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The tourism industry is committed to helping climate change
Posted on 10/01/2020 , Modified on 13/01/2020

EcotourismUnited Kingdom

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Green initiatives are multiplying in the world of travel and transport. Airlines, cruise lines, hotels, tour operators, everyone is taking action to save the planet. Labels, new non-polluting technologies, the concept of absorption and compensation, here are a few ideas to help you combine travel and ecology!

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  • Svartisen glacier, Norway
    Svartisen glacier, Norway

    At the foot of this glacier, the world's most ecological hotel is currently being built. The Svart Hotel in Norway is set to be opened in 2021

  • Air France wants to offset emissions from all its domestic flights
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    Air France wants to offset emissions from all its domestic flights .
  • Alley of Baobabs, Madagascar
    Alley of Baobabs, Madagascar

    57,000 trees are being planted by the French tour operator Salün in Madagascar.

  • MSC Cruises is developing cruise ships with hybrid engines
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    MSC Cruises is developing cruise ships with hybrid engines .
  • Kappa Club Viva Wyndham V Samana, Dominican Republic
    Kappa Club Viva Wyndham V Samana, Dominican Republic

    Kappa Club is the first TO club to obtain the ATR label (Acting for responsible tourism), which distinguishes the commitments of travel operators in terms of responsible tourism.

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The airline industry is aware of the pollution generated by air travel, and has made great efforts in recent years to offset its CO2 emissions. Air France is a leader in cutting carbon emissions, and its latest initiative to date is a commitment to plant trees to offset the emissions for all its domestic flights. Nearly 500 trees are set to be planted every day, an investment of several million euros. Air France has partnered with the A Tree For You association, which promotes tree-planting projects in France and abroad. Note however that these projects are not certified by carbon standards (Gold Standard, VCS, Plan Vivo, etc.) and therefore cannot be considered as carbon offsetting projects strictly speaking. Instead, they are absorption projects. Air France CEO Anne Rigail also states that Air France has already reduced its CO2 emissions by 20% between 2011 and 2018, and wishes to continue in this direction by developing more sustainable aviation based on innovation and investment. Single-use plastics have already been banned since January 2020.

Carbon offsetting and absorption

Fortunately, Air France is not alone in following this path toward sustainable travel. Other airlines are following suit, including low-cost carriers such as EasyJet, which recently announced 100% offsetting of its CO2 emissions across its entire network by 2020. In this case, EasyJet is focused on carbon offsetting and not absorption, as both programmes are accredited by the Gold Standard and VCS (Verified Carbon Standard). EasyJet notably supports reforestation projects in South America and Africa, but also solar energy projects in India and other initiatives in Uganda and Eritrea. In addition, the Orange group is partnering with Airbus to design a hybrid and electric aircraft, planned for 2030. Travel company the Voyageurs Collection, part of the Original Travel group, is also leading the way when it comes to luxury travel. Their tailor-made trips are 100% carbon neutral, meaning that the CO2 released by each customer's travel is offset or absorbed by reforestation efforts that are funded by the company.

Hybrid-powered cruise ships

There is a lot of talk about the flight-shame movement, popularized by the Swedish term "flygskam", but less about the shame of taking an ocean liner or cruise ship, which pollute just as much as a commercial aircraft. In this area too, ecological initiatives are on the increase. For example, the cruise line MSC is currently investing in the most up-do-date environment-helping technologies. The company is going to bring out five ships running on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), the cleanest fossil fuel currently available. Another ecological alternative is a fuel cell with zero ship emissions, planned for 2022. MSC is a pioneer in this technology. Another initiative is smoke scrubbers that will equip the entire MSC fleet by 2021. These will remove 97% of sulfur dioxide on the ship. The list of initiatives also includes the end of plastic, recycling of aluminium and filtered water thanks to a desalination system, and competition will inevitably follow as demand for green initiatives grows. In November 2019, Hurtigruten, a Norwegian cruise specialist, inaugurated the MS Roald Amundsen in the Antarctic, the first ship with hybrid propulsion, with batteries powered by low-emission engines.

Svart, the world's most sustainable hotel

North of the Arctic Circle in Norway, the Svart Hotel will be inaugurated in 2021 at the foot of the Svartisen glacier. The circular, sustainable building on stilts will consume 85% less energy than a normal establishment thanks to renewable energy sources: solar panels on the roof, terraces and screens arranged to take advantage of the sun, geothermal wells connected to pumps, etc. It will also be self-sufficient since it will generate its own electricity. Its circular shape serves to optimize the accumulation of solar energy. The architects were careful to use only materials with the smallest possible carbon footprint, such as wood. The Start, which presents itself as the most environmentally friendly hotel in the world, will be accessible only by sea in energy-neutral boats.

57,000 trees planted in Madagascar thanks to the Breton tour operator Salaün

As for tour operators, the French company Salaün Holidays aims to become carbon neutral by the end of 2020, with the help of its partner Air France, which operates 70% of its flights, generating 45,000 tonnes of CO2, and of its service providers in countries where it has a strong presence: replacement of wood-fired ovens (which generate fine particles that pollute the air) with new non-polluting ovens in Vietnam, planting trees in India, etc. At the same time, the tour operator is stepping up its green initiatives, such as developing "zero emissions" trips with the French national railway operator, SNCF, or publishing brochures on environmental issues. Michel Salün, the group's CEO, says that he has contributed to reforestation in Brittany with Ecotree, by planting 2,500 trees. He concedes that it's insufficient in terms of absorption, but it's only the beginning! In Madagascar, 57,000 trees are also being planted on the initiative of the Breton group.

Kappa Club, the first TO club to obtain the ATR label

Even the clubs are getting into it! For example, Kappa Club has obtained the French ATR label (Acting for responsible tourism), which distinguishes the commitments of travel operators in terms of responsible tourism, a first for a TO club! It joins tour operators such as Voyageurs du Monde and Salaün. All CO2 emissions will have to be offset by 2025. The club brand of tour operator Boomerang Voyages (NG Travel) now has around 30 clubs in 18 destinations, and has been aware of ecological issues since its creation in 2013. They've always put forth a tourism formula that favours meetings with the local population, meals in local homes and cultural discoveries. For its part, the tourism giant TUI already has 22 clubs certified by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, where plastic cups and straws have been banned. This organisation is the world's leading authority on sustainable development in the travel and tourism sector for professionals in the sector.