The green tour: Traveling sustainably

In the last few days, Disney has been in the news for marketing a $110,000-a-ticket elite package tour in the summer of 2023. The tour not only burns a hole in the pocket due to its coveted pricing, but has created a stir among environmentalists with its high carbon footprint and environmental impact.

What makes it particularly carbon-heavy is both the low passenger load on the VIP-configured 757, and the aircraft type itself, which is not exactly the most climate-friendly available. The 24-day tour is a “bucket list adventure for 75 ultimate Disney fans”. It covers six countries and all of Disney’s 12 theme parks. It also includes a visit to the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Giza and the Eiffel Tower.

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A carbon price tag of 6.2 tonnes of emissions for each guest, which is equal to 20 times more than a person in a low-income country accounts for in an entire year, has been estimated in an analysis by the clean transport group Transport & Environment (T&E). Reportedly, the jet fuel burned to power the aircraft for the total 19,600-mile (31,500 km) journey would emit a total of 462 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Travel events like Disney that hurt the environment are a matter of concern for the planet. Transport-related emissions from tourism are expected to account for 5.3% of all man-made CO2 emissions by 2030, up from 5% in 2016, a landmark report from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the International Transport Forum (ITF) shows .

However, if events like Disney increase the carbon footprint, there are events that make sure the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) harm the planet.

Rock band Coldplay has pledged 50% lower carbon emissions in their ongoing August world tour with a range of initiatives to reduce energy consumption, including stadium floors that harness fans’ kinetic energy and use renewable energy to power their stage show.

In another instance, space tourism professional companies are making efforts for ‘the only carbon-neutral, zero-emission way’ to travel to the edge of space. Florida-based Space Perspective plans to take passengers up to 100,000 feet for suborbital adventures in a pressurized capsule suspended from an enormous high-tech version of a hot-air balloon. It claims to use hydrogen in its rockets to jet off to space instead of helium, which is in limited supply and needed for critical medical applications. Space Perspective’s spaceship is reusable and aims to transport groups of up to eight passengers on six-hour flights by the end of 2024.

There are efforts made by some states towards a long-term aspirational goal (LTAG) of net-zero aviation carbon emissions by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement’s temperature objectives. A recent report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed this progress. “The International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) high level meeting’s support of a long-term goal for states that is in line with the aviation sector’s net-zero by 2050 commitment is a step in the right direction. A formal agreement at the 41st ICAO Assembly would underpin a common approach by states to decarbonise aviation. That’s critical for the aviation industry. Knowing that government policies will support the same goal and timeline globally will enable the sector, especially its suppliers, to make the needed investments to decarbonise,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s director general.

At the same time, as tourist numbers rise and the sector makes progress in achieving low-carbon travel, emissions per passenger kilometer are expected to decline over the coming decade. Against this backdrop, UNWTO calls for enhanced cooperation between the transport and tourism sectors to effectively transform tourism for climate action. So do we need to keep in mind environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues when organizing such tours? Yes. Our everyday actions, at home and at work, consume energy and produce carbon emissions, such as driving, flying and heating buildings. The ‘ESG in Travel and Tourism, Thematic Research’ report offered by GlobalData outlines how the need for high levels of ESG performance from stakeholders is met by companies. Over 56% of global respondents stated they ‘somewhat’ or ‘completely’ agree that they are more loyal to brands that support green and environmental matters.

Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are the best alternative as these fuels are produced from waste oils of biological origin, agricultural residues, or non-fossil CO2, and have a drastically reduced environmental impact.

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