Thomas Cook published its latest sustainability report on Wednesday (March 6). Group head of public affairs Stephen d’Alfonso tells TTG what’s new – and what it means for the operator’s sustainable tourism ambitions.
In March 2018, we launched our three-year group sustainability strategy, which has challenging targets for 2020. As we work toward those big targets, we’ve also worked hard to deliver significant milestones along the way.
In the last 12 months, we’ve made the decision to remove all captive orca attractions, tackle the amount of plastic waste we generate, and save 40,000 kilograms of paper by switching to digital guidebooks in destination. But what does the future hold?
As one of the biggest employers and a big and growing sector of the global economy, tourism is an important tool to lead us to a more sustainable future. At its most effective, tourism delivers economic growth, opportunity and skills development around the world.
Offering holidays that provide a real link with the regions and communities visited not only improves the experience for the holidaymaker, but provides more economic benefit locally. A properly managed destination, providing holidays filled with smells of local food, and stories told by local voices, lead to more benefit for local people and a vibrant local supply chain.
Coupled with deploying the latest technological developments and better training for tourism staff, we can hugely decrease the resource use required to deliver holidays. From water and energy use, to food waste, the sector can already point to excellent examples of best practice which, if deployed more widely, would significantly decrease resource use in hotels around the world.
It is clear we can go beyond identified best practice and deliver net carbon positive hotels able to generate their own renewable energy not only for their own use, but also for use in the local community. By 2030, we believe all of our new and refurbished hotels will be generating more energy than they need.
Of course, there are environmental costs to international tourism.
Decarbonising air travel has been more challenging than many other forms of transportation, and other sectors in the economy, but the path ahead is becoming more clear. While biofuels have a crucial role to play in the decarbonisation of air travel, it is biological waste, an inevitability within developed economies and long supply chains, which is now a proven source of biofuel suitable for aviation fuel.
As this process comes to industrial scale, we will see costs reduce significantly. This will in the future provide a significant proportion of the fuel needed to for air travel while helping to reduce waste, one of the biggest challenges of our age.
Longer term, innovations like blended wing aircraft will provide a step change in our efforts to increase fuel efficiency, and reduce carbon significantly. As battery technology continues to develop, we can envision a future where solar energy is collected through efficient solar cells on the body of the aircraft and stored in lightweight batteries to power planes through the air.
We can already begin to imagine what a truly sustainable and ethical tourism landscape will look like in the future – zero-carbon hotels, decarbonised flights, and uniquely local experiences.
We’re currently laying down the foundations to achieve this.