Environmental issues are top of the agenda in the tourism industry but opinions are split over how the sector should respond to its challenges.
Experts have widely differing views about what the travel sector can and should do to reduce its environmental impact, a high-profile panel discussion at this week’s fvw Kongress made clear.
Stefan Gössling, professor for human ecology and tourism at the Linnaeus University, Kalmar (Sweden), was forthright with his opinions. He claimed that tourism in its current form is “not compatible” with the earth’s available resources and warned that large regions of the world could be lost as holiday destinations. “If you want that, then just keep on going,” he declared.
Gössling, a recognised international expert in sustainable tourism who has advised international organisations and UN agencies, accused the tourism industry and politicians of “greenwashing in public and lobbying in private”. In future, growth should be measured in terms of quality and value, and not volume, he recommended.
In contrast, Matthias von Randow, director of the German Aviation Industry Association (BDL), declared that CO2 emissions compensation “is better than nothing at all”. Ambitious targets are important but not enough on their own. “As the aviation industry, we are engaged above all in the question of ‘how’, in other words the question of effective measures,” he commented.
But Dietrich Brockhagen, founder of CO2 compensation organisation Atmosfair, claimed the aviation industry did not have any specific targets at all. “You’re repeating the goals that you have been talking about for ten years. There is nothing specific. We had that for long enough,” he said. The campaigner complained that all the current proposals only had one thing in common: “They are all based in the future.”
But Gössling said he remained fundamentally optimistic. “It’s possible to finance and restructure everything necessary. It can be done in such a way that jobs are not lost or freedoms restricted. We must all be more courageous. Together we can achieve a lot for all of us,” he concluded at the end of the discussion.