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Tourism stands in frontline in environmental issues”, WTTC president

By Jimoh Babatunde
The president and CEO  of the World Travel & Tourism Council, Jean Claude Baumgarten, explains for eTurboNews how his organization is involved in the fight against global warming and sustainable development.

For Baumgarten, the tourism industry consciousness to environment problems is a crucial issue. “The travel and tourism community must be highly involved as tourism can generate a negative impact on the environment.

If travel and tourism destroy their assets such as landscapes or historical structures for the sake of development, they also destroy their own future. We have no other choice than changing our way to do business,” he said.

According to Baumgarten, the industry increasingly realized the dangers of over development and its impact on climate change. “The world must convince companies that if they save energy or define new environment’s ethics, they will see a return on their investments. Our members tell us that measures such as recycling, energy savings or the reuse of sewage waters can improve their financial balance by 25 percent.”

WTTC has launched an environment initiative in three phases. The Council produced earlier in 2009 a report defining its vision and a strategy on sustainable travel and tourism. “We have identified five sustainability themes objectives: accountability and responsibility; local community growth and capacity building; educating customers and stakeholders; greening supply chains; innovation, capital investment and infrastructure,” added Baumgarten.

Asked about the difficulties that such an initiative would face, Baumgarten said he sees two important challenges: “The first one is technical. How will it be possible to adapt existing structures to new stricter environmental norms? New infrastructures today generally apply energy-savings criteria. But what about older buildings? A huge effort must be done to support research to find technologies which can be easily implementing on existing infrastructure.

Solar panels are one solution? But we also monitor with high interest the development of a new energy-saving film for windows which could help to lower energy costs. Imagine what could be the impact in energy saving in a place such as Manhattan!”

Another important challenge is a better education and consciousness process, especially in emerging economies. “In those countries, economic development remains a priority but it can be in many cases linked to environmental deterioration. We have to increase awareness of national decision-makers and international companies involved in this process,” closed Baumgarten.


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