How tourism can grow in a climate-safe world

A new independent report, Envisioning Tourism in 2030 & Beyond, urges the tourism and transportation sector to unite and take full account of its greenhouse gas emission.

This could mean:

  • more governments including international aviation emissions in their Paris Agreement plans;
  • tourist boards and travel companies targeting a greater proportion of short-haul customers and bringing net zero products to market;
  • investing in greener forms of transport which are adopted and promoted by the travel industry;
  • relying less on offsetting as a “sticking plaster” solution, focusing instead on decarbonisation;
  • fair policies that allow for differences in destinations around the world;
  • slowing the expected rapid growth in aviation, with limits on the number of long-haul flights.

The report, published by the Travel Foundation with the Centre of Expertise in Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality, Breda University of Applied Sciences, the European Tourism Futures Institute, and the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, models the impact of different interventions. This includes technological advances, electrification, and alternative fuels. The report shows these could have the greatest impact on reducing CO2 in the decades ahead. The aim of the report is to provide signatories of the global initiative, the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, with a positive vision of tourism which achieves net zero by 2050.

The researchers describe a global scenario where the shape of tourism shifts, as future growth comes from the areas of tourism most ready to decarbonise. For instance, a traveller might take the same number or more trips a year, but they will typically be travelling shorter distances, opening up opportunities for businesses to target closer-proximity travellers. As well as flying, they will use more rail, electric car, coach and ferry options for their holidays. Those who travel long-haul will take fewer long-distance trips but are more likely to stay longer, in energy efficient accommodation.

Chief among the report’s recommendations is the need to include all emissions in tourism’s decarbonisation efforts. The report also calls for a global plan to optimise tourism’s growth and distribution flows in a way that is equitable and compatible with climate targets, given that limits on the number of flights are needed. Without this, the report modelling shows that emissions from longest-haul flights will quadruple by 2050, accounting for 41% of tourism’s total emissions, yet only 4% of trips.


In addition, alternative forms of transport such as rail, ferry, coach and electric cars will require major investment. The report highlights implications for each industry sector to consider, including aviation, rail, tour operators, accommodation providers, tourist boards and the car and ferry industries, as well as the need to influence other key sectors which tourism relies on.

Read more?

For the international press release and the underlying report, please visit the Travel Foundation website. You can download the detailed summary here.