Navigating the Future: Strategies for Sustainable Tourism in a Post-Pandemic World

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    This is a very relevant topic requiring much and undivided attention for any company within the tourism sector. For the mere survival of any branch of business within the travel sector, it is imperative for any company and its leaders to fully understand the ramification of either being complacent and shying away from seeking meaningful solutions and transitioning into environmentally sustainable business practices or being pro-active. It further calls for sound analytics in identifying the difference between [a] real long-term results and [b] good-look-short-term quick fixes.  

    The travel and tourism industry has bounced back from the Pandemic and based on its trajectory, is expected to grow substantially over future decades. One significant issue as part of an overall more sustainable tourism ethos and model is how to manage overtourism to reach net zero goals.

    Over twenty years ago, when responsible tourism was defined, around the time of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa, no explicit mention was made about a possible impact on climate change caused by this industry. Today, in just a short time it has become obvious that this is now a high priority.

    The travel and tourism’s impact on carbon emissions is closing in on 10% of global carbon emissions as some studies have identified [subject on what is included in the measurement methodology]. The main sectors are [a] transportation [Air, Land and Sea] and [b] hospitality, generating the lion’s share of carbon emission.   

    Flying is one of the most carbon-intensive activities. The impact of aviation on global greenhouse gas emissions is 2.5%, much less than livestock and manure (5.8%), and textile industry (10%). It is important to focus on how to reduce the industry’s emissions as they will keep growing significantly in years to come. Nevertheless, it is important to note that almost everyone in the world does not fly. Only about 10% of the world population flies. But what if more than half of the world population were flying? It would well surpass the textile industry’s emission rate and as such this cannot be ignored to be a clear prompt for actions to be taken now to ensure the impact is curbed.  

    Major hospitality companies have already adopted models and are committed to reducing their carbon footprint. They are working toward reducing the impact of their buildings by imposing stricter environmental rules on developers, and a more sustainable approach to their operations, from renewable energy, energy efficiency and water conservation and supporting local cultural heritage. In fact, they have set up science-based targets (SBT) for 2030.

    As well as the airline industry being resource, labor, and capital intensive, so is the cruise line industry, which also has roared back since the Pandemic, and has come under a lot of pressure to commit running more responsible operations and using more sustainable fuels. Its net-zero commitment goal is still far out to be in 2050. Hopefully research, technology and development will accelerate to reach goals earlier.

    The road to achieving net-neutral and soon thereafter net-zero goals for the travel and tourism industry is a hard and winding road requiring sound investments, patience, perseverance, and most of all strong political will, on a global level within the private and public sectors. Yet travel as we know and enjoy it can only flourish and grow as an industry by adapting to environmentally sustainable solutions. Metaphorically speaking, it’s not the strongest who will survive but the one who will be able to adapt best. 

    Not everything that appears to be shiny is gold, and not everything that appears to be green is environmentally sustainable. For instance, almost 4 tons of CO2 are released during the production process of a single electric car and the vehicle must be used for at least 8 years to offset the initial emissions. The production of lithium-ion batteries for electric transportation vehicles alone is more material-intensive than the production of combustion engines. Lithium is extracted from hard rock mines and brine reservoirs, and much of the energy utilized to extract and process it comes from CO2 emitting fossil fuels. Hard rock mining, every ton of mined lithium emits 15 tons of CO2 into the air. Not to forget is the pyrometallurgical recycling process of batteries emitting additional CO2. Electric transportation vehicles may appear to look environmentally sound, but when their production and the electricity to operate the vehicles is powered with fossil fuels the emission is not reduced nor eliminated.

    Polysilicon production accounts for about half of the total carbon emissions associated with solar panel manufacturing. Polysilicon is the primary raw material used in most solar cells, and its production involves large amounts of electricity, often generated from coal-fired power plants.

    Wafering, cell fabrication, and module assembly also contribute significantly to the carbon footprint. These processes involve numerous chemicals and produce a considerable amount of waste. Additionally, transportation and installation of solar panels add to their overall carbon footprint.

    However, it’s worth noting that once operational, solar panels generate clean electricity, offsetting their initial carbon footprint within a few years. The exact time frame depends on factors such as the size of the system, sunlight exposure, and the type of solar panel used.

    Conclusively, reaching net-zero goals, the transition from fossil fuel to zero emission generated energy is unavoidable. So how do we get from here to there? There are many steps in between that can bridge the gaps offering real business opportunities to meet the means to achieving goals. Philosophically speaking, we need to part with old habits and adopt new ones which is probably the hardest part in the journey to rely on clean and sustainable energy.

    Werner Georg Kunz-Cho



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    Werner Georg Kunz - Cho
    Werner Georg Kunz - Cho
    With over 35 years of international and domestic experience, Werner Georg Kunz-Cho emerges as a dynamic figure in the travel industry. Currently serving as the Vice Chairman of Fareportal, Inc., after holding positions as Co-CEO and CEO, Werner has been instrumental in steering the company's global operations, supplier relations, marketing, and financial strategies, propelling annual sales volume to over $5 billion. His leadership prowess extends to board positions at Fareportal and Tourism Cares, where he champions sustainability initiatives. Werner's achievements span various roles, from managing a workforce of over 3,500 employees globally as COO to negotiating contracts and driving gross sales exceeding $350 million as CEO of One Travel. Prior roles include Chief Strategy Officer at Fareportal and key positions at Lufthansa Systems. Throughout his career, Werner has orchestrated strategic partnerships, conducted acquisitions, and developed innovative business models, leaving a significant mark on the aviation sector. With a diverse background that includes classical music education and fluency in English and German, Werner is not only a transformative leader but also a passionate advocate for classical music and outdoor activities. He is widely recognized for his integrity, leadership, and effective team management skills, solidifying his reputation as a seasoned professional shaping the international travel industry with innovation and bottom-line results.