May 29, 2023

At the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Summit in Manila this week, industry leaders and tourism professionals gathered to celebrate the growing and successful return to world travel. As travel returns, a major theme of the tourism conference centered on sustainability and improving eco-friendly operations.

It’s no coincidence that WTTC launched a 12-point hotel sustainability initiative in the same week as Earth Day. The criteria, dubbed “Hotel Sustainable Basics,” are designed to promote responsible tourism and minimize environmental impact while creating an industry standard for hotels of all sizes to follow.

Among the action steps for hotels are numerous things that they may do already, but these guidelines are meant to serve as a first step for hotels that may not already have a strong sustainability plan in place.

The list includes finding ways to measure and reduce energy, water use, waste and carbon emissions. The plan encourages the development of a linen reuse program, the elimination of plastic straws, stirrers and single-use plastic water bottles, bulk amenity dispensers in bathrooms as well as more community and environment projects.

Numerous hotel companies are already voicing their support for the initiative and committing to, at a minimum, following the 12 steps. They include Radisson Hotel Group, Accor, Meliá Hotels International, and hotel industry associations around the world like the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.

Hotels that put these measures into place will receive a verification from WTTC, which the organization hopes will become a global standard.

Travel comes roaring back

The global conference, which brought tourism and hospitality leaders from around the world together, took place in a hybrid virtual and in-person format. Beyond the environmental announcement, the travel organization released an Economic Impact Report pointing to positive signs in tourism.

The report predicts that 126 million new travel-related jobs will be created over the next decade. In 2020 alone, the industry lost 62 million jobs so the new jobs represent a significant change of fortunes for a sector that was devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new jobs represent a $9.6 trillion dollar boost to the global economy, which is twice the size of the record low in 2020 when the industry accounted for $4.8 trillion. Travel and tourism now represents up 10% of the global GDP and represent one out of every three new jobs in the global economic recovery.

The report also predicted that travel and tourism GDP could reach pre-pandemic levels by 2023. Unsurprisingly, regions that saw the fastest recovery were destinations where the government lifted or loosened restrictions like Greece, the Maldives and Florida.

WTTC president and CEO Julia Simpson was one of several leaders at the event calling for an end to testing requirements to enter countries like the United States. Instead, she and others believe that the way forward is through vaccination and booster requirements rather than onerous restrictions.

Another major point of discussion is finding a global standard for verifying vaccination status and cleaning up the confusing paperwork and mishmash of requirements haphazardly put in place from different countries.

Following such global disruption, travel represents a force for global good as it can boost economies and broaden connectivity across cultures. The WTTC data fuels the positive momentum on both the sustainability and world health fronts as the travel industry works to heal itself.

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