Green skies ahead
“The next decade is fundamentally important in terms of knowing if we are going to be able to meet climate change targets that we know are essential. Unfortunately, most current reports are that we are not even close to meeting those goals,” says Lauren Besco, an assistant professor and researcher with the University of Toronto’s department of geography. At the university’s Institute for Management & Innovation she conducts research on environmental and aviation issues. Besco says that the attention young people have brought to climate change issues offers her real hope.
So, too, does the adoption of a plan of attack for airplane emissions – but only if we actually act on them.
“In terms of aviation and the environment I think there is some reason to be optimistic – the international aviation sector has recognized the need to act on their contribution to [greenhouse gas] emissions through the adoption of CORSIA [Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation] – but without further actions, new technologies and less emission-intensive fuels, the sector will continue to be a significant source of emissions into the future.”
She adds: “From a consumer perspective, I think avoiding/limiting short-haul flights and instead finding alternative transportation sources which are less emission-intensive [rail being an obvious option] would help. Also, if you have to fly, offset your flight with a reputable carbon offsetting provider. It doesn’t mean you aren’t producing emissions but it does go some way toward mitigating the impact they have.”
Easy does it
“I think the crossroad of technology and all the innovation that’s coming out with the appetite to explore gives us huge opportunity,” Steve Sintra, regional director for North America of travel search engine Kayak, says of the decade ahead.
Cost and convenience top the list of things he’s hoping the travel industry will address in the near future. “We’re seeing travel become more accessible with the introduction of low-cost carriers and new routes. Yet, it’s also becoming more complicated,” he says.
According to a Kayak survey, when it comes to planning a vacation, more than half of Canadians (52 per cent) say that finding an airline ticket at a reasonable price and travel time is among the most stressful parts of trip planning, followed by finding accommodations that suit everyone’s needs. To solve this, Sintra suggests we’ll need better technology that eases the process.
“Things like augmented reality and voice [technology] are going to be very interesting trends in the industry over the next 10 years that help take travel to the next level,” he says. “Expect to see Canadians travelling to more adventurous locales that were previously too expensive or simply inaccessible.”
The key for hotels in the future will lie in providing hyper-personal service options to guests, says Paul Cahill, area vice-president for Eastern Canada for Marriott International, the parent company of 30 brands including Moxy Hotels, W Hotels and Aloft.
He suggests that three key areas will be affected in the next decade: technology, value alignment with clientele and food and beverage customization.
“Using your personal device at a hotel is going to go beyond opening the drapes and finding out what the temperature is,” Cahill says. “How do we enable our guests through their own devices so that it feels like the guest room is your home away from home?”
Among the trends he expects to take hold: digital wall art that populates from your phone’s photos the moment you enter the room and a move from electrical outlets to wireless charging via soundwave technology as a means of conserving energy. As for food, expect to see more vegan-focused offerings.
Travel’s ability to broaden perspective and shape who we are is especially prized by millennials and Gen Z, Cahill says. "Millennials are constantly on the hunt for products and accessories that let them blur the line between work and play, and we’ve learned what they desire today might be different from what they want tomorrow, so choice and flexibility are key.”
More than ever, the choices that travellers make will have huge effects on not only the environment, but on the people who live in poorer locations around the globe, says Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, a travel company and social enterprise, and its non-profit partner Planeterra Foundation.
“Travel can be a force for a good,” he explains. “You have to want to do that.”
He stresses that that doesn’t make “luxury” a bad word.
“It’s my hope that people completely understand that they can get everything they want out of travel and at the same time be more conscious of their decisions and understand the power that they have by buying,” he says.
“As people become more and more aware, because of information, of other citizens in the world and how they live and the fact that a huge percentage of our population lives in extreme poverty every day, I think more and more people will link their common values with their holiday time.”
That, he says, includes taking your “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” habits with you when you travel.
“Traditionally, people think they can suspend their values and how they live at home because they’re going to another country. I just think there’s a tipping point where that’s going to be weird. It’ll actually matter where our money is spent.”
What I’m looking forward to in 2020
I suspect that in 2020 we will start to move beyond the selfies and pretty dresses and begin to use social media to brag about being better supporters of the planet. We’re already seeing the beginning of it: Greta Thunberg has given us all flygskam (“flight shame”) for our dependence on carbon emission-heavy flights. Hotels are reading their clients’ moods and doing away with wasteful small bottle amenities. And, travellers are as likely to pull out their metal straws in Vietnam as they are in downtown Vancouver. In 2020, the average traveller will seamlessly consider the environment when they’re booking, packing and paying for their trips and by year end we’ll all be acting as if it’s something we’ve always done.
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