Phocuswright Europe: Travelers in the know about…
Concerns that the travel and tourism industry is putting sustainability on the back burner as the sector enjoys a post-pandemic rebound was raised at this week’s Phocuswright Europe conference.
Timothy Hughes, vice president of business development at Agoda, said at the event in Amsterdam that the strong COVID recovery proves that “everyone who is lucky enough to travel will.”
But he said he was worried that “we’re getting in the red Corvette, pouring gas and durability won’t be an issue anymore.”
Hughes said every stakeholder in the sector, including private businesses, governments and tourism authorities, has a duty to use the opportunity of the COVID shutdown to operate more sustainably.
But he said in Thailand, where he is based, there was an opportunity to control visitor numbers at some of its most popular beach hotspots, “but they haven’t really done that”.
Industry consultant and T2Impact director Timothy O’Neill-Dunne said the industry was not honest about its ability to reduce CO emissions.
“The big lie is net zero 2050,” he said, saying the industry wouldn’t be able to make it happen. “There is a certain amount of greenwashing going on.
O’Neill-Dunne said sustainability is at the forefront of the challenges facing the sector, but he added:
“We made bad decisions and continue to make bad decisions now. One is the abolition of large aircraft.
He said the challenge is that travel is necessary, so the question is not simply how to limit it in the face of the need to allow it to happen in a more sustainable way.
O’Neil-Dunne cited the Dutch government’s decision to reduce capacity at Schiphol Airport by 20% by November 2023 to reduce noise pollution. “What’s that going to do to this country?”
He added: “If you want a place where he [the industry] is broken, these are the airports. This will be the biggest constraint in the future.
“Of the best airports in the world, 95% today are slot constrained. We need to solve the airport problem in a big way.
Hughes said another big challenge facing travel is taking the huge amounts of data the industry has and delivering real insights.
“There is a gap between data and insight. We absorb all this data, but no one takes care of the preview part. We need to create products that take data and provide information. »
O’Neill-Dunne predicted more innovation, especially in fintech and said what OTA Hopper is doing with data to provide its users with meaningful insights is “really interesting.”
Rod Cuthbert, founder of Viator and now an investor in the industry, acknowledged the industry’s challenges, but said:
“It’s easy to make fun of the industry and say we’re not improving, but we are. Is it rough around the edges? Yes.
“But collectively we do a great job and a day in the life of the travel industry is a lot of technology coming together to do wonderful things. We shouldn’t feel bad.