This week we attended ABTA’s annual sustainable travel conference, this year renamed ‘delivering sustainable travel’. Sustainable travel isn’t all about reducing carbon emissions in aviation, in fact, flying isn’t the primary contributor when you look at the broader ecosystem of tourism, but how we can reduce carbon throughout the industry and how we can make a positive impact wherever we travel.
At the Hickman Building in Whitechapel, the home of Four Communications – a building which won planning awards for its minimal environmental impact in 2022, we learnt from a number of different sectors throughout the tourism sector as to their initiatives in how they are making travel more sustainable for everyone.
Some of the more interesting topics covered included how easyJet Holidays is helping hotels cut down on food waste, how Inghams is preparing for a ski season in Europe with no snow, and what measures Eurostar is taking to get the cheapest and greenest electricity possible to power its network.
Food waste accounts for 10% of worldwide emissions (aviation accounts for about 2%), so easyJet Holidays is using machine learning (AI) to help hotels reduce the amount of food they are wasting, especially at hotels where there are buffets. It sounds very simple, it’s a scale with a bin on top and a camera looking into the bin. It works out exactly what’s being put in the bin, how much it weighs and even allocates a cost. Not only is this an environmental improvement, but by better planning, it also saves the hotel money.
Another aspect to consider is ‘Community Tourism’, with local communities looking after aspects of a holiday, rather than larger multi-national DMC’s or tour guides. It could be anything from a local B&B or homestay, to community projects, community and women-led local businesses and specialist local tour guides. We’re going to see more community-led tourism over the next few years, as connecting to these community projects becomes easier.
It’s great to hear what others are doing, just as we’re starting our own responsible travel journey. You don’t hear much about it now, but we will be doing so in the near future, as there could be impacts on how we travel, and the attitudes around our impact on the planet and communities.