The future of tourism: emission-free cruises, rebuilding Ukraine and the Metaverse

The reopening of the world after the COVID-19 pandemic has led to renewed interest in far-flung destinations. As floods, fires and droughts intensify due to climate change, eco-friendly travel is starting to become more common.

According to the latest figures from World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)the efforts made by the travel and tourism industry in the ecological aspect are paying off.

According to WTTC research, in 2019 the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions amounted to only 8.1% of global emissions. But previous forecasts estimated this rate at 11%.

The report also reveals that between 2010 and 2019, the sector’s annual growth reached 4.3%, while its carbon footprint increased by 2.4%.

On the second day of the WTTC Global Summit, Julia Simpson, WTTC President and CEO, said the “groundbreaking” report would enable the industry to better measure and track the sector’s climate footprint.

“Until now, we didn’t have an industry-wide way to accurately measure our climate footprint. This data will give governments the detailed information they need to make progress against the Paris Agreement and the Climate Goals. Sustainable Development of the United Nations”. Julia Simpson explained.

“8.1% is the next step. The solution is to become more efficient and decouple the pace of our growth from the amount of energy we use. Starting today, every decision, every change, will lead to a better and more sustainable future. bright for all.”, she added.

What is the cruise industry doing to become more sustainable?

For Kelly Craighead, CEO of Cruise Lines International Association, the cruise industry is also making great strides towards “responsible and sustainable” travel.

Speaking to Euronews Travel in Riyadh, Kelly Craighead said the road to carbon-free cruises had already started several years ago.

“To achieve these ambitious goals, the sector is working in particular to rebuild or modernize older ships so that they can use some of these new so-called sustainable fuels, but there are also new builds coming.” explained Kelly Craighead.

“Nearly 60% of all new ships coming out in the next five years will be capable of using green and sustainable fuels such as LNG, biofuels and synthetic fuels.” she clarified.

Global recovery and efforts to help Ukraine

While hailing the drop in greenhouse gas emissions, industry leaders spoke of growing tourism around the world, predicting that demand will continue to outstrip supply despite recession fears.

“Global travel and tourism generated an estimated $9.6 trillion (€9.2 trillion)” said Julia Simpson, adding that by the end of this year this figure will be about 8.5 trillion dollars.

“You could say there’s still a huge trillion-dollar deficit, but a big part of that deficit is because of China, which still hasn’t reopened. she added.

The CEO of the French hotel group Accor, Sébastien Bazin, expressed his satisfaction with the resumption of travel.

“Activity is very strong. The recovery has been faster than expected and the outlook is quite good for the first half of 2023.” said Sebastien Bazin.

“With the notable exception of China and Southeast Asia, business in Europe is very strong, also in the Middle East. In South America it’s even better than I expected.”

With the war in Ukraine, the tourism sector has mobilized to support their fellow Ukrainians and refugees in any way possible. “Our travel, tourism and hospitality industry members have done a great job.” said Julia Simpson.

_”They kept hotels open in Kiev and opened their hotel doors to refugees in neighboring countries like Poland._The travel and tourism industry is trying to do what it can and will also be there to help rebuild Ukraine.” said Julia Simpson.

Sébastien Bazin is also very committed to the cause of Ukrainians.“Accor is the largest hotel operator in Ukraine. We have 4,000 people there and we offer them jobs in other Accor hotels. The situation on the ground affects me especially, I hope there will be a quick improvement.” explained the head of the Accor group.

The future of virtual travel with Metaverse

For its 22nd edition, Saudi Arabia has invited the world to participate in the WTTC event virtually through the metaverse. This is an example of its innovative digital tourism strategy. And this is not the first time the country has turned to virtual reality.

Earlier this month, the Saudi city of AlUla became the first UNESCO World Heritage Site to be recreated in the virtual world. Lihyan’s Tomb of Hegra is open to visitors on Decentraland, a virtual platform powered by Ethereum, marking a new era of future travel.

“AlUla has entered the metaverse with a very concrete example of what can be achieved in this virtual world, and we will look to explore and exploit this space for the future.” said Philip Jones, AlUla’s chief marketing officer.

“Technology is a fantastic way to engage travelers to excite them, engage them with their destination and inspire them to go further on their journey of transformation.” he added.

This development is just the latest in a series of opening and attraction projects that are capturing the interest of travelers, bringing this historic setting into the 21st century.

Today, the sand dunes and historic dwellings have been brought back to life as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 tourism strategy, including five-star eco-friendly hotel projects, global events and an international airport offering direct flights from Paris, Dubai, Cairo and Jordan.

“We are on track to meet our target of over 240,000 visitors a year and are working towards our target of two million visitors a year by 2035.” said Philip Jones.

“This will represent approximately 38,000 jobs and have an economic impact of €309 billion for AlUla.”

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