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Like most people, I was blown away by the presentation that 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg gave at the United Nations last month. Putting her age aside for a moment, anyone displaying such poise and passion on one of the world’s biggest stages is truly inspiring. But, as the father of a 15-year-old girl who was one of the millions of students who walked out of classes last month to raise awareness of climate change, I assure you that Thunberg’s passion is shared by a whole generation of future travelers.
Regardless of your position on the politics of climate change, there is little doubt that the next generation of consumers cares deeply about this issue. If you hope to operate a successful business in the future, it would be extremely short-sighted to ignore the strongly held beliefs of so many potential customers.
Of course, many travel companies have already made significant changes in the way they operate. One example is The Travel Corporation, which has asked guests and stakeholders doing business with its more than 40 brands to pledge to support sustainable travel. This is in addition to its reforestation efforts, itineraries that combat overtourism, ban on single-use plastics and more.
Another example of positive change was on display last month, when Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen became the first battery hybrid-powered ship to traverse the Northwest Passage — sailing more than 3,000 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific by hybrid propulsion. Other cruise lines (and even some airlines) are looking at ways to make their engines cleaner, as well.
As beneficiaries of the global tourism industry, we understand that the main product we promote — the wonder of our planet — is under serious threat. Therefore, it’s in our own self-interest to strive for better sustainable travel practices for all companies. It is the only way we can live up to the standards that future travelers expect from us.
As Thunberg said in the very first line of her U.N. speech: “My message is that we’ll be watching you.”