In the context of climate issues attracting the attention and efforts of international organizations, governments, and businesses worldwide, the tourism industry is no exception to the action plans towards the goal of Net Zero by 2050.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has released a detailed research report on the current status and roadblocks of the tourism industry in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing climate action. Thereby, WTTC proposes a roadmap framework for industry segments in Travel & Tourism to achieve the Net Zero goal that the world is aiming for.
Accommodation, Aviation, Cruises are industries that often have quite a lot of data on greenhouse gas emissions from direct emissions from fuel usage and energy systems, along with specific action recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, tour operators, OTAs and travel agents do not have too much measurement data on emissions in operations because emission sources are mainly indirect. However, these 3 segments still have many ways to reduce emissions and contribute to the Net Zero goal of the entire tourism industry with recommendations from WTTC:
With the exception of tour operators who have their own planes or hotels needing to apply emission reductions for Aviation or Accommodation, the usual source of emissions for tour operators is business travel of employee and office operations. Therefore, the decarbonizing levers that tour operators need to focus on are the trip footprint, office energy and waste, and employees’ business trips.
Emissions from employees or tourists related to trips can be reduced by reconsidering transportation modes, choosing sustainable flights or other more sustainable alternatives, and encouraging tourists to choose sustainable tourism. Reducing the emissions trip footprint is likely to have the most significant impact on emission levels of tour operators.
For waste management and energy use in the office, the proposed measure is to increase the use of low-carbon energy sources and use electricity from renewable energy as much as possible. To reduce waste, tour operators may consider reducing the production of brochures or customer materials, instead, companies can offer customers a more holistic experience, allowing them to access all necessary information on a digital platform.
In addition, tour operators can reduce emissions from business travel or employee travel by creating a hybrid workplace where employees can work from home and have the technology to support employee communication and work.
According to the WTTC, most tour operators now plan for carbon neutral by carbon offsets. However, that is still not enough and there should be active measures to reduce emissions rather than offset them. The good news is that the number of tour operators who are aware of this and apply it is gradually increasing.
OTAs and Travel Agents
For OTAs and Travel Agents, the biggest emitters are offices and data centers. WTTC proposes 5 decarbonization levers for OTAs and Travel Agents.
With the main source of emissions being office activities, a first measure is to increase energy efficiency by using energy sources with lower carbon emissions, replacing fossil fuels and increasing the use of renewable energy.
Similar to Tour Operators, OTAs and Travel Agents can encourage and support employees in choosing alternative modes of transportation, choosing sustainable flights when necessary for business travel. This is considered the second most effective way to reduce emissions for OTAs and Travel Agents.
In addition, OTAs and Travel Agents can implement a few office improvement measures such as optimizing office space by carrying out efficiency upgrades, investing in movement detection systems to save energy, rent offices in energy-saving buildings. Although these measures have a low emission reduction impact, they still have a certain impact in the short term.
The WTTC also recommends that OTAs and Travel Agents have a sustainable procurement. The indirect emission reductions of OTAs can start from reducing the carbon footprint of supplier premises, data centers, using cloud computing instead of on-premises infrastructures. This measure is driven by the digitization of operations, so the emission reduction impact will gradually increase in the long term.
One final lever for OTAs and Travel Agents is to educate consumers and partners about sustainability, raising awareness of the carbon footprint of clients and consumers’ travel options. With this measure, OTAs and Travel Agents play an important role in the decarbonization of the tourism industry by collaborating with supply chain partners, creating awareness of sustainability.