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© Fotolia/Sergej Khachimullin
© Fotolia/Sergej Khachimullin

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2016: Tourism needs to become more environmentally friendly, too!

1.184 billion tourist arrivals world-wide. The current statistics of the International Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reveal the growth of international tourist arrivals and income from tourism. The tourism industry is pleased, but such growth has an enormous ecological impact on our planet; especially air traffic contributes greatly to climate change. Naturefriends International demands that all parties involved act responsibly: tourism industry, political decision-makers and travellers.

According to the World Tourism Barometer of the International Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the popularity of air travel is on the increase. 2015 saw 1.184 billion international tourist arrivals; at the same time, the income from tourism rose by 4.4 %. 
"The rapidly growing number of tourists presents us with a major challenge: we need to steer tourism development toward ecological and social sustainability," explains Andrea Lichtenecker, executive director of Naturefriends International. "Tourism generates a considerable amount of all world-wide greenhouse gas emissions. For example, air traffic makes up at least 5 % of man-made global warming  although only 2 % of the global population actually travel by air." The people who suffer from this development are people in the countries of the Global South, which are hit especially hard by the consequences of climate change.
Despite all this, airlines enjoy a special status: they are still exempt from the international agreement on climate change that was adopted in Paris. "Air traffic also needs to be held accountable," demands Andrea Lichtenecker.

Travelling in an environmentally friendly way – easily done!
However, the travellers also need to act responsibly and try to minimise the negative ecological impacts of their journey. "Thoughtful planning is essential," Ms Lichtenecker says. For example, a short trip does not necessarily have to involve a plane trip to another city  attractive destinations in the surroundings can be comfortably reached by train. It takes almost no effort to find out whether the accommodation complies with ecological standards. And once in the destination, environmentally friendly holiday activities are abundant: hiking or cycling holidays provide the opportunity to experience the region's beauties in an environmentally friendly way, get in touch with locals and do something for one's health.
The farther away the destination, the more greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the journey. But minimising the negative impact on the global climate is also possible for long-distance journeys the explanatory video "Climate-friendly travel" by Naturefriends  shows how to do that. The video explains the impact of different means of travel on the climate, points out alternatives to air traffic and provides tips on how to save CO2 on the way.

Cornelia Kühhas
Naturefriends International, Public Relations
Tel.: +43 (0)1 89 23 877-41