As global leaders discussed how to combat climate change at COP 27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt last week, efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of tourism are accelerating in the Asia-Pacific, following the meeting of tourism chiefs from around the world at Tourism Japan Expo 2022.
In recent weeks, some of the Asia-Pacific region’s key leaders in government, industry, commerce and the non-profit sector have expressed their intent to help post-pandemic travel become more sustainable and responsible. Many organisations are working to “build back better” in the tourism sector – for customers, local communities and the environment.
“Tourism’s relevance has become clear through its absence during the pandemic. This window of opportunity is now open and we have to take advantage of it. The need for tourism development has never been greater,” said Ion Vilcu, director of the UNWTO Affiliate Members Department. “Now is the time to redesign and reassess how our sector impacts people and the environment.”
Benjamin Liao, PATA executive board member, commented that communities, destinations, governments and travellers want to see the return of travel in a “healthier form”, adding that the industry is “at a pivotal point with recovery”.
But more needs to be done to support those on the ground to make the necessary changes to their business models for improved tourism sustainability in the long term, according to travel chiefs.
“Governments must support increased ambition through tourism climate mitigation and adaption strategies,” said Maribel Rodriguez, WTTC senior vice president, adding that a “climate-friendly travel sector has a crucial role to play” in achieving net zero carbon emissions.
Vilcu added that there is “wide consensus” in the travel industry on “many key aspects” related to how to address climate change in a coordinated manner, with the Asia-Pacific, in particular, “stepping up to the challenge”.
The UNWTO is ready to support this coordinated effort by bringing all stakeholders together – from government and business to local communities – around “a shared vison for a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient sector,” he said.