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Strong views presented by CSTT-NHTV scholars at ITB 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Paul Peeters, Eke Eijgelaar (CSTT/AfT) and Ko Koens (HFL) took part in 3 high-level panel discussions at ITB2016, dealing with the Sustainable Development Goals, climate change in tourism and congestion in city destinations.
Eke’s panel, including a UNWTO director, a head of a German Federal Ministry of Environment unit and others, discussed tourism’s role in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  on March 9. The SDGs were accepted last December as the follow-up of the Millennium Development Goals, with 2030 as target year. The SDGs will determine part of the sustainable tourism agenda for the coming years, with 2017 having been announced as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. UNWTO took a very conservative approach on its obligations towards mitigating tourism’s contribution to climate change, clearly prioritizing tourism as a development tool and believing air transport’s carbon record will be solved by technological progress. Something Paul Peeters has recently dismissed in an article about such myths and also stressed at his panel on Friday (see below). This standard industry viewpoint was discarded by both Eke and tourism NGO’s working on tourism in development countries, as they see the economic impacts of climate change far outbalancing any benefits from tourism in such countries. More discussion on tourism’s role in achieving the SDGs will likely follow in future ITBs.

Paul took part in the keynote panel on Climate Change Mitigation Strategies For The Global Tourism Industry on March 11. This panel was moderated by Prof. Stefan Gössling from Lund  University, who also provided an introduction to the impact of tourism on climate change and what options for mitigation existed. The panel included Andreas Koch, an expert in energy efficiency of accommodations at BlueContec, and Moosa Zameer Hassan, Deputy General director of the Ministry of tourism, Maldives. The main issue was whether the tourism sector would effectively line up with the emission reductions agreed upon in Paris, December 2015. For accommodations, Andreas showed he always manages to safe much on the energy bill by saving energy in all his projects. An easy win. The Maldives are very ambitious in becoming carbon neutral in a true sense, except for the air transport caused by the mass tourism to their isles. Paul convinced the public that it is impossible to have both unlimited growth in air transport, causing the transport volume to become 10-15 times as large as current volume, and mitigate its emissions in line with the Paris agreement. Technology improvements may help a bit, as may bio-fuels and an effort to further improve operational efficiency of airlines. But growth of emissions is inevitable, unless the tourism sector seriously starts to consider carbon management and scenario’s with less dependency on air transport. Without knowing, the Maldives already do an interesting job as their main markets have shifted from Europe (very long distance) to India (medium distance) in just 5 years, saving significantly on emissions.

On March 10, Ko participated in a well-visited panel regarding congestion in city destinations, which was organized by CELTH and moderated by Hans Dominicus. In an interactive panel discussion, Ko discussed findings of the CELTH project ‘Visitor Pressure in European Cities’, highlighting how cities are already actively dealing with visitor pressure in a wide variety of ways that depend on the city context. This was echoed by the other members of the panel - Eric van der Kooij, teamleader of the Balanced City approach for the Metropolitan Amsterdam region, Nick Greenfield, head of tour operator relations at the European Tour Operators Association and  Professor Albert Postma of Stenden University. In addition the discussion focused on how visitor pressure can be observed in both smaller and larger cities and that managing the issue will require joined efforts from residents, visitors, the tourism industry and policymakers.  The interactive session brought forward new perspectives and experiences from the audience, and informed the start for a next phase of the project.