Tourism businesses and destinations are committed to the sustainable energy agenda but need the support of the energy sector and governments to move forward, said leading experts from the aviation, accommodation, and other tourism industries meeting in Spain for the official celebrations of World Tourism Day 2012 in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain, on September 27, 2012.
Their Royal Highnesses, the Prince and Princess of Spain, opened the celebrations, commending the tourism community for choosing Tourism & Sustainable Energy as the theme of World Tourism Day (WTD) 2012, in line with the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.
“This theme brings to the table one of the most pressing challenges facing the world today,” said Prince Felipe, “We cannot guarantee the future of important sectors such as tourism if we don’t protect the environment in which they take place.”
This message was echoed by the Minister of Industry, Energy, and Tourism of Spain, Jose Manuel Soria, who spoke of the importance of ensuring tourism’s sustained growth, “one of the world’s largest employers,” while committing to sustainability.
UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai pointed to the many sustainable energy initiatives already in place in the tourism sector “from the world’s airline giants using biofuels in commercial flights, to small hotels placing insulating plants on their roofs to keep hotels cool in summer and warm in winter” but cautioned that with one billion tourists estimated to travel the world in 2012 alone, “more can and must be done.”
Participating in the annual WTD Think Tank. representatives of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Etihad Airways expressed the industry readiness to deploy sustainable energy solutions, signaling that sustainability makes business sense and that airlines have a vested interest in moving the sustainable energy agenda forward by, for example, using biofuels.
Speaking of the concerns of the accommodation industry and tour operators, Spanish hotel chain Lopesan, and Russian tour operator Natalie Tours, further expressed their willingness to adopt cleaner energies, especially ways that would allow tourists to make energy-conscious but still cost-effective travel choices. Panelists pointed to the UNWTO online tool, Hotel Energy Solutions, which helps hotels to assess their energy use and make major cuts, as one such initiative. The Spanish version of the tool was launched on the occasion of WTD.
The need for better collaboration between the tourism and energy sectors was echoed by the Spanish energy company Acciona and the Secretary of State of Energy of Spain, who acknowledged the important links between tourism and energy. The two sectors would have to work closely together, and with the support of governments, they concluded, to ensure a brighter energy future for all.