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THE TRAVEL CONVENTION


WORDS MOLLY DYSON IN TOKYO


‘CHANGE BEFORE YOU HAVE TO’


Abta’s Travel Convention, held in Tokyo, discussed the issue of climate change and taxes, and what action travel companies can take today


TRAVEL COMPANIES HAVE BEEN told they must encourage their customers to take fewer flights to tackle the challenge of climate change. Speaking at The Travel Convention in


Tokyo, Tim Williamson, director of mar- keting and content at Responsible Travel, told delegates he couldn’t “sugarcoat” his message that “we all need to fly less and we need to encourage our customers to fly less”. “Given that I’m talking to travel compa- nies, that’s a difficult message, but if we’re going to stop the planet heating above two degrees, I can’t see how you can do it without flying less,” he added.


Williamson said a reduction in flying was key to lowering emissions created by travel and warned “we need to act now”. He said: “We’ve not done nearly enough in the last ten years on carbon.”


Carbon offsets are also “a very murky world”, according to Williamson, who said voluntary offsetting is not enough to imme- diately begin helping towards the goal of limiting the impact of greenhouse gases. On a controversial note, Williamson – who formerly held roles at companies including Monarch Airlines and Tui UK – said the answer may lie in a carbon tax on aviation. He claimed turning Air Passenger Duty (APD) into a kind of emissions fee, combined with raising rates to discourage people from flying unless necessary, could “fund sustainable aviation”. Williamson’s proposal mirrors a new “eco-


tax” being introduced in France. In aviation, this is an €18 levy on flights out of France. Governments in Germany and the UK are also reportedly considering a levy designed to tackle climate change.


Earlier in the day at the Travel Convention, which was organised by Abta, attendees were told by writer and broadcaster Dr Gabrielle Walker that the potential negative effects of Brexit “pale in comparison to what will happen if we don’t act on climate change”. Walker said: “Twenty years ago I was on stages saying that if we didn’t do something about climate change, we’d start seeing the effects in 15-20 years. It’s not news anymore – this is life now.”


Commenting on the UK government’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, Walker said: “It’s not good news. Things will get worse before they get better. We already know what to do; we’re just not doing it fast enough.” One of the first things the travel industry can do to help save the environment is to “reduce and avoid”, according to Walker, who praised companies for their efforts to cut plastic waste and airlines for their invest- ment in alternative fuels and new aircraft technology aimed at limiting emissions. Walker closed her session by quoting Jack Welch, former chief executive of technology giant GE, telling the audience: “Change before you have to.”


The event’s closing ceremony 20 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 Dr Gabrielle Walker


n Editor’s note: The Travel Convention sponsors ANA, Prince Hotels & Resorts, the JNTO and the Japan Travel Agents Association provided travel and accommodation for this media event. Complete editorial control, including the decision to cover this news, was at the discretion of the BBT editorial team.


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