Travel and tourism industry ramps up global climate action

The world's largest travel and tourism companies have improved their carbon efficiency by 20% in the past 10 years and are on course to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2035, according to a major new industry report.

Travel & Tourism 2015; Connecting Global Climate Action, published by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), details the environmental progress made by the world’s leading airlines, hotels, cruise lines and car rental companies.

Members of the WTTC, including Emirates, TripAdvisor, Hertz, Etihad, Hilton, Starwood Hotels, IBM, MGM Resorts and Radisson Edwardian Hotels, collectively account for more than $680bn in annual turnover.

The members of the WTTC are ahead of schedule for an interim target of a 25% reduction by 2020 and on track to meet their overall target of a 50% cut by 2035.

The efficiency improvements were attributed to upgrades in five key areas

1) Improved accountability – the sector has developed new ways of tracking carbon and started engaging with global reporting frameworks like CDP

2) Work on the ground – WTTC members are involved in on-the-ground action in the form of community engagement, charitable contributions, disaster relief, or conservation efforts. Several WTTC Member programmes address deforestation in particular, while others focus on wider biodiversity protection such as preserving coral reefs, hosting bee colonies on rooftops, managing waste, or ensuring sustainable sourcing.

3) Education and engagement – most Travel & Tourism companies now have branded sustainability programs, and these often include customer engagement programs 

4) Greening supply chains – most WTTC members now have formidable supplier screening and supply chain engagement programs and have developed practical tools to help procurement from local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of this

5) Certification – most WTTC Member companies have achieved green certification of some type.

Green growth

Travel & Tourism is forecast to contribute almost 10% of world GDP and 1 in 11 of all jobs on the planet. The sector is expected to grow at around 4% per annum for the next decade.

“With such robust growth, travel and tourism’s relationship to climate change becomes critical,” said WTTC CEO David Scowsill.

“While the sector has grown, added more jobs and contributed billions of dollars to economies all over the world, we have seen real commitment to sustainability from business as companies innovate and collaborate with others to reduce their overall impacts.

“WTTC Members are investing heavily in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, are protecting valuable ecosystems and have been building awareness of their actions among stakeholders and customers.

“The majority of WTTC Members are publicly disclosing their efforts through various means of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting.”


Earlier this year, the world’s largest travel and tourism business TUI Group announced it had cut emissions by 10% since 2008 and planned to cut another 10% by 2020. In January, travel and tourism giant Thomas Cook also revealed it had slashed total energy use by 35% since 2010.

However in October, 28 chief executives and aviation association leaders wrote an open letter to Governments, urging them to support the industry’s green efforts through actions such as air traffic reform and funding for new technology research and sustainable fuels.

Scowsill continued: “The next 20 years will be characterised by our sector fully integrating climate change and related issues into business strategy, supporting the global transition to a low carbon economy, strengthening resilience at a local level against climate risks, promoting the value of responsible travel, and greening entire supply chains. 

“To reach these long term goals, much still needs to be done across Travel & Tourism and other sectors, but we now have a common understanding and are ever-closer to agreement on the global actions necessary.” 

Brad Allen

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