Have you started to think about your winter holidays yet, a short break skiing or snowboarding perhaps? But have you stopped to consider what these holidays would be like without snow? Pretty dull I would have thought… As the world warms up these holidays could become just a distant memory, but do you believe it’s going to happen in your lifetime? Honestly, I think we are going to come face to face with our impacts sooner than most think as North America ski industry melts before our eyes and the Maldives begins to sink. It seems we are disconnected from our holidays and the effects it is having elsewhere in the world.
Probably due to the upcoming climate talks in Paris, the focus of this year’s World Travel Market’s World Responsible Tourism Day was climate change. It was kicked off with a keynote speech from Kevin Anderson who is a Professor of Energy and Climate Change. Kevin believes we have done nothing about climate change for the past 25 years. So why has the tourism industry partly ignored climate change when it could destroy the all-important destination?
The key issue is its reliance upon the airlines as its own beating heart. Planes form the arteries that transport travellers all over the world. They beat new life into economies, environments and communities, contributing to the local economy, elevating poverty and bring value to natural resources that are then conserved. Like most things, if you remove its heart it will collapse and currently, there’s no alternative. Today tourists have turned a hopeless blind eye, to challenge the airlines would mean challenging our own glorious holidays.
Conveniently the facts and figures produced by ATAG do not make airlines look like the worst culprits. Flights currently only generate 2% of all human produced CO2 emissions. But remember, tourism is not slowing down; it is set to grow exponentially contributing 10% of the global GDP by the end of 2015. Flights are simply not going to disappear. With the release of the A380 they are having to get bigger to cope with demand and airports are only going to get larger with no end in sight. We are likely to see more planes and shorter breaks as people get busier. On a 2 week, small group holiday tourists can take 3 internal flights squashing a whole country into a neat little package. The winter sees in the northern lights season which is incredibly popular, but is it just me that thinks a 6 hour round trip for just 3 days is NUTS! Our enjoyment of holidays and the unavoidable realization that there’s no alternative to flying has created a selective ignorance. Our challenge on airlines efficiency has been silenced.
We are blinded by ATAG’s statistic, its done its job, polished the airline’s ego and buffered its image until it shines. Instead of seeing a vehicle that pumps fumes we see opportunities for holidays, business and excitement. But airlines should not be immune to criticism. The lack of criticism means we haven’t seen a dramatic step in the development of efficiency even with BA’s biofuel labs and Virgins tokenism biofuel flight back in 2008!
I am not suggesting that we stop going on holiday; not only would that be very unpopular but tourism is a huge economic driver. Tourism is a lifeline to least developing countries, offering job creation, poverty alleviation, environmental protection and multicultural understanding. However, in the wake of the VW conspiracy, it is also time to put pressure on the airlines to improve efficiency before it’s too late. We need to try and look past our own holidays before we actually come face to face with the problems we are causing. It will be sad to know that it was our own greed that made the snow melt from the slopes, beautiful islands disappear below the waves, multicoloured coral becomes baron and the fires to cross jungles.