The Climate Reality Project Europe Spanish Team presented the Decalogue for a Green Future for Spain to professionals in the tourism sector. The expert panel was formed of Lourdes Ripoll, Vice President of CSR of Meliá Hotels International, Meliá; Brigitte Hidalgo, Director of Operations of Weekendesk, and Cristina Moreno, Head of Public Affairs and Communication at the Professional Association of Air Traffic Controllers (APROCTA). The speakers debated circular and sustainable tourism as a tool to reactivate the economy after the slowdown caused by COVID-19. The meeting was presented and moderated by Didier Lagae, CEO of MARCO and a consultancy and Climate Change Leader.
Circular Tourism is one of the 10 action lines contemplated in the Decalogue presented by The Climate Reality Project Europe’s Spanish team, which proposes a more environmentally respectful model of tourism. Some of the action items explained in the manifesto are: putting a price on carbon emissions, supporting the production of renewable energy, promoting non-polluting mobility, protecting biodiversity, promoting sustainable agriculture, investing in clean water, extending the circular economy, adapting to new sustainable cities, and promoting sustainable industrial production and management.
Regarding sustainable tourism, The Climate Reality Project Europe considers that it is necessary to propose a model that improves the environment and is not just a source of consumption of local resources and producer of pollution. As such, means of transport have a fundamental role to play in this challenge. Airlines and shipping companies must reduce emissions with more efficient engines and fuels and pay for the emissions they generate. One option that is becoming increasingly feasible is to reduce the number of local flights that can be replaced by trains.
Cristina Moreno, from the Professional Association of Air Traffic Controllers, explained that the sector has been working for years to become more efficient and sustainable, betting on initiatives such as the CORSIA Plan, a measure designed to offset CO2 emissions from aviation, although she acknowledged that COVID-19 crisis “has marked a turning point in our mentality as a society because it has made us rethink a better world.”
“We began the year by working hand in hand with the Ecological Transition Ministry because we believe that there is much to do in the short term. On the one hand, we have to invest in R&D and innovation and promote efficiency in engines and the development of new fuels. We want planes to remain full, but to be more efficient and, above all, utilise shorter routes that will allow for fuel savings. This will be the key to achieving the Single European Sky”, she emphasised.
Betting on local tourism
The reduction of carbon emissions largely depends on promoting non-polluting mobility and minimising the use of transport in order to promote local tourism. For this reason, Weekendesk specialises in responsible and transformative vacations by promoting short trips, where the carbon footprint is, according to the travel portal, 12 times lower than that of a long trip (0.04 tons of CO2 vs. 0.49 tons of CO2).
Brigitte Hidalgo, from Weekendesk, explained that the aim of the travel agency is to promote destinations a few kilometres away from the travellers’ residence and, especially, in natural environments. “Before Covid-19 we were already beginning to see this trend of customers looking for sustainable options. In fact, through internal studies we saw that 50% of our customers were inclined to that model of travel,” she stressed.
“This is a fantastic time to rethink the situation. The proposed approach to change is possible, but we must rebalance this type of tourism,” concluded Hidalgo.
It is not just one piece of the chain that needs to be worked on, but all the pieces must be committed to sustainable tourism”
Lourdes Ripoll (Meliá Hotels International)
Lourdes Ripoll from Meliá Hotels International stressed that everything is focused on “a shift in the mindset” and this is what has allowed this hotel group to be named as the most sustainable in the world, according to SAM’s latest Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA), which evaluates the practices of almost 5,000 companies from all sectors. “The new normal has to come from the entire tourism value chain. It is not just one piece of the chain that needs to be worked on, all the pieces must be committed to sustainable tourism,” she emphasised.
In fact, Meliá Hotels International has linked its Corporate Responsibility model to the International Agenda 2030 (Sustainable Development Goals).
For Ripoll, when it comes to sustainability, “it is key to know what type of tourists we want” and to bet on de-seasonalising tourism by extending the offer to other destinations that could be attractive to visitors during the rest of the year. “The tourism sector has made significant progress in how to segment its own portfolio, with the aim of being able to extend the season and somehow balance these destinations so that not all the business is concentrated in a few months of the year,” she explained.
For his part, Álvaro Rodríguez, General Coordinator of The Climate Reality Project Europe in Spain, explained: “We are simultaneously experiencing three crises: the health crisis, the economic crisis and the environmental crisis. The break that COVID-19 has brought provides a unique opportunity to decide how we want to reactivate the economy. For this reason, from the Climate Reality Project, we propose 10 immediate action items that can change our future and that of our children for the better.”
Changes in our environmental awareness
65% of Spanish people have become more aware of the effects of the fight against climate change, according to the latest study by MARCO consultancy of Post COVID-19 Consumer Habits. Almost 3 out of 4 people surveyed across the globe (73.5%) value the fight against climate change today more than before the crisis.
Didier Lagae, from MARCO, has called on societies, companies and governments to promote change in a direction that will help overcome the crisis in a sustainable way. “Cities and businesses are faced with the challenge of adapting to a new model aimed at building sustainable tourism in all its facets, and in which everyone participates as a key player in slowing down the deterioration of the planet and recovering our environment,” he added.
Lagae, who in addition to being a Climate Change Leader is an expert in Country Branding, has highlighted the importance of building sustainable tourist destinations as a competitive advantage in this new tourism model, by de-seasonalising and multiplying offers to tourists.