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Prince Harry Launches Eco-Travel Initiative

Britain's Prince Harry is heading a global sustainable travel project to lessen the booming travel sector's negative impact on the planet.

Speaking in Amsterdam Tuesday, the Duke of Sussex announced a tie-up with industry giants Booking.com, SkyScanner, TripAdvisor, Visa and Chinese travel site CTrip, to promote a more sustainable approach to global travel.

Named Travalyst, the initiative aims to utilize the travel industry as a catalyst for good by encouraging both travel firms and travelers to consider the impact they have on ecosystems, communities, wildlife, and pollution.

“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,” Prince Harry said at the A’dam Tower about the new global partnership — which has been more than two years in development.

But, he added, “[a]s 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.”

According to the World Travel Organization, more than 1.4bn international trips were taken globally in 2018—a figure that’s expected to grow to 1.8bn by 2030. The World Bank estimates that the number of journeys taken annually by people around the world has more than doubled since 2000.

With travel and tourism generating $8.8 trillion to the global economy in 2018—and providing 1 in 10 of all jobs globally—this has obvious benefits for communities around the planet.

However, the travel boom has caused damage in various forms around the world. In Europe, tourist destinations such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, Venice and Dubrovnik, have all taken steps to limit 'overtourism'.

“If we do not take pre-emptive action, the livability in cities and iconic locations will suffer due to visitor overload,” the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) strategy report Perspective 2030 said in May, adding that “more is not always better."

Elsewhere, the UN Environment’s research shows that the tourism sector is increasing its consumption of key resources and producing more harmful waste, greenhouse emissions and sewage. If left to continue, the UN estimates the sector would "generate through 2050 an increase of 154% in energy consumption, 131% in greenhouse gas emissions, 152% in water consumption and 251% in solid waste disposal."

On a more concrete level, the World Wildlife Fund reported in June 2018 that the 200 million tourists who visit the beaches of the Mediterranean every summer cause an almost 40% spike in plastic entering the sea.

To ease these issues, the Travalyst initiative does not aim to curtail humanity's wanderlust—the project is backed by the travel industry, after all—but rather to put it on a more sustainable footing by providing an expanded range of eco-conscious travel options at the booking stage. That way, travelers can opt to offset their carbon emissions and help support local community initiatives months before they set foot on a plane.

The goal is also to educate and inform travelers about the impact tourism can have on the environment. In the months ahead, Travalyst will launch industry initiatives focusing on tourism sustainability, including the prevention of wildlife damage and overtourism.

Gillian Tans, chairwoman of Booking.com., said, that collaboration between the travel industry, travelers, and policy makers was necessary to change how travel is done. "We want to protect the destinations we all love and guarantee that they are happy and healthy for generations to come," she said, "but we can’t do it on our own.”

During the speech, Harry, 34, also made reference to the criticism that he and wife Meghan Markle, 38, have received for taking multiple private jet flights throughout the summer months.

These trips include flying a privately hired, nine-seater Cessna to Ibiza for Markle's birthday celebration on Aug. 6, and shortly thereafter a trip aboard a 12-seat Cessna Citation Sovereign for a short break at Elton John’s holiday home in Nice, France.

Prior to this, Harry also reportedly used a private jet to attend the Google Camp climate summit in Sicily on July 30.

“We can all do better and while no one is perfect we all have a responsibility for our own individual impact,” Harry said in Amsterdam Tuesday. “The question is what we do to balance it out."

In a nod to the environmental impact of private jet travel, Harry flew to Tuesday's launch event on a commercial airline. And in an Instagram post, Elton John also said he had paid to carbon offset the royal couple's trip to his French home.

Should Travalys lessen travel's environmental impact, it will likely reap commercial benefits as well. Figures from TechNavio show the sustainable tourism market is predicted to grow by $340bn — or 10% — within the next four years.

In a survey, 71% of global travelers also told Booking.com that travel companies should offer more sustainable travel choices, while 68% said it was important for at least some of the money to go back into local communities.

“We have an obligation to preserve our world for future generations to explore and enjoy — but to do this we need to act now,” said Skyscanner CEO, Bryan Dove.

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