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Report Lays Out Plan to Help Halt & Reverse Biodiversity Loss

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Glenn Hasek

As reported here on Green Lodging News, WTTCUN Tourism and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (now World Sustainable Hospitality Alliance) released a report on Earth Day entitled, “Nature Positive Travel & Tourism in Action.” The report lays out the organizations’ joint plan to help halt and reverse biodiversity loss.

To what degree does your property or company take into consideration biodiversity loss as a result of running your business?

Developed in collaboration with specialist consultancy ANIMONDIAL, the report is the sector’s pledge to support the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), the UN’s Biodiversity Plan.

The report presents more than 30 case studies of inspiring and progressive actions from around the world involving large and small businesses, national and local government agencies, civil society groups, and inter-sectoral partnerships. Be sure to download the report.

A Way to Inspire Action

According to the report, the Nature Positive Tourism approach not only seeks to reduce the environmental harm caused by Travel & Tourism, but also to actively inspire business, governments, and society to invest in efforts to protect nature and restore biodiversity in destinations.

“Though we have much work to do, we are encouraged by the direction in which our sector is heading,” the report says. “A glance across the Travel & Tourism landscape reveals clear signs of progress. However, these changes need to be wider and deeper, but their seeds are being sown now.”

Some points that caught my attention in the report:

A lack of familiarity with nature risk is preventing tourism businesses from accurately measuring and tackling their environmental impact.

Businesses need to regularly assess their nature-related risks and impacts, recognizing that each business and each tourism industry may have different impacts and require a customized approach.

The Travel & Tourism sector is deeply dependent on nature. More than 80 percent of the value of its goods and services relies on nature’s resources and ecosystems.

Nature Positive Tourism is tourism that not only minimizes environmental harm but also actively invests in nature restoration in tourist destinations.

Measuring Tourism’s Material Footprint

The Travel & Tourism sector has a significant material footprint, accounting for between 5 percent and 8 percent of global extraction. Its water footprint is equivalent to 5.8 percent of global freshwater use. The sector is responsible for 8.1 percent of global GHG emissions, largely the result of transport, which accounts for 5 percent of total global emissions. Energy consumption in accommodation is also a significant factor.

Tourism produces many forms of pollution, including pesticides, waste, noise, and light—all of which harm natural habitats and wildlife.

An in-depth, small-group study by the Alliance in 2021 found that a large portion (65 percent) of hotel companies had carbon targets but few had biodiversity-related ones.

The consultation conducted for this report found that many businesses are struggling to prioritize Nature Positive Tourism actions because the business case and wider implications are not fully understood. Instead, businesses typically focus on individual, high-profile topics, such as single-use plastics or carbon emissions, without recognizing their wider role in biodiversity loss. Where nature or biodiversity is recognized, it is frequently a single, often low-priority, issue within a series of sustainability measures. In fact, biodiversity fundamentally underlies all sustainability principles.

Businesses should start the process by cataloguing their direct and indirect operations and the ways in which they may rely on or impact nature.

Examples of Businesses Taking Action

Case studies within the report detail the work of properties such as Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, the Caribbean’s first certified carbon neutral hotel. In October 2022, in honor of its 35th anniversary, the resort revealed it was forever protecting—and currently reforesting—a 12-hectare tract of land nestled in the heart of Noord, one of Aruba’s busiest cities.

Businesses should focus on their key destinations (e.g. where they send most clients, or where they have the greatest influence) to identify opportunities to protect and restore nature. It may not be possible to act on all opportunities immediately, but a considered inventory of options will be invaluable for identifying which opportunities are most viable and efficient, and potentially for extending the portfolio in future.

The report provides a roadmap to support businesses in understanding and applying the Nature Positive Tourism approach and to ensure they comply with their obligations under the Global Biodiversity Framework.

“Only a large, unified effort can turn tourism from a burden into a guardian of nature,” the report concludes. “That effort has already begun, and it is up to us to build on existing actions and quicken the pace.”

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