The tourism industry must embrace sustainability and adopt new ways of doing business if it is to survive and prosper. This was the message from Stephen Farrant, Director of the International Tourism Partnership at the World Tourism Forum in Lucerne this week, who called for a sustainability ‘revolution’ in the industry.
Farrant used the Switzerland event to outline the progress made by many companies, and drew on examples of innovation and best practice that could be adopted by the wider tourism sector.
“The tourism industry is not alone in facing growing environmental and social pressures, and the coming decades will call for a ‘revolution of innovation’,” Farrant said. “But there is some very interesting innovation already happening, and we need to accelerate the change and help every tourism business adopt more sustainable business practices,” he added.
Farrant cited a recent poll of 766 CEOs, which saw 93 per cent of those surveyed saying that sustainability is critical for their business’s success.
“The tourism industry cannot rely on ‘business as usual’ if it wants to continue to grow and prosper as it has in the past. The days of freely available natural resources and cheap oil are limited. Certain modal shifts are essential – such as investing in high speed rail as a viable alternative to air travel for many journeys, increasing the adoption of solar energy, and a new generation of highly efficient hotel design to make better use of resources. We won’t be able to continue as usual when, for example, the global consumption of water is doubling every 20 years, and by 2025 the demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 50%.” he said.
Farrant outlined examples of design innovations, solar power projects, partnerships and community investment programmes. “Covering an area of 2,300 square metres, 560 solar panels have been installed on the roof of one of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre car parks. More than 90% of the hot water at the new Aloft Hotel at ADNEC operated by Starwood Hotels & Resorts, is supplied through energy harnessed from solar panels,” he said.
He also pointed out that there is growing evidence that customers want a sustainable product, but that investors too are putting pressure on companies to improve their impact.
“Just last week, a new investor-led initiative including Aviva Investors, CCLA Investment Management and Scottish Widows and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) launched a new appeal to the world’s largest companies to implement cost effective greenhouse gas emissions reduction initiatives. So this ‘revolution of innovation’ will be financially-led, and there will be clear winners,” Farrant said.
“There is a lot of expertise and information available to tourism companies out there. Innovation is happening, but we need to move the ‘best in class’ towards the mainstream and help the rest of the industry toward more effective solutions,” he said. “There is a real danger that while many companies know what needs to be done, they don’t know how to make a start.
“The solution is to a large extent in the hands of the big operators – they must take the big steps – come up with the big solutions so that the rest of the industry, which forms the majority of operators, can learn from them with the confidence that the results will not only be sustainable but also help their company remain profitable in the longer term,” Farrant concluded.