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Global tourism industry leaders aim to go green May 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Tourism.

The world’s leading tourism companies are trying to agree on ways to fight climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from hotels, cruise ships and airliners, the head of a major tourism association said last week.

Geoffrey Kent, Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) which represents the leading 100 companies in the sector, said last week he expected members to begin implementing some of the measures in about a year. “I believe it is our responsibility to come up with an overall agreement to follow within our own council of members,” Kent said in an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of a global meeting on the environment and tourism. “By the end of the year, we’ll probably come up with some really good and concrete challenges for WTTC members.”

The tourism industry is expected to contribute to 10.4 percent of the world’s economy in 2007 and is responsible for 231 million jobs, according to the WTTC.

There are no exact numbers as to the volume of carbon emissions that tourism releases into the atmosphere, but the industry is dependent on construction, airline and sea travel and other activities that are often blamed for climate change. Kent said he expected some of the WTTC measures to make some tourism companies more cost-efficient. WTTC members include US hospitality company Wyndham Worldwide Corp and the Intercontinental Hotel Group.

“Climate change is actually going to make them save money,” he said, adding that he believed companies that cut as much as 40 percent of carbon emissions would become more energy-efficient and save money. He said airlines had been overly criticized, however, for the role they play in climate change: “Airlines are being demonized, because it’s easy for government officials to lift their finger at them, but they only contribute 1.6 percent of the problem, compared with 40 percent of emissions in new buildings.”

Kent said it would also be important for governments to show tourists they care about sustainable development and are taking measures to limit the impact of tourism on the environment.

“Any country that doesn’t show concern for the environment will lose tourists,” said Marta Suplicy, Minister of Tourism for Brazil, which was recently nominated for a sustainable tourism award.

Her Greek counterpart, Fanni Palli-Petralia, said it was important to support sustainable tourism and not repeat what she said were errors of the past. “If we do so, we’ll have no tourists.”

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