NEW YORK (AP) — The eco-minded Prince Harry is embarking on a massive travel sustainability initiative in partnership with key travel providers that’s aimed at bettering the practices of the global industry amid an ever-increasing number of travelers.
The Duke of Sussex picked Amsterdam, a city hit hard by over-tourism, to announce Travalyst at a news conference Tuesday with his partners, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Visa, China’s largest travel company, Ctrip, and the Ctrip-owned fare aggregator Skyscanner.
The long-term initiative is focused on tackling the travel industry’s impact on climate change, improving wildlife conservation and finding ways to better protect the environment in top tourist spots around the world, along with boosting the tourism dollars used to assist local communities and seeking answers to the increasing problem of over-tourism.
“Travel has the unparalleled power to open people’s minds to different cultures, new experiences and to have a profound appreciation for what our world has to offer,” the duke said in a statement shared with The Associated Press ahead of the formal announcement.
“As tourism inevitably grows, it is critically important to accelerate the adoption of sustainable practices worldwide, and to balance this growth with the needs of the environment and the local population. Bringing companies, consumers and communities together is our best chance to protect destinations and ecosystems for future generations,” he added.
Harry is perhaps most passionate about increasing the amount of industry money that goes to local communities, especially in top destinations. Among the things the coalition will focus on is improving on-the-ground travel and tourism entrepreneurship.
Last year, the number of international trips taken globally reached 1.4 billion, a number that was reached two years faster than original projections by the United Nations’ tourism agency, the World Tourism Organization. According to the World Bank, the number of trips taken annually by people around the globe has more than doubled since 2000.
Travel and tourism fed $8.8 trillion into the global economy in 2018, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. In 10 years, the number of tourists visiting countries in emerging markets will reach 1 billion annually, comprising 57 percent of all international trips, the UN agency said.
Gathering service providers into one coalition is a feat onto itself in a competitive industry with piles of profit on the table. Such things as cleaner aviation fuel, more travel experiences focused on sustainability and better educating tourists on the footprints they make and the waste they leave behind will be among other areas explored.
“The commitment from these different brands to work together and help build a global network of like-minded social entrepreneurs, NGOs and policymakers is truly inspiring,” said Gillian Tans, chairwoman of Booking.com. “Collaboration is the only path forward if we want to create a real paradigm shift in travel.”
Bryan Dove, chief executive for Skyscanner, said the time is now in the travel industry.
“We have an obligation to preserve our world for future generations to explore and enjoy — but to do this we need to act now as change won’t happen overnight,” he said.
Harry began approaching potential partners for the coalition about two years ago. Pilot programs around the world will be one of the first steps when the initiative gets off the ground. Specific programs and projects will likely be launched within the next 18 months. Harry will be actively at the helm.
Consumers are hungry for change, with 71 percent of global travelers telling Booking.com they think travel companies should offer more sustainable travel choices, and 68 percent saying it was important that their travel dollars support local communities.
At Skyscanner over the last 12 months, 10 million travelers selected the lowest carbon emission flight option, for instance.
Travalyst will be the first initiative to fall under the Sussex Royal charitable foundation of Harry and Meghan after they spun off from the joint trust established by his brother, Prince William, and duchess Kate.