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Riyadh: Greenhouse gas emissions from the tourism sector were lower than previously thought in the run up to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data published by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The research shows that in 2019 the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions totaled 8.1 percent globally — below an earlier estimate of 11 percent.

The findings mean that while between 2010 and 2019 the sector’s gross domestic product grew on average 4.3 percent annually, its environmental footprint only increased by 2.4 percent.

The WTTC’s research, the first of its kind, covers 185 countries and will be updated annually.

Julia Simpson, president and CEO of the WTTC, said: “8.1 percent is the stake in the ground. The key is to become more efficient and decoupling the rate at which we grow from the amount of energy we consume. From today, every decision, every change, will lead to a better and brighter future for all.”

The broader Environmental and Social Research will include measures of the sector’s impact against a range of indicators, including pollutants, energy sources, water use, as well as social data, including age, wage and gender profiles of travel and tourism related employment, the statement said.

WTTC will continue to release data on how the sector fares against these indicators throughout 2023.

The data comes in the same week as the World Travel and Tourism Global Summit in Riyadh.

Simpson used her speech at the event to allude to the research, stating that it was the largest such project ever undertaken by the Council.

“Until now we did not have a sector-wide way to accurately measure our climate footprint. This data will give governments the detailed information they need to make progress against the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” she said.

“Travel and tourism is making huge strides to decarbonize, but governments must set the framework. We need a steely focus on increasing the production of sustainable aviation fuels with government incentives,” Simpson went on, adding: “The technology exists. We also need greater use of renewable energy in our national grids – so when we turn on a light in a hotel room, it is using a sustainable energy source.”

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb welcomed the research, and said: “We are proud to be a partner to the WTTC in this important research that will monitor impact for the future. Saudi Arabia recognizes that travelers and investors want policies that promote sustainability in the industry and we have embarked on a journey that will make the Kingdom a pioneer in sustainable tourism.”

“Under the Saudi Green Initiative, we launched more than 60 initiatives in the past year to do just that. The first wave of initiatives represent more than $186 billion of investment in the green economy.”


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