TORONTO — The news reports coming in from Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands are heartbreaking, and the images even more so.
NEW YORK — A massive new travel sustainability initiative has just been launched by Prince Harry in an effort to improve measures amid the ever-increasing issue of overtourism.
Named ‘Travalyst’, the new venture was officially launched in Amsterdam, a city hit hard by overtourism, during a news conference on Tuesday with partners Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Visa, Ctrip (China’s largest travel company), and the Ctrip-owned fare aggregator, Skyscanner.
The long-term initiative is focused on tackling the travel industry’s impact on climate change, improving wildlife conservation, and protecting the environment in top tourist spots around the world. It aims to increase the amount of tourism dollars that go to local communities and find answers to overtourism.
“Travel has the unparalleled power to open people’s minds to different cultures, new experiences, and to have a profound appreciation for what our world has to offer,” the duke said in a statement shared with The Associated Press ahead of the formal announcement.
“As tourism inevitably grows, it is critically important to accelerate the adoption of sustainable practices worldwide, and to balance this growth with the needs of the environment and the local population. Bringing companies, consumers and communities together is our best chance to protect destinations and ecosystems for future generations,” he added.
Last year, the number of international trips taken globally each year reached 1.4 billion, two years faster than original projections, reported UNWTO. Since 2000, the number of trips taken annually by people around the world has more than doubled.
The continued rise in the number of people travelling indicates that we will reach 1.8 billion international trips by 2030, doubling the number of trips made annually in fewer than 20 years.
Travalyst is intended to capitalize on the strength of the global travel market, foster increased collaboration across the industry, and stimulate new solutions in sustainable travel. The founding partners aim to spark a movement of like-minded companies, organizations, NGOs and changemakers to transform the future of travel into a more sustainable one.
Gathering service providers into one coalition is a feat unto itself in a competitive industry with piles of profit on the table. Other areas explored will include cleaner aviation fuel, more travel experiences focused on sustainability, and educating tourists on the footprints they make and the waste they leave behind.
“The commitment from these different brands to work together and help build a global network of like-minded social entrepreneurs, NGOs and policymakers is truly inspiring,” said Gillian Tans, chairwoman of Booking.com. “Collaboration is the only path forward if we want to create a real paradigm shift in travel.”
Bryan Dove, chief executive for Skyscanner, said the travel industry has an obligation “to preserve our world for future generations to explore and enjoy – but to do this we need to act now, as change won’t happen overnight.”
Harry began approaching potential partners for the coalition about two years ago. Specific programs and projects will likely be launched within the next 18 months. Harry will be actively at the helm.
Consumers are hungry for change, with 71% of global travellers telling Booking.com they think travel companies should offer more sustainable travel choices, and 68% saying it was important that their travel dollars support local communities.
At Skyscanner over the last 12 months, 10 million travellers selected the lowest carbon emission flight option, for instance.
Travalyst will be the first initiative to fall under the Sussex Royal charitable foundation of Harry and Meghan after they spun off from the joint trust established by his brother, Prince William, and duchess Kate.
With file from The Associated Press