Travel and tourism industry grapples with increasing emissions despite GDP growth contribution

KIGALI, Nov. 3– The travel and tourism industry, while experiencing a steady growth of 4.3 percent in gross domestic product annually, is facing a concerning challenge as greenhouse gas emissions within the sector continue to rise at a rate of 2.5 percent each year. Julia Simpson, chief executive officer of the World Travel& Tourism Council, disclosed this…

KIGALI, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) — The travel and tourism industry, while experiencing a steady growth of 4.3 percent in gross domestic product annually, is facing a concerning challenge as greenhouse gas emissions within the sector continue to rise at a rate of 2.5 percent each year.

Julia Simpson, chief executive officer of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), disclosed this alarming trend, shedding light on the industry’s environmental impact while speaking at the 23rd WTTC Global Summit in the Rwandan capital of Kigali Thursday.

Simpson highlighted that even amid the emissions increase, 135 countries have managed to reduce their emissions intensity, and 15 have succeeded in decreasing their absolute greenhouse gas emissions, demonstrating a potential for change within the industry.

“Our sector globally is still less emissions-intensive than the world economy. In 2019 at its peak, travel and tourism represented 8.1 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the world, 10.6 percent of total energy use and 0.9 percent of global water use,” she said.

According to her, the primary culprits for greenhouse gas emissions within the sector are transport, making up around 40 percent, and energy use, specifically electricity consumption, contributing 20 percent.

She pointed out that out of the 40 percent allocated to transport emissions, approximately 36 percent originates from international aviation, making ground transport a larger contributor than airplanes.

To mitigate this environmental impact, Simpson urged industry leaders to prioritize the adoption of electric vehicles within businesses and supply chains, while also emphasizing the need for the sustainable production of aviation fuels.

She called on government leaders and policymakers to explore investment opportunities in sustainable aviation fuel production in their respective countries and consider the electrification of ground vehicles as a means to harness renewable energy.

Addressing the challenges of air connectivity, infrastructure, and visa regulations, Simpson pointed out that visa regimes are a major impediment to the sector’s growth, particularly in Africa.

She commended Rwanda’s visa-on-arrival policy as a positive example.

Simpson emphasized the industry’s intrinsic value, insisting that travel and tourism promote peace, serve as an embodiment of soft power, and contribute to building bridges, fostering understanding, and nurturing compassion in an increasingly interconnected world.

The WTTC held its 23rd global summit for the first time on the African continent. The three-day summit, which opened Wednesday and ended Friday, attracted more than 1,000 participants, including heads of state, policymakers, government officials, travel leaders, and champions of conservation from across the globe to discuss the future of global travel and tourism. Enditem