LONDON (eTN) – The president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, Jean Claude Baumgarten, explains for eTurboNews how his organization is involved in the fight against global warming and sustainable development.
For Baumgarten, the tourism industry consciousness to environment problems is a crucial issue. “The travel and tourism community must be highly involved as tourism can generate a negative impact on the environment. If travel and tourism destroy their assets such as landscapes or historical structures for the sake of development, they also destroy their own future. We have no other choice than changing our way to do business,” he said.
According to Baumgarten, the industry increasingly realized the dangers of over development and its impact on climate change. “The world must convince companies that if they save energy or define new environment’s ethics, they will see a return on their investments. Our members tell us that measures such as recycling, energy savings or the reuse of sewage waters can improve their financial balance by 25 percent.”
WTTC has launched an environment initiative in three phases. The Council produced earlier in 2009 a report defining its vision and a strategy on sustainable travel and tourism. “We have identified five sustainability themes objectives: accountability and responsibility; local community growth and capacity building; educating customers and stakeholders; greening supply chains; innovation, capital investment and infrastructure,” added Baumgarten.
All 45 WTTC members1– which include prestigious companies such as Accor, American Express, British Airways, Marriott, JTB, Sabre or TUI among others- have adopted a chart with concrete measures to balance and reduce the impact of their activities on the environment. “We currently work on a new web portal, where all of our companies will be able to explain and show their efforts to fight global warming,” says Baumgarten. In another phase, WTTC will go into a partnership with other international institutions to work on common goals. “We will meet with IATA, PATA and UNWTO on December 18 to launch a common initiative. We hoep to produce results in a very short term,” the WTTC CEO said.
Asked about the difficulties that such an initiative would face, Baumgarten said he sees two important challenges: “The first one is technical. How will it be possible to adapt existing structures to new stricter environmental norms? New infrastructures today generally apply energy-savings criteria. But what about older buildings? A huge effort must be done to support research to find technologies which can be easily implementing on existing infrastructure. Solar panels are one solution? But we also monitor with high interest the development of a new energy-saving film for windows which could help to lower energy costs. Imagine what could be the impact in energy saving in a place such as Manhattan!”
Another important challenge is a better education and consciousness process, especially in emerging economies. “In those countries, economic development remains a priority but it can be in many cases linked to environmental deterioration. We have to increase awareness of national decision-makers and international companies involved in this process,” closed Baumgarten.
A complete list of WTTC members and WTTC strategy can be viewed online at www.wttc.org