Plastic-free just the start of sustainability

DITCHING plastic packaging and boosting the uptake of carbon off-sets on airline tickets are just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg when it comes to sustainability in the travel industry.

Delegates at travelBulletin‘s inaugural Sustainability Summit in Sydney on 30 April, heard from industry leaders about strengthening the long-term viability of the travel trade against the threats posed by overtourism, poor corporate governance, animal tourism and disruptors like Airbnb and Uber.

Overtourism

Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam claimed governments around the globe “have been sleeping” on the issue of overtourism, warning the issue was a threat to both the environment and the industry.

“They [governments] have been completely missing the problems both on value operation and the challenges of overtourism but I think they are waking up now,” he said.

“The combination of politicians who are waking up to this, price mechanisms, and the people’s changing mindsets are quite a powerful combination and that makes me feel very positive about it,”

Intrepid’s Regional Director APAC Brett Mitchell agreed governments needed to up their game, but tour operators also needed “educate travellers…who will ultimately make the right decisions”.

Governance

Businesses operating within the travel industry that are looking to expand are set to have access to investment from Australia’s superannuation sector over the coming years.

However, Christian Super CEO Ross Piper warned that those with poor corporate cultures will find cash hard to come by.

“Engagement in sustainability for any business is not only a moral and ethical question, but it’s now closely linked with core long-term business values, social licence to operate and profitability,” Piper said.

“The investment market cares deeply about organisational culture.

“Any company that is attracting press around culture — for better or for worse — will be on the radar in some way, shape or form.

“Our ethics committees had a robust discussion about one of the listed travel companies and again we have a very broad portfolio as any pension fund would have, so it’s on the radar,” he said.

Animal welfare

Adventure World Travel’s Head of Product & Operations Andrew Hutchinson told delegates at the Sustainability Summit that research showed more than 100 million people worldwide visit cruel animal attractions each year.

“That’s a staggering amount of people and it gives you a sense of scale of the problem,” he said.

“There are approximately 560,000 animals in wildlife tourist attractions around the world, with animal abuse occurring in approximately three-quarters of attractions studied, with abuse including animals being taken from their mothers, forced to perform tricks, animal rides, and animals forced to remain passive for selfies.”

Hutchinson said travellers need to research wildlife tourism before going to attractions and their use social media effectively when instances of animal cruelty are spotted to help “spread the word”.

Disruptors

Cosmos and Avalon UK Chief Executive Officer Giles Hawke called for increased regulation of new market entrants, including Airbnb and Uber, claiming they have been driving overtourism, while harming the destinations they operate in by pricing locals out of the market.

“The concept of it is good,” he said.

“The reality is it’s probably gone further out of control than Airbnb might have expected.

“The way that Airbnb talk about it is people get to go places, to live like the locals and live in the local community.

“The reality is that in a number of places there are whole apartment blocks taken up by Airbnb, people just letting out their apartments, so they’re not living like locals, they’re just with a bunch of other tourists.”

 

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