Sustainability in travel is about collaboration and compromise

I have previously touched on the issue of sustainability in travel but it’s not going to go away and is certainly worth reviewing as the progress in this area has been significant. We were diverted from the issue for a while when COVID-19 hit, but in a way, it was what happened during the pandemic, when we saw clearer skies and cleaner waters, that reminded us that travel, in the transport sector at least, was not a friend of our planet’s sustainability.

What then has happened since and what are we to expect in the future? Have travel and sustainability initiatives come to an impasse, leaving us to choose between travel and greening the planet? Fortunately not, but it will take some, effort on everyone’s part, to ensure that this is not our future

Airlines take the lead

As the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, airlines have borne the brunt of the criticism about flagrant disregard for the planet and it is they who have had to step up first and do something about the way they operate. We are now seeing a lot of initiatives with airlines who are starting to substitute fuel with refined vegetable oil and both Air France and Virgin Atlantic, to name just two, have really good sustainability programs and are making a major effort to illustrate their genuine concern for the sustainability issues. They are not alone in these initiatives either and all airlines are now following suit. Frankly, if they are to survive, they have to.

The tide is turning

What’s very encouraging is that the changes made in both the airlines and the hospitality industry (in the very short time between the start of COVID in 2000 and now – less than 3 years) have been so significant. Just imagine what will be achieved in the next three years.

Hospitality are playing their part by incorporating solar energy, more sustainable amenities and going greener on every level of their operations. Some country hotels even have full recycling programs and are growing their own food products. It’s this kind of awareness that makes me confident that the wheels have begun to turn and are not going to stop.

We need corporate buy-in too

What is a little concerning to me, is that due to the difficult economic times we are going through at a corporate level travel decision-making is often still coming down to price as opposed to considering sustainability. Sustainability is not something that can be solved on only one side of the whole travel spectrum. If suppliers are coming to the party corporates need to do their socially responsible bit too as transformation can only take place when they choose a supplier based on sustainability and not price. Airlines making a real effort (and hotels for that matter) cannot be expected to continue to do so if the travel decision always comes down to affordability and they are no longer supported.

Collaborative effort – and compromise 

What we need to remember is that international and local long-distance travel are vitally important and business is unlikely to ever operate as successfully without it, so travel is here to stay. Sustainability issues are also of vital importance and are not going to go away and they certainly shouldn’t. Where does that leave us then? It means that we need to, as a collective, do everything we can to ensure that airlines (and other forms of travel) and the hospitality industry are as green as they can possibly be and that their efforts are supported. This entails a collaborative effort and compromise that needs to be reached on many levels.

I strongly believe that we can achieve this and that our future is not one of doom and gloom, but one in which we can keep going about our business on a global level and still have a planet on which our children can live and which we can be proud to have nurtured.LIDIA FOLLI



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