Sustainable travel front and centre at WTM in London

LONDON — At this week’s WTM in London, Justin Francis, co-founder and CEO, Responsible Travel, said the industry needs to end Frequent Flyer programs and instead introduce a Frequent Flyer Levy, where those that fly more pay an escalating fee the more flights they take each year.

As part of a panel discussion, ‘Decarbonizing Travel and Tourism: Is the Industry Doing Enough?’, Francis said, “We are overdependent on an old fashioned, highly polluting form of transport. We need to fly less, but everything at World Travel Market here is about growth. We cannot be growing aviation the way we are. We need to fly less. And massively fund decarbonization.”

Responsible Travel, based in Brighton, England, bills itself as a ‘matchmaking service’ connecting travellers to 400+ travel providers around the world to offer responsible trips. Flights are on offer, as part of packaged tours however Responsible Travel says it takes a stand against everything from dolphin shows to zoos to skiing to large cruise ships.

The company has facilitated trips for 150,000 travellers, with £150 million in sales since it was founded in 2001. In 2018 sales were up 27% year over year.

Responsible Travel’s website says: “We are a travel company; we are not anti travel or anti all flying. However, we believe we must urgently find ways to travel more responsibly and to protect our environment.”

The company is advocating for a global tax on aviation.

Also during the panel discussion climate scientist professor Kevin Anderson said that since the first report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), part of the UN, there has been almost three decades of “abject failure” to reduce emissions.

“If we include our international emissions, such as from aviation, shipping, imports and exports, we see that supposedly climate progressive nations such as the UK and Scandivian countries have actually made almost no progress,” said Anderson. He called on the industry to eliminate all carbon within a decade.

Madhu Rajesh, Director of the International Tourism Partnership, said that the global hotel chains that her organization worked with are “beginning to come to the table”, with some setting science-based targets, and others saying they had ambition to set these targets. “We are seeing some examples of practical action,” she said, “but there’s a lot more that can be done.”

Jane Ashton, Director of Sustainability, TUI Group PLC, said: “If we wait for consumers to take action then we will be waiting a long time. There’s a lot of chatter but people aren’t going to forgo their annual holiday. The onus is on us in the industry to make that holiday as sustainable as possible. And the onus is on governments to create the frameworks within which companies can take responsible action.”