Sustainability has taken centre stage in travel in recent years – accelerated by the pandemic when companies had a chance to step back and rethink.
David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, broadcast in 2017, helped to put the spotlight on plastic pollution, leading many across the industry to pledge to ban or phase out single-use plastic. They included operators such as Exodus, KE Adventure and The Travel Corporation, and hotel groups like Accor, Hilton, IHG and Marriott.
Cruise lines are building ships that run on liquefied natural gas (LNG) to reduce their footprint (more than half of new ships on order by members of the Cruise Lines International Association will use LNG), while destinations worldwide are setting targets to reduce their emissions.
Airlines are also taking the issue seriously.Actions include investing in sustainable aviation fuel and ensuring supply chains are as sustainable as possible. The International Air Transport Association has set a goal for all airlines to reach net zero by 2050, and many airlines have pledged to reach the target.
Sustainability in the industry isn’t just about the eco-efforts, of course; responsible tourism also means ensuring a better spread of wealth across the world, and operators such as G Adventures, Intrepid Travel and Explore put an emphasis on supporting the communities they visit through local partnerships.
But challenges remain, and there’s still more to be done. Travel companies are creating new sustainability roles to help with the task, with opportunities for new entrants passionate about making a difference and keen to pursue a career in the field.
is the global manager of projects and partnerships at the non-profit organisation Planeterra
We work with community-led enterprises around the world to develop their business skills and products, and address key social, economic and environmental issues. We partner with travel companies to uplift women, youth and Indigenous people, improve food and water security, champion Indigenous rights, safeguard cultures, and more.
My role involves leading our global climate and biodiversity crisis response initiative, which focuses on working with community partners to integrate climate change adaptability and resilience solutions into their tourism initiatives.
I’ve worked in responsible and sustainable tourism for 16 years, since I spent my third year of university in Senegal, researching community-based ecotourism. My journey has taken me to Sierra Leone, Benin, Haiti, Brazil, Chad, Cabo Verde, Croatia, Vietnam, Peru and Albania, working alongside private, public and third sector organisations to create and implement responsible and sustainable tourism models.
If you’re interested in working in the industry, set yourself a goal for where you want to get to in your career, then develop your knowledge and experience in that field.
is a sustainability advisor at the travel association Abta
Abta is dedicated to sustainability in travel – we recognise travel’s potential for positive change and actively address industry challenges, including achieving carbon reduction targets, promoting excursions that benefit communities, reducing plastic waste and upholding ethical policies.
I work as a sustainability advisor, focusing on addressing challenges within the travel industry. My journey began right after university – I’ve always had a keen interest in sustainability, and I saw an opportunity to champion it within the travel sector. I wanted to make a positive impact on local communities.
In terms of positive progress, the use of greener fuels is a big step forward, and we’re proud to support Sustainable Aviation. This involves reducing carbon emissions and encouraging innovation in sustainable fuels.
One big challenge around sustainability in the tourism sector is the sheer size of the supply chain – the industry is so wide and diverse that it can be a real challenge to keep tabs on everything that affects sustainability. This includes tracking carbon emissions, dealing with ethical concerns and managing resource use.