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COP26: Pledges, Promises & What is Next for Travel and Tourism

With COP26 coming to a close on November 12 in Glasgow, Scotland hertelier summarizes some of the highlights of initiatives related to tourism and hotels coming out of the conference and spoke with some industry experts to get their opinions on what's next.

New effort: Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality

The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, an organization of leading hospitality companies (think all the big brands: Accor, Four Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Wyndham, and more) comprising 30% of the industry, announced "Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality" in conjunction with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). This program will be for any hotel at any stage of sustainability and will "encompass four clear stages and practical tools that guide the industry towards a regenerative impact on our planet," with plans to launch in March 2022.

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO
Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO

Of the new effort, Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO said: “We recognize both the major challenges we are facing and the urgent need to restart our sector safely and responsibly. We fully endorse and support the Pathway, an initiative that complements WTTC’s own ambition to move the entire sector to net zero. WTTC is in a unique position to connect the entire industry and encourage the many SMEs and others within the industry to begin their journey with a solid sustainability framework.”

“At IHG Hotels & Resorts, we are proud of our progress in making an increasingly positive difference to our people, communities, and planet. However, we know that we cannot tackle the climate emergency alone, and we see the value of working collaboratively with industry partners to drive meaningful change both locally and at scale.” Catherine Dolton, Chief Sustainability Officer and Vice President, Corporate Responsibility at IHG Hotels and Resorts

"We decided to become a launch partner for the Glasgow Declaration because we see it as an opportunity to build resilience as a sector because together we can do much more. Red Carnation Hotels and The Travel Corporation believe that the path to Net Zero lies in collective action. As respective companies, actions to measure and to regenerate can be done with considerable success on our own, however, opportunities to finance the necessary shift and to accelerate the adoption of technology and infrastructure necessary to decarbonize are simply more impactful if we work together." Shannon Guihan, Chief TreadRight & Sustainability Officer

Update: Glasgow Declaration

Since we gave you the scoop on this last week, over 300 travel firms have signed on to the Glasgow Declaration, including the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (above) and its influential members. In theory, this means, the era of greenwashing is over. As a refresher, the declaration states:

"We declare our shared commitment to unite all stakeholders in transforming tourism to deliver effective climate action. We support the global commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero as soon as possible before 2050. We will consistently align our actions with the latest scientific recommendations, so as to ensure our approach remains consistent with a rise of no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.”
Maribel Esparcia Pérez, European Sustainable Hospitality Club
Maribel Esparcia Pérez, European Sustainable Hospitality Club

We spoke with another signatory, the European Sustainable Hospitality Club whose founding member, Maribel Esparcia Pérez, said "There is no alternative. Regulators, consumers, and industry stakeholders are demanding this change. The sustainability challenges go way beyond emissions and transportation...let's be clear, the conversation about degrowth and alternative travel experiences has to happen. There is a need for a more holistic approach to regenerative travel."

November 9 was Gender Day at COP26

Alessandra Alonso, founder, Women in Travel CIC
Alessandra Alonso, founder, Women in Travel CIC

Alessandra Alonso, founder of Women In Travel CIC states a strong case for why gender needs a particular focus at COP26, in TTG:

  • Women make 80% of household purchase decisions, including on leisure travel, and hold the key to more sustainable and value-led consumer behaviors.

  • Women globally are educators, they teach children about the impact of the climate crisis and the importance of respecting our planet.

  • Women are also among the poorest segments of the population on the planet and are hugely affected by the climate crisis owing to flooding, droughts, and everything in between, not to mention their children as well.

  • Women sit at the heart of communities as hosts and guides, yet often have limited ability to influence policymaking or take part in the decision-making process. (According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Gender Report, across the 156 countries covered by the index, women represent only 26.1% of some 35,500 parliamentary seats and just 22.6% of the more than 3,400 ministerial roles worldwide.)

Ana Cristina Beatriz, ABC Sustainable Luxury Hospitality
Ana Cristina Beatriz, ABC Sustainable Luxury Hospitality

Studies consistently show that women are concerned about the environment and have stronger pro-climate opinions and beliefs than men. Ana Cristina Beatriz, founder, ABC Sustainable Luxury Hospitality, a consulting company specialized in wellness and sustainable hotel projects in Portugal sees the female influence in improving sustainability in her country and stresses the importance of involving the local community in hotel sustainability, "this not only helps the environment by reducing CO2 emissions but provides employment that promotes circular economy."

What is Next?

As for what is next, Maribel Esparcia Pérez, European Sustainable Hospitality Club remarked, "Human rights, is the main topic in sustainability under my view. Extreme weather events and natural protection are linked directly to human rights. We must ensure the tourism activity serves as a force for good and uses service to tackle grand systemic challenges."

The European Sustainable Hospitality Club has put forth a "Service & Significance model" which focuses on how hospitality businesses can implement environmentally and socially transformative strategies. "With a problem-solving approach, we can transition from old linear models to circularity, and a human-driven approach," she added. "In other words, education, co-creation, and collaboration are the three areas we will have to focus on for our industry to blossom from COVID19 and create better business structures and alliances to achieve sustainable development materiality and support thriving communities."


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