Gloria Guevara and Julia Simpson: We Did It!

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It takes a country with a vision, a vision 2030, a minister ready and able to spend the money, and a dream team, to make a difference for tourism and mankind.

This is bigger than tourism, WTTC, UNWTO. It’s a new giant step to combat and understand climate change, sustainability, and the role and responsibility tourism plays.

A proud Gloria Guevara and Julia Simpson share the foreword of the most comprehensive report ever conducted on the environmental impact of travel and tourism to the world.

When WTTC CEO Gloria Guevara commissioned Oxford Economics in 2020 while she was leading WTTC from London and at the outbreak of the COVID pandemic to prepare for this report, little was known how important, unique, and relevant this data would be now for the sector and mankind.

This initiative may have also opened the doors for Gloria to be appointed by His Excellency H.E. Ahmed Al-Khateeb, the progressive, outspoken, and powerful Minister of Tourism for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be his Chief Special Advisor. Gloria was able to see through the progress of this report first as CEO of WTTC and after resettling to Riyadh from the eyes of the sponsor and was able to win this initiative.

Who is Gloria Guevara?

Her Excellency Gloria Guevara served as Mexico’s Minister of Tourism between 2010-2012 and later became what many said was the most powerful woman in travel and tourism when she was hired by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) as its CEO in 2017.

Her position there may have not changed, except her alliance is now with Saudi Arabia and its globally oriented and progressive Minister of Tourism.

From Saudi Arabia to the World of Tourism

It explains that this environmental impact report was fully supported and paid for by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a gift to the world of tourism.

In the process, Saudi Arabia, while opening up for Western tourism for the first time, took the world of tourism by storm by answering emergency calls of countries from around the globe during COVID, attracting new initiatives, and inviting major tourism events to the Kingdom when the world of tourism was recovering from the pandemic and economic challenges.

Who is Julia Simpson?

Julia Simpson took the helm of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in August 2021, after Gloria moved to Saudi Arabia, and continued this project in close cooperation with Gloria and her Minister in Riyadh.

Prior to WTTC, Julia spent 14 years in the aviation sector on the Board of British Airways and Iberia and as Chief of Staff at International Airlines Group. Before joining British Airways, Julia was a Senior Adviser to the UK Prime Minister.

Tourism Depends on Nature

The travel & tourism sector is highly dependent on nature. Natural assets from mountains and beaches to coral reefs and savannahs are fundamental drivers of travel. While travel & tourism accounts for a significant share of all global economic activity, 10.4% of global GDP in 2019, it is also a contributor to the world’s output of greenhouse gases (GHG) and other pollution.

The sector uses significant amounts of energy and natural resources, including water, crops, and construction materials. These dependencies show just how critical it is for travel & tourism to protect and conserve natural environments and to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint.

But to make progress, one needs data that can be tracked. This report estimates the global environmental footprint of travel & tourism. The analysis traces all tourism-linked expenditures across 185 geographies, quantifying how this demand affects the natural world.

The data in this report is broken into 5 categories: greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, freshwater demands, production of air pollutants, and extraction of raw materials. Estimates are produced for the years 2010 and 2019-21, to identify and explore trends over time.

This project is an initial and broad-based assessment of the sector’s environmental impact, with the intention that continued monitoring can help better understand this footprint and ultimately support efforts to reduce it.

WTTC Summit Rwanda

Just in time for the upcoming WTTC Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, November 1-3, this report has all the ingredients to become a new global benchmark for climate change, sustainability, and environmental protection.

After an equally proud H.E. Ahmed Al-Khateeb introduced the report, Julia Simpson and Gloria Guevara shared the foreword.

WTTC CEO Julia Simpson and HE Gloria Guevara Stated:

For more than three decades, the World Travel and Tourism Council has published data about the contribution of travel to economies around the world.

Our industry is a growth sector, currently providing 1 in 11 jobs and more than 9% of the world’s GDP. We are immensely proud of this value, knowing that our sector is a catalyst for development in some of the poorest and most remote places on Earth, and provides experiences that people treasure.

But Today, Economic Progress Alone is Not Enough

Travel & tourism are deeply dependent on nature, and the climate crisis threatens not only vital resources but the survival of some of Earth’s most prized travel destinations – from its rainforests and tropical islands to coral reefs and arctic tundra.

That’s why, from this year onwards, the WTTC and Sustainable Tourism Global Center (STGC), incubated by the Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia, are proud to publish annual data about not only our sector’s economic impact but its environmental footprint, too.

In partnership with Oxford Economics, we will monitor and track travel & tourism’s impact, every year, in those 5 areas mentioned above.

This Report is the First of its Kind

This report is the first of its kind and global in scope, with numbers revealing between 2010 and 2019, absolute greenhouse gas emissions from travel & tourism have risen at an average rate of 2.5% a year, reaching 4,131 billion kilos of CO2 equivalent in 2019. This is around 8.1% of global emissions. It is an immense challenge and one that both our sector and global policymakers must take seriously.

The data also tells a hopeful story: over the course of the 2010s, the emissions intensity of travel & tourism consistently declined, despite rising GDP.

In other words, the link between our sector’s growth and its carbon footprint has been loosened. Between 2010 and 2019, travel & tourism’s GDP grew at an average of 4.3% per year, while emissions grew at 2.5%.

This was largely driven by a slowdown in travel & tourism’s direct (scope 1) emissions, which rose at an average of just 1.7% per year. More than 20 countries in this study saw their absolute emissions decrease, too, despite their expanding tourism economies.

Globally, however, Travel & Tourism is Still Heavily Reliant on Fossil Fuels

Moving people around the world has always been energy-intensive. This is why WTTC is actively calling on governments to incentivize the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and set ambitious targets to produce adequate quantities to allow the sector to reach net zero by 2050.

The sector has seen only a small shift towards renewable energy worldwide, and low-carbon sources made up just 6% of travel & tourism’s energy consumption in 2019.

That said, Some Parts of the World have Witnessed Real Success Stories

Of the 185 countries studied, the travel & tourism sector in Kenya experienced by far the largest increase in its low-carbon energy share, owing to substantial growth in Kenya’s renewable electricity capacity.

The country’s investments in wind, solar, and geothermal power over the 2010s have helped to almost entirely remove fossil fuels from the grid, having already been considerably decarbonized in 2010.

The Report also Looks at Trends in Air Pollution, Water Use, and Material Extraction

These are all fields in which travel & tourism needs to go further and faster. In water, travel & tourism represented just 0.9% of global consumption in 2019, and there has been a sustained decline in the sector’s water intensity over time.

Even so, water use remains a key concern, with travel & tourism having a significant footprint in parts of the world where water is scarce.

Finally, the material requirements of travel & tourism grew by 64% in the decade to 2019. This was driven by rising demand for construction materials, with new, tourism-linked capital investment in buildings, machinery, and other infrastructure in recent years.

The sector’s overall material footprint accounts for 5-8% of global material extraction.

For years, the Travel & Tourism sector has struggled to measure its carbon footprint.

Now, for the first time, we not only have enough data to quantify our global emissions but a framework to monitor them every year.

The metrics in this report also link directly to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, to help both the public and private sector track success over time. We have made good progress so far. But this is a time when partnership – business and government,  together – can achieve remarkable things

For the First Time in Our Sector’s History, We Now Have the Data We Need

Together, let’s use it.

WTTC - image courtesy of WTTC
image courtesy of WTTC

About the author

Avatar of Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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