The paradox of sustainability is that the most impassioned nature lovers are often just as enamored of travel—much of which is not environmentally friendly. The carbon emissions from traveling to pristine destinations (plus other, less-talked-about incidental pollution) make these very destinations less pristine and wild. At the same time, demand for travel is only ever increasing: last year, people globally took more than 1.4 billion trips, a number that has roughly doubled since 2000. By 2030, that number is poised to hit 1.8 billion trips. Our wanderlust will irreparably damage our planet without a systematic change.
Prince Harry’s first initiative through Sussex Royal Foundation aims to do exactly this. Announced earlier today in Amsterdam, Travelyst brings together global partners Booking.com, Visa, Tripadvisor, Ctrip, and Skyscanner to incentivize sustainable travel around the world. Exactly *how* that will be implemented remains to be seen; for now, Prince Harry focused on the importance of enabling local communities to preserve their own ecosystems, which has proven to be one of the most effective ways to protect the environment and foster sustainable economy.
“Maya Bay in Thailand, which was made famous by the film “The Beach”, has been so besieged that its reefs have died, its bio-luminescent waters have filled with trash, and its beach will be closed to tourists until at least 2021. Then there’s Nepal, which recently had to remove approximately 12 tonnes of waste that climbers left on the slopes of Mount Everest. And throughout high tourism spots in Africa, safari vehicle ‘traffic jams’ are beginning to outnumber the very wildlife that travellers hope to see in their natural habitats,” Prince Harry the Wise noted in his speech. But despite the pitfalls of global tourism boom, he believes that seeing the world is still a good thing.
“More and more people will travel, and we can’t stop that, nor would we want to, because it truly opens our minds and broadens our horizons. We seek to appreciate what is different… and to find what connects us. Travel expands our understanding of the world, it certainly breaks down barriers and preconceptions, it also offers us an escape. It can also deepen our sense of obligation to this borrowed place we call home. When astronauts look down at the earth from above, they speak of an ‘overview effect’—a realisation that our planet is both singular and fragile. When we travel we realise the same thing,” he said. That was so deep I think I found lava.
The initiative took two years of planning before the announcement, but it’s still in nascent stages. While waiting for the full roll-out, we can only speculate as to what incentives the respective companies will offer. We can only hope that there is something more than just garden-variety carbon-offset donation if you use one of these brands—because even if you pay for “off-set,” the carbon you emit is still in the air. A more substantial idea might allocate a portion of sales to build sustainable infrastructure in local communities and to educate both locals and tourists about ecology.
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Today, during the launch event of the new global initiative ‘Travalyst’, The Duke of Sussex shared his remarks on the exciting new initiative from Amsterdam. #Travalyst, an initiative led by The Duke and founded by Booking.com, Ctrip, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor and Visa, sees a pressing need for increased collaboration to make sustainability a priority across our entire travel experience – and we believe that collective, collaborative action will be critical to achieve this. The travel and tourism sector is constantly growing and contributes a significant impact to the world we live in today. The Duke sees it as one of the worlds biggest problems but believes this partnership can make it one its greatest solutions: • – 1.8 Billion trips will be made annually by 2030, and since 2000, the number of trips taken around the world has more than doubled – 71% of global travellers think travel companies should offer more sustainable options – $8.8 Trillion was generated to the global economy from travel and tourism last year – 57% of all international trips by 2030 will include emerging market destinations We plan to work closely with local communities and providers, leveraging technology to help scale sustainable supply to meet the growing mass-market demand from consumers – ultimately, making sustainable travel options of all kinds easier for consumers to identify, book and enjoy. Click our link in bio to read The Duke of Sussex full speech from today Photo ©️ SussexRoyal
As exciting as this initiative is, there also needs to be a discussion of whether there can be such a thing as too much traveling. We have come to believe that a person taking multiple overseas trips a year is a very normal thing, although for most of human history and until the very recent past, this was not the case. The advent of budget airlines has been good for wanderlust, but not good for the planet. And traveling is still by and large a tremendous privilege afforded by citizens of the developed world. There has to be a balance between cosmopolitanism and abstaining for the benefit of everyone else. Just as fashion has gone from conspicuous consumption to sustainable production to zero-waste, no-buy, and circular economy, the next stage in sustainable travel discussion will not just be about how eco-friendly can your travel be, but also taking intentionally fewer and higher quality trips that satisfy with less ecological impact.
What do you think about Travelyst?
Photo: Sussex Royal via Instagram