“We are at a unique stage in our history. Never before have we had such an awareness of what we are doing to the planet, and never before have we had the power to do something about that. Surely we all have a responsibility to care for our Blue Planet” - Sir David Attenborough
The global gathering of scientists, business and political leaders at the 26th Climate Change conference, “COP26,” in Glasgow has concluded. Despite the event marking the 26th effort to create climate change solutions, the meeting resulted in mostly talk and not a lot of action towards addressing climate change—speaking to the ongoing and central problem: aspirations and declarations have not been matched with practical actions and concrete change.
And tourism is at the center of this problem. When Steve Hafner, CEO of KAYAK, was asked what he was most cynical about in tourism at the Phocuswright Executive Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this week, his response was immediate—“sustainability,” he said. He candidly described tourism in 2021 as a too often “dirty, polluting industry”—referencing the gap between aspirational words and real action.
It was a sad indictment for an industry that should be at the front lines of addressing these challenges. A clean, unpolluted natural environment is a central part of the travel experience that we promote and is profoundly valued by visitors and locals alike. No other industry has more self interest in protecting and restoring the natural environment and addressing climate change than the travel industry.
Without substantial progress on climate change, an estimated 90% or more of the world’s tropical reefs will die in the next 20 years.
Destination Marketing and Management Organizations need to play an important role in activating our industry to be part of the solution.
To provide resources for action, Miles Partnership is developing a two-part white paper, “26 for COP26,” that highlights 26 practical actions for destinations and the tourism industry to use address climate change, and at the same time “make themselves more sustainable, livable and welcoming to visitors.”
Miles worked with our global partners, Group NAO and Global Destination Sustainability Movement, to aggregate global examples, the latest research and practical resources into 26 specific areas of action. We encourage you to use it to develop or update your own plan—so your destination can move from aspiration to real action.
Many, if not most, of the actions outlined require collaboration and coordination, and we believe DMOs can play a critical role in leading this effort. In addition to advocating for tourism, DMOs need to contribute practical suggestions and specific actions—and work to bring the public and private sectors together. DMOs can also help direct money collected from tourism towards addressing climate change. As the recently updated Funding Futures study highlights, hundreds of billions of dollars are collected globally from visitor taxes and levies. Whether it is redirecting part of this existing funding from tourism or developing new dedicated taxes or assessments focused on sustainability and regenerative tourism—DMOs need to be a voice in how funding and resources can be used as solutions.
26 for COP26 is a first edition and a starting point. We welcome comments and suggestions to refine and update this white paper with new, practical examples and fresh resources to help DMOs facilitate, organize and lead. As COP26’s closing communique highlighted, “we are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe…we must accelerate climate action.” The next decade will define our world and industry for the rest of the century—and beyond. The time to act is now.