Sustainability was probably the defining keyword at this year's International Tourism Exchange in Berlin (ITB). It doesn't matter whether airlines, tour operators, shipping companies or entire destinations - they all want to become greener. The big question is how exactly this is supposed to work. Because traveling is one of the basic human needs - but honestly not one of the most climate-friendly activities. And yet there are some ideas from the industry that give hope for tourism that can protect our world instead of harming it.
Many providers are now including more and more travel destinations in their offer that are not yet overcrowded. Holidaymakers can consciously decide against mass tourism and discover exciting places far away from the tourist crowds. This is good for nature – and the local people – for several reasons. On the one hand, nature at the hotspots is relieved by the fact that holidaymakers are spread over a larger area in the country. On the other hand, travelers can create new jobs, especially in economically weaker countries such as Albania or Georgia.
Speaking of travel destinations: Many destinations are increasingly striving for climate-friendly tourism and are focusing on deceleration and closeness to nature instead of consumer culture and hedonism. It doesn't matter whether it's in the Black Forest, Scandinavia or South Africa - the green turn has already entered the minds of many people.
Even highly frequented travel destinations such as Italy, Turkey or Dubai are developing concepts for sustainable travel instead of exploiting the flourishing tourism for climate costs. The focus is on modern technologies for means of transport and leisure activities, sustainable raw materials for accommodation and the integration of holidaymakers into the local infrastructure and culture. Because what we know, we also want to protect. Whether the commitment is enough to make travel more sustainable remains to be seen. Because the classic travel destinations in Spain and Turkey are still the most popular with German holidaymakers, as the trends from several booking portals show.
If you want to do something good as a holidaymaker during your trip, you can opt for an alternative to a package tour instead. Individual trips that include farm work, house sitting or another social aspect are often not only good for the karma account, but also cheaper than the classic package holiday on Mallorca. Another plus point: If you actively exchange ideas with the people at the travel destination, you will get a few new perspectives and life stories to take with you on holiday. And they are priceless.
According to Christian Hein, Managing Director of MSC Cruises Germany, it should remain affordable despite strong efforts to increase sustainability on board cruises: "Climate protection is the central issue in the cruise industry and will remain so," he says Conversation with the star. A steep theory, considering that, according to data from the Nature Conservation Union, a standard cruise ship emits as much CO2 every day as 84,000 cars. But: The company has set itself the goal of being climate-neutral on the oceans by 2050 - without the commitment to sustainability being noticeable in the prices for holidaymakers.
How is that supposed to work? “There is still no standard solution for climate-friendly cruises. But there are many ideas and research projects. And we know that the most important element is the fuel,” says MSC boss Hein. Specifically, he hopes for synthetic fuels, because the current switch to liquefied natural gas is only temporary - because CO2 is still being emitted. Apart from that, the cruise is mainly about the use of shore power, waste avoidance and smart use of the premises.
The situation is similar in the aviation industry. Kai Duwe, commercial director of the Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings, says in an interview with the star: “Our greatest lever for reducing CO2 emissions is the modernization of our fleet.” Eurowings has ordered 13 new A320 and A321neo aircraft, currently the most efficient short and medium-haul jets in the world. "In addition, investments must be made in sustainable kerosene, so-called sustainable aviation fuel," says Duwe.
If that succeeds, Eurowings will be climate-neutral by 2050. However, there is still a long way to go until then, not only for the airline but for the entire industry. Air travel is currently still one of the absolute climate pollutants in tourism. According to the Federal Environment Agency, a flight from Germany to the Maldives consumes as much CO2 as a medium-sized car would consume within 15,000 kilometers. At this point, there is still room for improvement in terms of sustainability.
However, giving up flying is out of the question, as Eurowings Managing Director Jens Bischof said in an interview with stern at the ITB: “People want to continue to get to know other cultures and countries. So we don't need restricted mobility, but modern and green technology.” It's also about taking consumers on a journey - for example with offers for CO2 compensation. These are already available from Eurowings, but for a corresponding surcharge.
In the end, it will be about all trades working together to make travel more sustainable in the long term - including every single holidaymaker. Because of course there are still many climate-damaging ways of discovering the world. And sustainability has its price. But if you can afford it, you should think about spending a few euros more or taking a detour – for the sake of the climate. And of course, so that we can live in a world worth discovering for a very long time to come.
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