | 2021-01-07 05:00:00
Image credit: source

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