Opinion: It’s no good turning off when it comes to climate change

Opinion: It’s no good turning off when it comes to climate change

You don’t need to understand all the science to know climate change will impact on our industry, says Fiona Jeffery OBE, chair of the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards and chair of water charity Just a Drop

I recently returned from moderating the World Tourism Forum in Lucerne – a gathering of invited global industry leaders, academia and young talent that is pretty unique in terms of international travel and tourism gatherings.

Not only was I relieved to get through the two days unscathed, as I was well outside my comfort zone never having moderated a two-day conference, but I also learnt a great deal.

The quality of speakers and the mix of ways to engage made for a stimulating programme that was both refreshing and different to global industry events such as World Travel Market in London, ITB Berlin or the World Travel and Tourism Council Summit.

Commercially driven interests, albeit they exist and are important, dropped down the agenda to focus on a bigger agenda aimed at developing young talent, inspiring future leaders and aiming to create a more informed, enlightened senior executive who sees beyond this year’s or next year’s balance sheet.

Gone was the obsession with seniority, everyone had something to offer and the forum was interesting, engaging and much more inspiring as a consequence.

The forum was sobering to. Jeremy Rifkin, an advisor to global leaders such as German chancellor Angela Merkel and former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy, talked about a third industrial revolution and a shift from a capitalist market economy to a collaborative and sharing economy exemplified by companies such as Airbnb and Uber.

But most sobering of all was the elephant in the room – climate change. No, don’t turn off. I don’t understand all the science behind it either. We don’t need to.

The bottom line is that while we’re not the only industry that has to be held to account, we are responsible for 9.5% of global GDP and one in 11 jobs, so travel and tourism will remain in the front line of opportunity and responsibility on this.

With climate change will come changes in the earth’s water cycle, leading to extremes in nature which will affect us all wherever we are in the world. It will impact our industry, our business and our way of life. But we still see things through a short-term lens because “it won’t happen on my watch”.

Truth is, it is happening on our watch and as businesses it is not sufficient to have a balance sheet which simply measures Profit and Loss.

We have to measure our environmental impact, be accountable for it, report on it and ultimately offset it. We have to move from short termism and create a sea change in how we do things.

I pray our young talent of today prove to be brighter, more enlightened leaders of the future. It’s not too late.


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