COP26 Could Signify a Turning Point in Sustainable Tourism: GlobalData

The 26th annual United Nations climate change conference, COP26 could be a huge turning point for the role of sustainability in tourism, says GlobalData. The leading data and analytics company notes that the tourism industry is in an unprecedented recovery process, and with many private sector companies now committing to more transparent actions around reducing emissions, more tangible results around sustainability could be seen during the next decade.

In a recent GlobalData poll, 45 per cent of respondents stated that, with respect to materiality, the environment was the most important factor out of the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors.

Ralph Hollister, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “This growing concern from the public is reflected by the United Nations, which expects parties to commit to new environmental targets at COP26 and tourism is an established part of the agenda.”

New environmental commitments may carry more weight due to the position the tourism industry is currently in. A recovery process such as this has never been seen in tourism, and the industry is still in the thick of it. International tourism arrivals are not expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels until 2024, according to GlobalData forecasts.

Hollister continues: “Not having to deal with high levels of tourism demand means that it is an ideal time for public and private sectors to reset operations to make them more environmentally sustainable, and to also enhance communication and relationships between one another. Having these sectors working in harmony increases the chances of sustainability commitments being met in tourism.

“Any public-private partnerships that are formed will decide on the success of environmental sustainability in tourism and need to be perceived as business relationships. To encourage the private sector, it needs to be made clear that both sides share the risks, rewards and responsibility for the sustainability initiatives that are agreed upon.”

The UNWTO has gathered hundreds of private sector operators from across the world to commit to the Glasgow Declaration, as part of COP26. This Declaration is aimed at grouping the highly fragmented tourism sector behind a single, enveloping goal of halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero by 2050 at the latest. Each signatory will then commit to the delivery of an all-encompassing climate action plan, or updated plan, within twelve months of putting pen to paper.

Hollister concludes: “The chances of more well thought out and pragmatic plans will increase as private sector companies have had – and will have – the time to reassess how they can operate in a more sustainable manner due to the downtime created by the pandemic.”

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